The Dirt on Rich Media Banners

Searching, selecting, expanding even using your mouse to play a little game all within the banner itself. Known as rich media banners, they act like a mini-application helping you get the information faster, instead of displaying a simple rotating sequence of pictures (.gifs) that at best, can only grab your attention.

The Good News

Rich media banners have been hailed as the savior to the banner ad. They significantly improve the user experience since users can interact with your brand. These banners are usually fun to use, and they give users the information faster and more precisely than with any other type of ad. Most importantly to you, they will get great click rates. I typically see rich media banners get 2 to 3 times as many clicks as basic .gif banners.

We are currently running a campaign for a client with some very clever banners that get the user to enter the letters in a hangman game and to pull a lever on a slot machine. The click rate for the whole campaign has been about 2.5 percent, with some sites reaching 4 to 5 percent for a given period of time. Just ask NetRatings what the typical click through rates are for banners today, and you’ll see how impressive these results are (March 1999 average was 0.3 percent).

The Bad News

Now for the reality check. Unfortunately, only a limited number of sites can carry these rich media ads. Many sites just don’t have the systems to run this technology. And I don’t mean just the obscure sites — at last look. ABC News was one of them.

Advertisers that rely on third party ad servers (AdKnowledge, Ad Force) to manage their campaigns will find that some sites are not able to accept banners from third party servers, thus they have to serve the banners themselves. This isn’t fatal, but you will lose much of the control and reporting accuracy of the campaign, since each site measures its traffic differently.

In addition, many sites have additional requirements other than the ad server, so your creative team may have to make different edits to the banners for each individual site. Keep this in mind if you are paying an agency by the hour to create your banners.

Almost all the sites we have worked with request a .gif banner as a backup for the browsers that they determine cannot view rich media banners. Some sites estimate that only two thirds of the browsers can be served rich media banners. I think this is well understated, but the site reports confirm this estimate. I also think that some sites are overreacting a little to the extra download time rich media requires for some visitors.

Reality of Rich Media

Fortunately, the industry is moving quickly towards acceptance of these banner types, but the reality of our rich media campaigns today is fantastic click results along with two extra-strength Tylenols.

It’s my job to be on top of the industry and to evaluate the best sites on the web. Since this industry is moving forward every day, it is critical that we are moving faster. To me, it’s very exciting, because we all have the opportunity in this industry to come up with a great idea that can set the pace and change the people market on the web.

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