What's The Buzz?

It was a light week on both I-Advertising and Online Ads, which was okay because the ClickZ Forum debuted. You can sign up for it at www.clickz.com/list/.

ClickZ Forum moderator Richard Hoy (late of Online Ads) wants to toss out a major topic in addition to whatever members want to discuss. This week’s topic was rich media.

ClickZ Forum charter members wrestled over the definition of rich media. Catherine Seda’s agency just placed some HTML pull-down ads and has been told by portals that the pull-down format is a top performer. But Ian Connelly countered that standard HTML banners with pull-downs/text boxes/buttons isn’t rich media.

“As an advertiser, I consider anything that promotes user interaction as being rich,” wrote Glen Sheehan.

“Rich media will allow me to know an exceptional amount of information about the users of the sites that I advertise on,” added Shawn Gold.

Whatever it is, it works. “Animated GIF banners with limits of 10k are not working anymore,” wrote Tom Hespos. Wherever Tom’s used rich media formats he’s seen an incredible boost not only in click rates, but also in response rates and purchases/leads/downloads on the back end.

“We’re talking from 0.15 percent click rates to 10 percent and above. On the back end, 0.5 percent conversion rates to 35 percent and above.” He attributes the better response to rich media’s ability to deliver more detailed messages and a more interactive user experience.

But does it work just ’cause it’s new? That and the fact that there are too many conventional banners vying for viewers’ attention? Ian Connelly and others think so. Ian wrote that declining click rates for conventional banners “are due almost entirely to clutter,” and added, “I’m also certain that there’s a novelty factor at work in pushing response rates to rich media.”

“As much as I love rich media, I often wonder why it’s achieving such amazing performance,” mused Jeremy Lockhorn. “Is it really because it engages the user in a more significant way? Or, is it novelty? GIF banners used to get high CTRs (click-throughs) when they were new.”

Several members suggested that rich media is simply a tool, and the results of rich media campaigns depend upon the skills of those deploying it.

“Rich Media is like skiing,” wrote Heidi Kay. “Do it right, and you’ll have the time of your life. Burden your banners with 100K streaming video components squeezed into a tiny rectangle, and you’ll wind up bruised and miserable on the slopes .

“I’ve seen both simple and elaborate rich media banners that never delivered click rates above 0.5 percent. There’s nothing inherently magical about rich media; it’s all about the execution.”

Nick Usborne also jumped into the fray. “We’re getting pretty good at ignoring animated GIFs. In time, we’ll become equally adept at ignoring rich media ads,” wrote Usborne. “In the short term, those who arrive early at the rich media party will be the winners. In the long term, I don’t think that rich media is the answer. It’s square offline thinking — trying to fit into a round online hole.

“Offline, the winners in advertising may well be those who can interrupt the loudest and distract our attention the fastest. Online, long term, I don’t think that this will be the way of effectively advertising.

“Online, I think the winners will be those advertisers who learn to ‘engage’ with their message and establish a conversation. Distract and interrupt offline. Engage online,” he added.

“Will rich media be the answer when it comes to ‘engaging’? I don’t think so. But in the short term, (it would be) foolish (to recommend anything other than rich media).”

I-Advertising

On I-Advertising, Sid Herberman asked about advertising on discussion lists. Moderator Adam Boettiger warmed to the question, said he knew of no appropriately encompassing web site on the topic and posted his own thoughts and suggestions as did several other members.

Remember Ryan Johnson? He was the TV ad rep whose proposal to sell web ads got shot down by management. The rest of the story (so far) is that he quit and formed his own web ad brokerage firm.

Besides wanting to bring other members up-to-date on his whereabouts, he wrote to urge the industry to stop cramming so many ads on each page. Echoing the sentiments of ClickZ Forum members, he suggested there’s a correlation between the number of ads on a page and the click-through rate.

That set Adam Boettiger to wondering what the optimum number of ads on a page might be. Stefanie Nelson replied that while sites with multiple ads per page tend to pull lower click-throughs than pages with just one banner, it doesn’t always work that way.

“If a site has multiple ads per page, but each ad is a different size/shape, the click-throughs remain competitive or, in some cases, are even higher than the average,” she wrote.

“The trick seems to be in the placement of the ads. Banners should never be at the VERY top of the page, but between content or points of user interest. 125 x 125 ad units should be in the right or left column, not too far down on the page. Column ads are my favorite, however, and seem to be picking up in popularity. I’ve only seen these on the right side of the page — so I can’t comment on their best positioning — but it seems to work.”

Online Ads — Worm Turns

Apparently this time no one was kidding. Francie Nichols wrote to warn Online Ads members to delete an email from her that had an .exe attachment disguising itself as a zip file. It had a worm inside that evidently worked its way through the list.

InterNIC Spamming?

“We’ve been getting reports from a number of providers (ISPs) that (InterNIC, the domain name authority) are now using their list for spam, and that they are selling the list to other spammers,” Fred Showker charged.

“We decided to test this suspicion and registered some names using a special ID and address info not used anyplace else online or not. Sure ‘nuf, within hours we got spam addressed to the special names listed in the new registration. Couldn’t have come from any place else. Then, to our surprise, we got fax, telephone and email marketers lapping after that new ‘client,’ so it’s not just for the purpose of email Spam.

“It’s very upsetting to see what was once a public utility, in the trust of the consumer, now turning commercial in a big way, and turning into what could become the ultimate Spammer.”

Ad Blocking Software

According to Tom who runs a small site (100,000 page views per month), one way to sidestep the problem of ad blocking software is to stop selling banners and run text ads instead. It wasn’t a big loss for him since most of his revenues were coming from text ads anyway, and when he was running affiliate programs with text ads and banners, the text ads whipped the banners by 5.55 percent to 1.14 percent.

Sign Up

Join Online Ads at www.o-a.com, I-Advertising at www.internetadvertising.org.

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