Three Rich Media Resolutions

The beginning of a new year often brings with it the opportunity to hit the reset switch on our lives. This can include self-improvement decisions such as changing a diet, eliminating bad habits, renewing efforts in personal relationships, and renewing commitment to an ideal, such as working harder to get ahead.

The world we face today is different from the one we faced a year ago. Apart from geopolitical changes, the way we view online marketing underwent significant transformation over the last year. Perhaps we could label 2003 the year rich media advertising finally came into its own. That and two bucks get you on the New York subway.

Hoopla abounds about the near-dominance of rich media advertising online, but there’s still a significant lack of wisdom surrounding how to best utilize the technology for effective results. To answer this need, I came up with a few New Year’s resolutions to assist us all in approaching our online marketing in 2004. Hopefully, these will last longer than resolutions many of us make regarding increased exercise and decreased junk food.

1). I’ll treat my target audience with respect.

I won’t debate the intelligence of the population at large. I’ve witnessed enough stupid behavior to last a lifetime. I’ve also witnessed true wisdom in many forms. No one wants his lack of sophistication rubbed in his face.

Ads that cajole, entice, sucker, and trick consumers into clicking are the online version of a guy trying to sell you swamp land in Florida. You’ll have takers, but nobody will walk away without feeling she’s been had. I’m not talking about the 15 daily email messages regarding African nobility possessing vast wealth but unable to get to it without using my checking account. I’m talking about earnest product ads that seem to forget real people with real feelings are at the other end of the ad.

My biggest gripe is ads that appear to be interactive but aren’t. What’s the sense of adding a pull-down menu that doesn’t pull down? Or a series of data fields that won’t allow data entry?

If you create a predator/prey relationship with your potential customer base, you won’t have much of a relationship over the long term. It doesn’t require sophistication to avoid things that make you feel uncomfortable. You may sucker me the first time, but expect me to be much less gullible in the future.

2). I’ll use rich media ad formats to create a meaningful dialogue with my customer base.

Real people use real language to speak to one another. A slick corporate press release may keep the board of directors content, but it can be a deadly way to talk to people. Copy that tells ad recipients how their lives can be improved with your offer should be succinct and to the point. Hype and puffery become fodder for the skeptic in all of us. If it smells like BS, it probably is BS.

Much of the rich media hype involves increased functionality and measurability. But most of the new wave of rich ads are frighteningly similar to their older GIF counterparts. An ad that’s a button that clicks to a Web site isn’t marketing. Try creating an ad that allows a consumer to drive the experience, explore benefits offered, have questions answered, and engage with the ad. This requires a great level of forethought and realistic expectations of what the campaign can yield, but it isn’t rocket science.

The greatest aspect of rich media advertising is the interactivity. If you still create print ads for online campaigns, you don’t get it. Why offer a passive experience when you can provide an interactive one? The Internet is inherently an interactive medium. Not taking advantage of that is like deciding audio isn’t necessary in a movie. By creating a complete experience, you can generate brand perception that lives beyond the value of clicks and impressions.

3). I’ll offer a meaningful experience.

Personal experience is perhaps the strongest force in marketing today. Not only do our experiences help shape our perspectives, they become a significant part of who we are as individuals. As we share ourselves with others, we share our perspectives. This holds true for many areas of life, including relationships with advertisers and brands.

Give customers an experience that doesn’t require a jaunt to the Web site, unless that’s what the product is. Trying to explain the coolness of Radio Paradise is easier with a site visit. But trying to explain how refreshing Coca-Cola is gains next to nothing with a visit to the site.

Give consumers an opportunity to experience what you offer. Give them a good feeling about themselves and how your offer benefits them. Leave a good taste in their mouths. A bad branding experience can last a lifetime.

Here’s to a great new year!

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