Lesson in the Art of Flash

On the eve of my vacation, I feel compelled to write about a consumer experience I had recently. As a consumer, I rarely notice or respond to advertising or marketing. As an analyst, I make it my business to click on almost anything that comes my way, read the fine print, and critique copy. Most of the time, bad banners, annoying pop-unders and -overs, and creative my 11-month-old could have conceived merely disappoint.

While browsing my Yahoo Mail account, I came across one of the best adverting/marketing examples I’ve seen. It was for the movie “Seabiscuit.” Through Flash 6, I viewed clips, manipulated content with DVD-like controls, and got behind-the-scenes images. Soon, I’ll also be able to search theaters and tickets. The navigation was polished, the delivery had finesse.

Now, I’m normally not one to gush (ask around), but this was the quintessential use of technology for the correct purpose. Flash 6 can be used to get video to the mainstream online population. It’s effectively ubiquitous and tolerable at low connection speeds. And as far as video delivery’s concerned, it’s the closest you can get to building for the lowest common denominator. To date, I’ve seen Flash used in several ingenious ways, including building interactive applications, primary navigation, and menu design.

An excellent example of the last is Discovery.com. With multiple properties and varied content, Discovery has done an excellent job designing a site that gets users where they want to go — to the content of their choice.

Another “right place, right technology” example is Barbie.com (my niece turned me on to the site). The use of Flash and Shockwave for interactive games and creative projects is perfectly balanced with the content and product messaging.

If you want to see design and execution at their very best, look at the Volkswagen site. It’s a masterpiece of simplicity. One of the worst offenses advertisers and marketers can make is using technology for technology’s sake. You don’t need 3-D to view consumer electronics. Creating virtual worlds so you can buy wine in a virtual store is unnecessary. Even mainstream technologies such as Flash are sometimes used for evil (think lipstick manufacturers). The same applies to proprietary plug-ins and applications created for individual advertising or marketing projects. Unless the product is so extraordinary or the service requires it, my rule of thumb is never use something that requires a customer to download proprietary technology, unless it fundamentally changes the online experience for the better.

By simply leveraging the best of what the Web can offer, marketers and advertisers can create powerful, memorable experiences for online consumers.

Meet Lydia at the Jupiter ClickZ Advertising Forum in New York City on July 30 and 31.

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