The Future of Rich Media Advertising Will Not Be Commoditized


Has rich media officially jumped the shark? In the past month, the list of ad servers specializing in rich media has more than doubled. That list includes DoubleClick’s Motif, AtlasDMT, Falk AdSolutions|fx, Eyeblaster’s AdVision, and EyeWonder’s AdWonder. What’s next, PointRoll’s ServeBoy? Are these valiant attempts at forward progress, or do they just put the “rich” in “rich media”?

Once, rich media vendors focused on a single business: working with agencies to develop the most innovative, effective online ads. Can these vendors still innovate creatively while focusing so many efforts on ad-serving technology?

In light of these strategic moves, I wish to state my resolve as an ambassador of creativity in a world of standardization.

I worry the standardization of the rich media ad serving will result in artificial creativity limits. I fear pressure to cram great concepts or technology into a standard ad package will commoditize an ad format that has made a business out of breaking boundaries. I shudder to think the focus of innovation has shifted to where analysts say the money is. Will all rich media ads be served the same way (in a self-serve model) and just create more rich media clutter? How will we break through?

I’ve been meeting with each vendor to ask probing questions about the future of rich media and video advertising. As much as the media business loves standards (IAB guidelines are peachy), the creative side abhors them. The best-laid online campaigns stretch the limits of standards and start with a holistic view of both media and creative. Is there a middle ground? If there is, can we live there and succeed?

The answer is a resounding no. Great ideas aren’t borne of mediocrity. But they can be inspired by it. Though some aspects of standardization can be our best friends, others may be our worst enemies. We, as media and creative professionals, are in a position to shape the way rich media ad-serving platforms are developed. New creative innovations must continue to be developed outside the limitations we’re presented with.

Successful platforms will provide the greatest flexibility, be nimble in an ever-evolving medium, and, of course, be able to un-commoditize not only their product but also their service. The victors will provide tools for developers to simplify the ad-creation process (or at least make it more efficient) and leave the door open for innovation. They’ll provide tools for media planners and creative professionals to tell a better, more experiential story with tailored messaging to the right audiences. These are rich media ad-serving platforms that remove limitations and provide complete control over media and creative.

It’s a lofty goal, and customers must push ad servers to get as close as possible to it. The winners will embrace the advertising community’s needs and make changes to the product that answer the call. It’s the same reason the open source community has been so influential: not only is the consumer’s voice heard, but it’s acted on.

Imagine a world where your greatest online advertising idea — no matter how wacky it is, how much video is involved, how large the files are — can be built, planned, and measured via a central ad-serving platform. All those rich media companies may be heading down the right path, but it’s their customers who have paved the road thus far and who must dictate the destination.


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