Slowing Down to Catch Up

I started in this industry when rich media banners still had that new-car smell. I still remember standing around a giant CRT monitor with a dozen other colleagues, marveling at the sight of a 728 x 90 banner that expanded to showcase a full :30 trailer. Our eyes were wide and our jaws hung low. We couldn’t decide which new feature was more impressive — the video or the expandability.

Three years later, the need to stay on top of what I like to call the “interactive buzzword of the quarter” (social media, anyone?) has greatly overshadowed the need to understand the planning fundamentals necessary to execute a successful rich media campaign. While it’s obviously important to keep up with the interactive topic du jour, we would all benefit from stepping back and reevaluating the way we approach our day-to-day operations.

Here are some remedial tips, tricks, and best practices to consider and keep in mind when planning your next rich media campaign:

  • Prevent sensory overload. If you’re planning multi-unit roadblocks featuring different creative sizes, think twice about running rich media creative in every single banner. It makes little sense, for example, to run an expandable video banner in every placement. It is aesthetically annoying to consumers and slows down the browsing experience, since many heavier rich media banners require a secondary load.

  • Cap your consumer. Rich-media serving is many times more expensive than conventional banner serving. If you run a concentrated flight on a compressed timeline, chances are your unique user frequency will run higher than average. Consider frequency-capping exposures per unique user, to conserve your serving budget and prevent creative burnout. If you have a longer flight timeline, consider capping rich media units to the optimum user exposure level, then subsequently serving conventional ads, if available. Both methods may yield higher interaction rates and lower serving costs.
  • Avoid flammable pages. Page burn is a rich media planner’s worst enemy. As a rule of thumb, avoid rich media placement on pages where consumers spend minimal time consuming content. Good examples of these heavy page burn areas are slide shows and photo albums. To maximize inventory, most publishers refresh the entire browser page every time a consumer clicks to view the next picture. Your rich media units won’t have the time to start animating, let alone play video or expand, and you’ll still have to foot those premium serving bills. In placements like these, conventional or even static units work best.
  • Know your folds. Review your media plan and take note of which placements fall below the page fold. Above the fold is obviously preferred for most rich media placements, but there’s still value in certain below-the-fold situations. One example is placement within long-form content, specifically on news sites. It makes sense that a user who has already spent minutes consuming content would more easily notice a rich media banner beside article content than a user who is quickly navigating through site sections. Bear in mind that even if a consumer doesn’t scroll down, you still pay serving costs for any below-the-fold units.
  • No, your other left. MPU, or 300 x 250, rich media banners are usually designed to expand to the left. Leaderboard, or 728 x 90, rich media banners are usually designed to expand down. Review your media plan to make sure none of your MPU placements are located on the left side of the page and no leaderboard placements are at the bottom of the page.
  • Dive into metrics. At the end of a campaign, review not only overall performance but also individual placement performance. Take note of any data trends that might indicate a need to change your planning approach. Develop your own best media practices and share them with your planning team.

Developments in the interactive space force all to think and react at speed the speed of light. And while hip-hop artist André 3000’s lyrics that “spaceships don’t come equipped with rearview mirrors” might perfectly explain the way our industry operates, it benefits us all: ourselves, our clients, and the consumers we’re trying to reach, to occasionally slow down and reevaluate the way we plan. Peace of mind makes it much easier to enjoy the view.

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