Planning the Rich Media Buy

With any campaign, rich media or traditional, the creative strategy behind the ad is only half the story. The ad placement, of course, is the other half, which is often overlooked when dealing with rich media.

Normally, rich media plans take a back seat to the bread-and-butter GIF campaigns. Rich media is seen as the exception rather than the rule, and thus may not get full support strategically in the media plan. With the increased performance of rich media over GIF campaigns (which we’ve covered in past columns) it begs the question: Why not properly support rich media from day one in the media buy?

Plan the media around rich media, supporting the creative properly with a strategic buy that matches the campaign. All too often, creative teams and creative agencies are saddled with a pre-existing buy that gave little or no thought to rich media. This drastically hampers the ability of the ad to pull optimum results for the client. Media planners need to walk hand-in-hand with the creative process from the get-go in order to produce the highest quality campaigns.

One simple way to be effective is to know the creative specs before the RFP process begins. Even if the creative isn’t fully flushed out, and the buy is being formulated simultaneously with creative, parameters on features and functionality can be defined in general.

Make it clear in the initial contact with the ad rep (whether it be a phone call or a written RFP) what type of rich media will be placed, its file size, and other specifications regarding interactivity such as audio use or any unique characteristics the creative may exhibit.

When planning the buy, the media buyer should focus initially on the sites that resulted in positive rich media campaign experiences before, or sites that at least serve non-GIF banners. The sites that have experience dealing with rich media will be easier to work with.

Be wary of sites that list rich media as supported, but don’t have experience with it. Ask the site’s rep for examples of past rich media campaigns to judge their experience. If a site doesn’t list rich media as a supported format on its rate card, that doesn’t necessarily mean they won’t sell it. Many sites that don’t include rich media in their sales materials have room to negotiate and experiment with rich media, and often it’s as simple as asking if they support a particular rich media format.

Be sure to discuss the logistics of serving and tracking rich media with both the sales rep and the third-party ad server technical contact. Often, third-party ad servers require a few additional days, compared to a GIF campaign, to upload rich creative onto the system. In the media plan, give sites three to five extra days above normal lead times for trafficking and testing rich media to avoid delay problems. There is little flexibility in these testing dates, and the time needs to be taken into consideration when determining the start date for a campaign.

It’s imperative that the planner not sacrifice any back-end tracking with a rich media campaign. If the site is unable to use the third-party ad server’s tags, the creative can be served from the end site it is running on, and a click command can be inserted in the click-through URL. Delivered impressions will have to come from site-side reporting, but this allows post-click activity to be tracked by a third-party ad server.

Rich media also opens up additional ways to measure creative such as the time the user spends interacting in the banner, email addresses captured directly from the ad, or even the number of strokes it takes the end user to play a round of golf inside the banner.

As many agencies and clients experiment with rich media, they often will want to compare rich media directly against GIF numbers. In order to compare the two media types, the comparison needs to be “apples to apples.” Both media plans should be as identical as possible, and the creative should use the same copy and basic design style. The media should be placed on the same page on the same site, and the impression levels should be equal over the same time period.

The bottom line is that rich media campaigns need to carefully focus on the integration of the media plan. Strategically, the creative and buy need to be in synch with each other to produce the best results for the client.

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