I Am Not Your Enemy

Count me among the ClickZ readers who think that Chuck Hildebrandt has rocks in his head for thinking that the concept of rich media is the enemy of your direct response campaign. (See his article, “Does Rich Media Kill the Direct Response Goose?“)

Once again, we’re painting with a bigger brush than I’ve ever seen. In fact, all rich media is not created equal. And as you will see from the statistics I quote below, some forms of rich media work terrifically on DR campaigns.

First off, we should clarify exactly what I mean when I say “rich media.” I’ll offer the same definition I did at @d:tech New York back in October. I define rich media as any new technology that allows for either a more detailed advertising message to be presented, or for a higher level of interactivity than you might get in a standard GIF banner.

Rich media includes things like Enliven ads, RealAudio advertising, Java ads, interstitials and commercials on PointCast.

Here’s my counterpoint to Mr. Hildebrandt’s POV: How can a medium (as in a channel of communication) be inherently bad for a direct response campaign?

It doesn’t have to be. As a matter of fact, rich media that can allow for improved one-to-one communication can make it easier for prospects to convert on your offer. We’ve discussed this before in previous columns. (See “Simplify the Conversion Process“)

But don’t take my word for it. Listen to my clients .

  • One client saw his cost per lead on an online DR campaign drop from a target of $40 to just under $12, mainly due to a media strategy shift toward implementing rich media solutions, including Enliven, RealAudio, PointCast and Audio Gateway advertising on Broadcast.com. (K2 won a CASIE for this one.)
  • Another client is currently seeing a tremendous rise in the volume of trial subscriptions to his online service, with the cost to acquire said trial subscriptions being cut in half. What accounted for this tremendous lift? Among other things, the implementation of an Enliven-based “subscribe in the banner” type of creative execution.
  • I could go on, but I won’t bore you

    The bottom line?

    It’s not the concept of rich media that works against a direct response campaign, but rather the poor implementation of such media that can result in an increased percentage of “tire kickers” that bring down your cost per action. If you use rich media formats to prequalify prospects or to engage them in a way that breaks through competitive clutter, the results of the campaign can surprise even the most cynical of rich media critics.

    Hildebrandt also points out that the buying methodology for your campaign plays a factor. It does, actually, but only to a certain extent.

    Ideally, a lot of us would like to buy media on a cost per action basis, so that we pay only when we sell product (or get a sales lead or whatever).

    However, many successful DR campaigns have been bought on a CPM basis. It all depends on the flexibility of your relationships with media vendors and on whether you’ve done your due diligence with worst-case scenario response rates to see whether the buy will achieve your desired results.

    And if your buy isn’t working out the way you imagined it at the start, you should be able to optimize your campaign by moving your buy away from content areas that don’t work and into areas that do.

    In short, rich media is not an enemy of direct response. It’s the way that you utilize it that can make or break your DR campaign.

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