The Latest in Rich Media Technology

I’m just back from AD:TECH in New York. Based on attendance figures and the number of exhibitors this year, the online marketing industry is well on its way to becoming the powerhouse circa-1999 pundits claimed it would.

During this time, rich media has evolved from mere interactive banner ads to a whole range of interactive online marketing tools. Rich media has come into its own as a valid and respected marketing approach.

Although AD:TECH represented a wide variety of online marketing tools and approaches, my sight was set on finding new rich media technologies. I wasn’t disappointed.

Some highlights.

AdInterax

Developing rich media ads is generally a more complicated and lengthy process than creating non-interactive ads. Because of this complexity, higher cost, and extended timetable, many advertisers have opt for non-interactive units that can be produced cheaper and faster, although they’re less effective.

AdInterax has developed the rich media Design & Management Suite, making many of these problems disappear. It offers a robust set of tools that allow marketers to quickly create rich media ad formats, such as expanding ads, floating ads, streaming video ads, and polling/survey ads, by simply clicking and dragging different media elements into place.

AdInterax CEO Peter Matsuo showed me how to create an expanding banner. It was as simple as identifying the base banner ad and the expand ad portion, aligning the two elements to determine in which direction the ad expands, then adding a close box and links. Less than two minutes later, the ad was ready to go.

The company provides an extensive data management feature that allows marketers to track campaigns in real time and measure usage, including hotspots clicked on, length of time videos were watched, and return of real-time survey data. Very slick stuff, and worth checking out.

Oddcast

I first looked at Oddcast a few years ago, and thought it was a fun product but with limited use as an online marketing tool. This week, I took another look. I’m very impressed with how the product has evolved into a truly dynamic marketing approach. And it’s still fun!

According to Oddcast CEO Adi Sideman, the company currently has 2,200 customers who use the technology to assist with online marketing. Uses ranges from simple, in-page talking-head help assistants to fully dynamic viral programs that allow users to modify characters on the fly and share the results with others.

Oddcast’s technology creates Flash-based virtual characters that can reside on Web pages. They greet customers, answer FAQs, or explain product lines. Virtual characters can easily be made using Oddcast’s VHost Studio program. It can convert photograph headshots into a vector-based art file. Add a voice track, either recorded or generated by a voice engine that coverts text to voice, and it’s automatically lip-synced with the head shot. The result is a clever person (or animal or object) who communicates with customers 24/7. These characters can be used in Web pages, email, and rich media banners.

WildTangent

There’s no question online games are a surefire way to grab consumer attention. Effectively branding at the same time is more of a challenge. The folks at WildTangent are experts at designing online games that meet the needs of the brand while keeping users engaged. Worth checking out.

Battle for the Heart

Coming up next week in separate Boston and New York shows, Battle for the Heart brings together rich media vendors and agencies to discuss problems and solutions in the marketplace. Sponsored by several rich media vendors, it promises to be a good show.

As a side note, online advertising just reached the 10-year mark. We’re still a couple years away from interactive marketing’s 10th anniversary. Overall, it’s been an amazing ride. The path has been long and changed so often it’s hardly recognizable. What interactive marketing promises to provide, to both marketers and consumers, has only just started to appear. Watch this space for news of future innovations.

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