The Rich Media Measurement Gap

As we get deeper into rich types of content delivery, video, interactive, and so forth, the line blurs between large-format, TV-based ads and small-screen, Internet-based ads. Now this isn’t new, but it’s important to remember it’s really happening.

Last year, Macromedia Flash 7 allowed designers to do some very interesting things; Flash 6 was even a huge boon to producing compelling work. But designers and developers were still looking to create ads that looked, sounded, and felt just like TV ads. The amount of workarounds created was astounding. Each developer wrote his own custom code to create a TV simulation or, for that matter, an interactive TV simulation.

Now comes Flash 8. Many things that once took hours to create are a built-in reality. Yes, once you make it yourself, someone comes along and standardizes it. Usually Macromedia.

This isn’t a bad thing. We need to create better media. Starting from a more robust visual effects platform is good. Most programmers applaud anything they don’t have to spend time making custom for every project.

With each software improvement, things look better and better for online video and Flash-based advertising.

Now that the greatness of truly rich advertising is here, why aren’t we taking advantage of how much we can learn about it through measurement? Not to sound like a squeaky wheel, but I’ve already advocated taking a long, hard look at putting a plausible value to rich media interactions.

I work with astute clients. They can look at measurement for all other media (TV, print, radio, etc.) and make hard decisions about what works and what doesn’t in their marketing communications. Online is the exception. It’s a new area for them, and if they went to college during the past 10 years, they didn’t take any marketing analytics courses covering Internet marketing.

Why? Sure, the medium changes so often, sometimes month to month. That’s due to Web technology’s dynamic nature and a lack of focus on it in places of higher learning. But it’s mainly because of apathy at the highest level. It’s not unlike the shift that’s taking place between off- and online agencies for the big marketing budgets. The measurement companies of old have a grip on determining value of anything, even if they’re totally missing the point about the value of online.

Small, entrepreneurial measurement agencies are trying to make headway into this world, but too few people on the client side are able to give it the time of day. They have too little time, too much focus on what they know, and very little understanding beyond clicks or conversions. Those are good things to have, don’t get me wrong. But they’re the tiniest tip of the iceberg of what you can measure in rich media.

Then along comes online video, flooding a broadband world with one moving picture after another, a constant barrage of tricks and buffers that makes your head spin. If measurement is a looming issue, online video is the big distraction that will keep us from a near-term solution to the measurement gap in online rich advertising. True, online video brings more attention to the Internet as a whole. But realistically better technology will also obscure our ability to understand what works well in rich media advertising.

What do you think? E-mail me.

Meet Dorian at Search Engine Strategies in New York City, February 27-March 2.

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