Rich Media Advertising: What’s in It for You?

If you haven’t yet started using rich media advertising, you better get ready!

It shouldn’t come as a shock to any online advertisers that banner ads haven’t done their job. That coupled with the fact that most Web users avoid banner ads and that banner ads measure useless data and have a limited scope, and you’ve got a pretty sad online advertising standard.

It’s not that banner ads are bad; it’s just that they were designed for a new frontier that has since disappeared. They’re not efficient vehicles anymore, just as the horse — once a faithful and pretty reliable mode of transportation — wasn’t an efficient vehicle compared to the automobile; the automobile simply became the better choice as the tool to get the job done.

It’s now time to bid the banner ad a fond adieu and thank it for getting us to this point. But from now on, there’s a better way to advertise on the Internet, and it’s called rich media.

Rich media advertising has been lurking in the wings for the past few years as an online advertising solution, but it has also suffered the slings and arrows of being a new technology. It has had to slowly shift the online advertising paradigm by providing advertisers with results that went far beyond the question of “Did the user click on the banner or not?” and show that the effectiveness of online advertising can be much more than the one-trick pony of click-through that GIF banners offer advertisers.

During the past year, the averages for GIF bannerbased online advertising got down to a dismal 0.3 percent. This means that for every 300 times an ad is viewed, one user was willing to click on it. While that might have met the needs of some advertisers, many others began to question the wisdom of spending lots of time and money in an effort to do a subpar marketing job.

Why Do We Love to Hate Banners?

So, what went wrong? The answer is as close as you. What are your online habits? Do you click on ads when you see them? What makes you click on a banner ad? What do you do after you click on an ad? Do you think that other users differ from you in how they embrace this mode of marketing? Do you suspect that the average user is absolutely fascinated with the content of banner ads while you, a marketing professional, have a different take on them?

The fact is that people don’t like banner ads because they’re expected to behave in a way they don’t normally behave.

Consider where the audience for online advertising is coming from. They have all been subjected to years and years of television, radio, newspaper, and magazine ads whose only focus has been to build a brand and inform the consumer. If the advertisers expected consumers to drop everything and immediately run to the nearest mall upon seeing or listening to an ad, then I guarantee that there would be plenty of disappointment.

At issue here is not the validity of the ad or its offer. What’s at issue is the expectation that any user would be willing to drop what he is doing and head out on an unfamiliar excursion to an unknown place to achieve mysterious results. Not only that, but also be willing to totally interrupt his current thought process. This situation sets up a conflict. The user may very well be interested in what the advertiser wants to say, but he also knows, mostly from experience, that he may also end up going off on a tangent, and this quick journey could result in not getting back to where he started.

What Good Is a Click?

As advertisers, when we create an ad that is designed to drive traffic, we have the tendency to put all of the ad’s focus into making certain that the user clicks on it. However, when using the click-through metric, advertisers never really get a clear measurement of the overall effectiveness of the ad because it is a very imprecise measurement.

Let’s say, for example, that a banner ad gets a 1 percent click-through rate. What does that 1 percent really measure? Did 1 percent of users come to the Web site and sign up for an offer? Did 1 percent buy items? Did 1 percent learn all about an advertiser’s products and services and make plans to purchase them in the future? Or did 1 percent of the users hit the Back button on their browsers as quickly as possible after peeking at the Web page? Success measurements should be based on precise sales and marketing goals like branding, acquisition, and conversion. Click-through, at best, is a vague measurement.

Also, many click-through campaigns offer little for the user to focus on after the click-through. In many cases, the banner pitches the benefit of the advertiser’s products and services, and when the user clicks on the banner, she is taken to the advertiser’s home page with no apparent direction to follow. The advertiser got the click-through, and now the user is free to explore as she sees fit. In most cases, that user will not explore that option and will escape as quickly as possible.

For online marketers to be able to meet marketing needs, they need to first have an audience that is unafraid of their advertising. Online marketing also needs to offer users something of value in exchange for the users’ time and attention. Add to that the potential to defer the marketing until a time when the user is willing to follow up on the marketing message, and you’ve got something that starts to emerge as an online marketing solution. This is the nature of rich media advertising.

Is rich media advertising the answer to what ails the online advertising market? Look for a future article to explore the myths and realities of creating rich media ads.

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