Agencies Outsource Rich Media Grunt Work

Rich media vendors, once firmly rooted in technology, are morphing themselves into creative services organizations. The trend is driven by the standardization of rich media formats and an eagerness on the part of agencies to outsource production of ever more intricate online display campaigns.

As rich media campaigns grow in size and complexity, the likes of Viewpoint, PointRoll, EyeWonder, Klipmart, Eyeblaster and United Virtualities all report they’re handling ever more creative production for agencies and clients who lack the resources to handle the work themselves.

“We… compile their ads, QA their ads, make sure their ads meet all the specifications for the publishers where they’ll be running,” said Jason Scheidt, VP of marketing for EyeWonder, a video specialist which recently diversified into other formats. “Our internal process and our client services group puts everything together and make sure everything’s good to go.”

The amount of production required varies from campaign to campaign and agency to agency, according to PointRoll CEO Chris Saridakis. “We’ll take it from 100 percent if people need the help, [down] to 50 percent, but it’ll never be less than 25 percent of our involvement,” he said.

Viewpoint, which bought Unicast and its ad formats last year, said agencies will occasionally hand off their raw storyboards. The company has 35 staff in creative and production services, and counts a director of photography among its ranks.

“A lot of agencies get the assignment because of expertise in media or strategy,” and look to Viewpoint to fill in on creative, said Larry Allen, Viewpoint’s VP of technology.

The trend toward creative involvement is particularly interesting given at the dawn of rich media, format providers offered both technology and creative consulting as a matter of course. As rich media became a standard rather than an exception, they backed off of creative services and began to focus on core technology.

Now, growing size, volume and complexity of rich media campaigns are leading agencies to again call on their format providers for creative work. Those vendors, who can no longer differentiate with technology as easily as they once did, are rushing to fill the demand.

“It used to be we’d build the creative. Now they’re trying to build it as much as possible, then we come in and detail it,” said PointRoll’s Saridakis.

Saridakis believes the current move back toward production work may be temporary. “We as rich media companies spend a lot of time certifying creative designers, whether agencies or freelancers. As soon as that catches up, you’ll probably see less and less of the rich media companies doing their own services,” he said.

In some cases, agencies push creative production work overseas. United Virtualities offered up its Argentina offices earlier this year as a low-cost creative resource for U.S.-based ad agencies. The company calls the program “South-Sourcing.”

The trend was a long time coming. Rich media firms with a longstanding focus on creative services tended to do best over the last year. PointRoll and Klipmart, both considered strong on production support, are among the leaders in growth and customer satisfaction.

Other companies are moving in that direction. Eyeblaster moved to new offices earlier this year to accommodate growth in its services division, and may have to move again before 2006.

“The heart of what we do is technology, but we have to overlay that with service,” said Doug Mcfarland, Eyeblaster’s general manager of North America. “A technology company is far better in terms of scalability, but we’re a lot more focused on the service thing right now.”

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