Rich Media Ads: A Buyer’s Guide, Part 1

It’s been hard not to notice the cosmic amount of media attention rich media has received of late. It’s generating a lot of interest among media buyers, too. With so many players in the field, some marketers are finding it difficult to differentiate the offerings and determine which rich media company is best suited to their needs. Who are the experts? What do they have the others don’t?

Dozens of companies out there can get a rich media campaign up and running for you, from agencies to third-party suppliers. Many advertisers instead choose to go straight to the source. A handful of firms are responsible for developing the technology behind the majority of rich media ads on the Web today. These include Eyeblaster, EyeWonder, PointRoll, Unicast, and United Virtualities. Here’s a breakdown of what these top rich media developers can do for you.

Eyeblaster

The name “Eyeblaster” is sure to be familiar, even to novice rich media advertisers. Largely considered the pioneer of out-of-banner advertising, the company offers such formats as the Floating Ad, Full-page Overlay, and, of course, Polite Banner, cited last week. What’s behind the smooth ad delivery? According to Corey Kronengold, corporate communications manager, it’s Eyeblaster’s SmartStream solution. It ensures video and large Flash files are delivered to users “without interfering with their Web surfing experience.”

Eyeblaster is also renowned for the ease of execution it provides. Its Rich Media Ad Management Platform is self-serve but allows advertisers to manage all aspects of their campaigns online for increased effectiveness.

“Creative designers are alerted when new flights have been added,” says Kronengold. “Web publishers are alerted when new ads have been submitted for approval… this eliminates the burden on the media planners of having to traffic all communication between the publishers and designers.” What buyer wouldn’t approve of an ad management system that alleviates her burden?

EyeWonder

EyeWonder’s appeal lies in its instant streaming video solutions for the Web; it now offers the broadest variety of rich media formats featuring this technology. According to Jason Scheidt, the company’s director of marketing, its greatest asset to advertisers is its “unique ability to deliver the emotional messaging inherent in TV advertising combined with the interactivity available online.”

With eight ad formats, including video banner, email, and AOL instant messenger ads, plus 14 different interactive features, such as downloads, email collection, and video zoom, to choose from, marketers working with this firm can take their pick of over 130,000 possible advertising combinations. EyeWonder also says its formats can reach 97 percent of the overall Internet population. It appears Unicast’s product isn’t the only video technology worthy of a little attention.

PointRoll

With a mission to “change the way existing ads work,” PointRoll takes the concept of expandable banners to new heights. FatBoy is the classic mouse-over banner. PointRoll’s suite of formats also includes BadBoy, the free form floating ad that turns into an expandable banner, and TowelBoy, an oversized ad that reverts to a standard unit with mouse-over capabilities once it’s viewed.

One of PointRoll’s claims to fame is its ads aren’t dependant on Flash. They’re HTML-based, so they can be designed using any Web software, allowing more design freedom. This company’s also a pro at increasing formerly limited ad space. Because units fit into space already allotted to advertising and are user-initiated, they’re also non-intrusive. If you’re looking to ease into rich media without abandoning the standard ad units you know and love, PointRoll is for you.

Unicast

As the creator of the “between-page” Superstitial,Unicast has been a major force in rich media advertising since its acquisition of rival Enliven and its partnership with Ad4ever. It offers an expandable banner, too, the In-Page Ad. The company is better known for utilizing as much of the screen as possible rather than confine itself to existing ad units. Unicast ads tend to be big, bold, and ideal for branding campaigns. Its newest format, the full-screen Video Commercial, which runs using Windows Media Player, is a good example.

United Virtualities

The name “United Virtualities” may forever be synonymous with the Shoshkele, “the original floating ad,” but the company has plenty to offer besides the format with the funny name. A pioneer in “layered ad technology,” United Virtualities has gone on to launch such products as the Ooqa-Ooqa, which can transform and brand the browser toolbar, and ShoshTV HD, player-free online video commercials that promise broadcast quality. The company claims the highest play ratio in the industry.

Other advantages of working with United Virtualities include full-service rich media management and the way in which it charges for its ads. An impression begins when the ad begins to play, not merely when it’s been called or when it’s loaded without actually playing. With United Virtualities ads, in fact, there are never any downloads required.

The aforementioned heavy hitters dominate the rich media industry, but a few other developers are worthy of mention. I’ll cover them next week. Until then, have you got a favorite? Are you unsure what a specific developer can do? E-mail me with your questions and comments.

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