Rich Media Spring Cleaning

At my house, it’s spring-cleaning time. In that spirit, I’ve pulled together a few bits and pieces on various topics I’ve been thinking about for a while, none of which necessitates an entire column, but all of which are certainly worth a mention. So in honor of the season, here’s my first annual rich media spring cleaning column:

  1. Shout Interactive: A few weeks ago, I chronicled the rise and fall of the vector graphics VRML technology, mentioning that advertisers and agencies went crazy when they saw what could be accomplished in a 12K VRML banner. What I forgot to tell you was that one of the companies that created those amazing interactive 3-D banners was a production house based in San Francisco called Shout Interactive.

    Proving you can’t keep a great team down, the folks at Shout dusted themselves off after the collapse of VRML and developed a small (less than 100K) plug-in-less 3-D technology using Java. The new technology, called Shout3d, was used for two major destination-based site promotions during the 1999 holiday season.

    The first, a 3-D fashion show linked off the home page of Excite.com, was created to promote the real-world Passport 99 AIDS benefit fashion show sponsored by Macys. The 3-D fashion show featured designs by Tommy Hilfiger, Joe Boxer and others, drawing over 100,000 unique visitors a day.

    The other promotion, a holiday e-commerce site developed for Excite, was a 3-D room decorated for Christmas that allowed viewers to view gifts from any angle and click through to affiliate merchant sites for purchase. Again, the site drew 100,000 unique visitors a day. VRML may be dead, but Shout Interactive is very much alive. Check them out.

  2. Interactive TV: Why do people keep saying that television is a passive activity? I’ve touched briefly on this before, and it never ceases to amaze me how people just keep robotically repeating the same outmoded chestnuts over and over again.

    The idea that interactive TV will never take off because the proverbial Joe Sixpack just wants to sit passively on the couch and be entertained hasn’t been true since the invention of the channel changer. People, especially men, are constantly interacting with the television.

    With the advent of DVDs and their “clicks and flicks” special features (I think it takes about four days to go through the entire “Lost in Space” DVD), the fight for control of the remote is going to get nasty. In my house, I have a literal basket of remote controls sitting next to the TV. I fully expect to see a TV/E-commerce remote joining the pile soon.

  3. Rich Media Ad Strategies: A recent report from Jupiter Communications, “Online Advertising Strategies,” points out that Flash has become the rich media tool of choice for agencies and publishers.

    Fifty-four percent of those surveyed said they have deployed a rich media advertising campaign using the Macromedia plug-in. Considering that the word “plug-in” was anathema to most agencies as little as a year ago, the Flash phenomenon proves that if you own the hearts and minds of the creative community, which Macromedia certainly does, all obstacles can be overcome.

    Enliven, which has a close business partnership with Macromedia, tied with RealAudio for second place with 27 percent. Unicast and RealVideo clocked in at 12 percent, quickly followed by the Comet Cursor, Thinking Media, and AudioBase at 10 percent. Interesting enough, Microsoft’s ActiveBanner technology (based on DHTML and offered for free from Microsoft) came in dead last at two percent.

    It appears ActiveBanner from Microsoft is not being marketed as of this writing, since I could not find any other reference to it outside of the Jupiter Report. However, please check out the enRiched ad program, which will be launching soon to allow you to develop rich media ads (for free) that can run on the MSN Network.

  4. Rich Media Case Studies: While I was in Australia, Rex Briggs and I were bemoaning the unfortunate tendency of rich media companies to report only their positive case studies and to tightly control company info. Not that I can blame the companies themselves; they’ve had a hard row to hoe getting their technologies accepted and deployed, and everyone wants to put their best foot forward.

    But I often feel that it is instructive to report both the good and the bad. As agencies become more educated on what works and what doesn’t, the success rate will go up, and they’ll be more inclined to recommend the proper technology to clients in the future. Plus, throwing an occasional dog into the mix brings legitimacy to those incredible success stories. It’s time to start adding some not-so-successful stories to the PowerPoint presentations, guys.

So, now the closets are clean, the rooms are aired, and the dust has been cleared. Spring cleaning’s over. Next week it’s back to the usual format as we take a look at some of the new rich media wireless technologies out there.

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