Rich media as a concept can be difficult to pin down as people often tend to understand it differently. The best definition I’ve found is from the IAB
: “Rich media is separate from basic animated ads by requiring interaction aside from the ability to click through”
. So, my take on it is that rich media is not defined by any ad format or feature; rather, it is defined by its empowerment of the user to interact with the ad beyond clicking through to the landing page.
For this reason, I believe rich media should be part of any online advertising activity because the ability for real-time interactivity is natural and unique to the online medium. Through rich media interactions, the user consumes the advertising content immediately, at his or her own pace and with a wide choice of content to interact with. This differentiates online advertising from other types of media advertising. But, rich media is not as ubiquitous as you would think. As a genre, it is often used as a special treat; even more often, it comes with the baggage that it must be loud, intrusive, expensive, heavy, resource-hungry...
However, we’re definitely seeing this view of rich media changing both at Yahoo! and in the wider online display industry. Specifically, I’d say there are four top trends to watch in the rich media space.
By templates, I don’t just mean providing Flash templates to help creative agencies produce assets to hand over to the publisher or vendor. Rather the ad canvas itself and the way it is used is programmed into a template. Also included in the template would be best practice and relevant publisher knowledge. This means that with only a few core pieces of creative assets advertisers can get more out of the creative canvas with much less effort than rich media ads today typically require. This lowers the barrier to entry to rich media for the advertiser and at the same time gives the creative the best chance to perform, using the publisher’s knowledge of their space. It should make rich media cheaper, easier, faster and a lot more effective.
A good example is the 3D Brochure
, the brain child of one of the developers on the Ad Technology team at Yahoo! EMEA. It requires very simple assets: three images or PDFs for the brochure cube, logo for the background navigational bars, and standard images for the inline roadblock. This is extremely cost-effective for any advertiser who also does print: catalogues, brochures, leaflets as they can use the same creative assets both online and offline. And the result is a high impact, large and interactive rich media execution done in half of the time for a comparable ad product.
This trend is perhaps the most developed of the four trends I’m highlighting. Advertisers are becoming increasingly sophisticated in their online activities and they are producing and utilising ever more marketing content online - commercial videos, product images, real-time feeds, tweets, games, Flickr competitions and so on. To cope with this, rich media ad formats are becoming modular in the sense that they need to present each type of content as demanded by the advertiser.
Yahoo!'s Shuffle Box
is a great example. So far it supports video, gallery, storytelling, Twitter and RSS feeds for the advertiser to mix and match. But it is not hard to imagine a Flickr feed rather than a static gallery, a map module to show the nearest stores according to a user’s location, a game module that connects a user to others looking at the ad at the same time.
Better yet, it is not hard to build one of these for an advertiser. With a template in place, the advertiser can just provide a video, some images and its Twitter user name and very quickly it has a rich media ad online that sits as branded content wherever it wishes to on the Yahoo! network. And because the template is in HTML5, this is a universal ad that can be seen by users on all three screens!
As the last three trends I talked about demonstrate, it is becoming easier and cheaper to produce good quality rich media ads for more advertisers. The age-old method of starting the user story through the ad interacting with the page content is now built into the 3D Brochure
template and therefore available to all. The Shuffle Box
embeds the advertisers’ content as branded content in a stroke.
So, the best rich media ads need to and will get better. This is something we should learn from TV – that 60 second clip can sometimes move you to laughter and tears; it can make you think and change your belief; it can even spur you into action. Rich media needs to do the same and I believe it can give users an even better experience. Rich media does not just speak to the passive user, it can empower the user to participate in writing the story through cinematic, interactive storytelling, such as this concept
our US colleagues whipped up.
With purpose-shot videos, intuitive user journeys and engaging content, all delivered by an intimate environment such as a tablet device, this sort of storytelling and story-writing will differentiate the best rich media ads from the rest. They will be more effective than any other marketing, online or offline, because they will elicit a more meaningful emotional response.