Where Are We Going? Well, Where Have We Been?

Column after column, pundit after pundit, all are in a rush to make their predictions for 2006. Let’s buck that trend for a moment and take stock. What were the driving factors in interactive marketing and advertising this year? There are still a few hours left to take stock before the annual odometer turns over.

Here are what I see as the key trends of almost-over 2005.

Video, Video, Video (and Rich Media)

With over half of Internet users saying they watch video online and broadband becoming a “lifestyle,” there was a rush from all corners to make sure users have something to watch. By midyear, over 1 billion video ads were streamed online each month. Tech vendors, advertisers, ad networks, publishers, portals, even gaming companies got in on the act.

On the tech side, United Virtualities introduced clickable video, while Eyeblaster debuted the video strip. Pointroll, acquired this year by Gannett, of all companies, now enables video ad sequencing. Atlas, meanwhile, entered the VOD (define) and DVR ad-serving markets, while Falk snapped up rich media firm Commflash. Massive even brought full-motion video ads to games.

On the ad network side, Tremor Network announced plans to launch a contextual video ad network (and bought a creative shop to help), while Advertising.com took the wraps off its own rich media network.

Agencies, meanwhile, worked to add video talent to their ranks to serve a growing number of clients adding video and rich media to their marketing roster for video-hungry clients, such as Reebok, Pfizer, the U.S. Army, and Georgia-Pacific’s Brawny paper towels.

There was some bet-hedging, as well. Online video ad company EyeWonder said it would expand into other forms of rich media.

And the portals — did I mention the portals? Mark Burnett Productions cranked out even more video for Yahoo (all those “Apprentice” clips), while making side deals with MSN, which also made a video deal with lad mag “Maxim.” Yahoo just agreed to stream CBS shows. Stay tuned for more such inventory-creating content deals in 2006.

RSS Feed Advertising

Every Web site and its brother launched an RSS (define) reader this year, while tech companies raced to populate those feeds with ads. Google’s working on AdSense for feeds; FeedBurner launched a feed ad network, as did Kanoodle. Pheedo, IndustryBrains, RSSAds, and iUpload are also players in the field, as are email service providers Silverpop and Return Path.

Feed ads even got geotargeted!

Next year: I’m waiting for a solution for effectively inserting (and rotating) audio and video ads into multimedia feeds.

CGM, Viral, and Buzz: Center Stage

Pete Blackshaw has the best explanation of this trend.

Blog Networks Make the Big Time

As portals raced for content and blogs penetrated mainstream consciousness, blog networks went big time. First, former lone wolf Jason Calacanis sold Weblogs Inc. to AOL. A moment later, Nick Denton syndicated the Gawker network’s content on Yahoo (It was already on VNU’s European sites.)

A-list bloggers made their own deals: Huffington Post can be found on Yahoo, and Andrew Sullivan cut a deal with Time Inc.. Pajamas (formerly Open Source) Media threw itself a mega-splashy launch party this fall, but it’s been awfully quiet in that corner ever since.

Next year: Stay tuned for the debut of John Battelle’s Federated Media.

Adware Firms Clean Up Their Act as Feds Tackle Spyware

Reviled when it was Gator, Claria dispensed with pop-ups, named new senior management, and made a foray into consumer privacy protection. On the federal level, meanwhile, the industry fretted about cookies (formerly part of the SPY ACT), and a new spyware bill was introduced to legislators.

Next year: Spyware legislation?

Search Gets Even Bigger

A big new player: MSN launched its search engine, AdCenter, and shopping search. Google bought Urchin and repackaged it as Google Analytics, plus moved Froogle out of beta. Yahoo introduced plenty of new enhancements. Local search heated up, with new products and features from SMARTpages.comand YellowPages.com, to name just two. Meanwhile, TiVo is developing an ad search capability.

Next year: Search will get more vertical, personal, and local. Can behavioral search be far behind?

Pay-Per-Call

Almost unheard of in 2004, this sector grew like Topsy with offerings from Miva, SuperPages, and Infospace. Google began testing pay-per-call ads, and Microsoft portentously bought a VOIP (define) player.

Next year: Pay-per-call mobile doesn’t seem a half bad idea.

Happy new year, everyone! It looks like it’s going to be a great year for interactive marketing and advertising. Stick with us — we promise to keep you abreast of every development.

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