Rich Media Is Alive and Well

It’s 11 p.m. on a Tuesday night. My column is WAY overdue. I know my editor is P.O.’d with me. But, on the other hand, I just came away from the Jupiter Online Advertising Forum with as close to a scoop as a weekly columnist is ever going to get. I almost feel like a real reporter!

Although this will probably be announced on Wednesday (and this column comes out on Thursday morning), I just came back from a dinner with the folks at Radical Communications where I met their very impressive, soon-to-be-announced, you-heard-it-here-first (or-at-least-you-would-have-if-this-column-came-out-daily-
instead-of-weekly) new CEO: Bruce Stein, former COO and President of Mattel. Radical Communications will also be announcing it has closed its first round of financing, not an easy task these days. In addition, Tom Wszalek (no, that’s not a typo, and don’t ask me how you pronounce it) has also been named the new COO. Obviously a signal that at least someone thinks rich media email is here to stay.

The folks at Radical were also showing off the beta version of their new tool called Radical Builder, which will make it easier for the creative community to develop and deploy RadicalMail email campaigns.

And speaking of rich media email… it is amazing how many people are suddenly stepping into this space, judging by all the new companies demonstrating at Jupiter for the first time.

Dynamics Direct, a company that calls itself the leader of individualized rich media marketing, was showing a very cool new technology. Dynamics Direct can send a single rich media email campaign that personalizes itself based on database data. In the demonstration it showed, a streaming audio email offer for a vacation package was dynamically customized based on demographic information.

For instance, let’s say “Bob” is a hardworking, middle-income family man. He receives an offer in which the voice-over greets him by name: “Bob, how would you like to get away to…” It then offers him a vacation package to a place like Florida. “George” (high income, no kids), on the other hand, is also greeted by name and receives the same basic message except Paris becomes the destination spot. (The CEO explained it takes a day and a half for the voice-over talent to record more than 2,000 names for each campaign!)

MindArrow (formally eCommercial) was demonstrating its method of replacing paper brochures with its eBrochure 3.0. Mike Pennell, the vice president of marketing, walked me through the product, which is targeted to sales and marketing folks. The eBrochure can incorporate video, graphics, and interactivity; capture customer information; and even print business cards, all from within a multipage email attachment. MindArrow can handle everything from production to delivery with prices starting at $10,000 for full production. The cost is easy to justify when you realize that eBrochure generates a 22 percent viewership, and of those 22 percent who view the email, 75 percent connect for more information.

Net-mercial.com, a new company out of Utah, sees itself as strictly a technology company. It has developed an interstitial technology that relies on streaming, rather than caching (the method used by Unicast). A 25K file is loaded into the background while you are viewing a page of web content, and then while you are waiting for the next page to load, Net-mercial.com pops up and starts streaming in the rest of the ad in a way that has been optimized for a 28.8 narrowband connection. The business model is a CPM, adding a $5 to $10 CPM premium to the buy. Net-mercial’s brand of “transitional” advertising has been generating an 8 to 18 percent click-through, and although they are new, they have already done a successful campaign for NetZip.

Indimi is a new name for a company formed from the merger of two companies, InfoBeat and AdTools. With certainly the best booth at the show, Indimi was sparing no expense to show off its Ice9 tools, which allow for the creation of everything from Java-based animated characters that walk around your screen (created for “The Nutty Professor II”) to streaming video players developed for the new Grinch movie with buttons that allow you to forward the ad on to your friends. Indimi charges a flat fee in the range of $15,000 to $20,000, depending on complexity, and can do all the production. Indimi’s distinction is the ability to also serve the ad into the more than 4 million InfoBeat opt-in customers. (The “Nutty Professor” characters generated 1.2 million downloads.)

How could I ever question if rich media was still alive? What was I thinking? This is only the tip of the iceberg regarding the companies I saw embracing rich media at the show. My apologies to those I don’t have space to mention, but at least I know where my next few months of stories are going to come from. Ciao!

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