Can You See Me Now?

At any given time, I have two browsers open on my PC: Microsoft’s Internet Explorer (IE) and Mozilla’s Firefox. The reason isn’t a masochistic desire to crowd my taskbar. It’s because a steadily increasing number of consumers are switching from incumbent IE to new-kid-on-the-block Firefox (why I prefer Firefox is another column).

For the hundreds of campaigns in my rich media lifestyle, I ask: if the most valuable audience members can’t see your rich media ad campaign because they’re using an “incompatible” browser, did the campaign make an impression?

Various reports put Firefox’s market share at 10 to 15 percent. Yet I can’t view 75 percent of rich media ads while using Firefox. And while many online ad designers toil away on Macs, they often can’t see the fruits of their labor in a live environment.

If you’re a marketer, an agency executive, or a creative professional, this should give you pause. Ask yourself the following important questions about your own rich media planning and development.

Are all my ads being seen by all my audience members?

If you develop rich media or online video advertising, pay someone to do it, or are charged with rich media ad serving, you have dollars at stake. Why spend all that money to reach only 85 percent (and shrinking) of your audience? That number is lower still if you factor in consumers using any Apple OS.

Make sure your video ads play in all browsers and on all OS platforms. A great way to ensure this is to work with an agency or a rich media vendor that can deliver the right video format (Flash Video, Windows Media, QuickTime, etc.) to consumers regardless of the tools they use to get online. If your agency or vendor can’t ensure this, push it to do so.

If you have a floating, expanding, exploding, belching, or other non-video rich media ad, the same philosophy applies.

Am I testing across platforms?

Quality assurance (QA) is a Web development stalwart. Ad development should be no different. Functionality, tracking, and appearance should be consistent across all browsers and all OSs.

Do I get rich media reporting by browser and OS?

One of the many wonderful reasons to use rich media is the rich reporting it affords. A recent campaign my agency ran told us almost 30 percent of the audience was using browsers other than IE. Each month, we find the percentage of audiences using a non-Windows OS increases.

These are reasons enough for every campaign to be fully browser (and OS) agnostic. A steady diet of such information keeps your online campaigns as visually striking as possible to as many people as possible and provide a thorough understanding of the tools your audience uses to view your ads.

In a worst case scenario, do I provide the audience with a suitable substitution?

If for some reason you must run a rich media or video ad that won’t work on all platforms, have a plan B. Make sure there are suitable replacement ads, not just static images, set to run in its place. Lots of people won’t see the original ad; don’t waste a single impression. Agencies and rich media vendors should be able to make this happen. It dramatically improves bottom-line performance, whatever the metric.

As marketers, we strive to reach the most valuable audiences: trendsetters who typically have great influence among their peers. Like consumers who define themselves by the music on their iPods, or the shows in their TiVos, some of the most influential audience members identify themselves by their browser or OS.

Ignore them at your own risk.

The ClickZ Marketing Excellence Awards recognize ClickZ readers’ choices for achievement and innovation in online marketing technology, solutions, and execution. Nominate the products, services, and campaigns you believe deserve the distinction of being named the best in their category. Nominations are open until Friday, June 3 (EOB, EST).

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