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From rich media to rich-information media

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Richard Mullins, director at Acceleration
Many marketers and agencies struggle to define rich media during an ad buy, simply describing it as any format that allows for interaction with the end-user. Or they’ll simply think of an ad that makes use of streaming video or Flash to present a message to the user.

They will talk about how rich media ads increase a brand’s impact, awareness, and identity and helping win the battle for user attention, engagement, and experience. But what does this all mean when we translate it into everyday usage?

Standard vs. rich media

A good way to start is by considering the differences between standard and rich media. Some people define standard media by the file format – and include only the GIF, JPG, and PNG image file formats in their definition. Others insist it includes the Flash movie (SWF) format too. But I believe that this is the wrong way to look at it.

Instead, I prefer to look at the underlying ad serving technology and what it allows you to do. In that case, I’d say that standard media formats are ones that allow you to track only basic metrics (i.e impressions and a single clickthrough link), have restrictive file formats, and restrict your creative development options.

By contrast, rich media gives you many more options when it comes to creative development and metric-tracking. Perhaps one of the most important elements of rich media is the extensive set of data capture and metric tracking options it gives you. Some platforms allow you to measure more than 100 metrics, including a wide range of engagement events and multiple exit (clickthrough) links.

Another factor that is critical is the creative development platform that rich media provides. Rather than simply allowing you to present Flash ads, rich media allows you start playing around with a range of sophisticated and dynamic ad formats.

New world of rich media

Let’s briefly consider some of the things that rich media will allow you to do now and into the future. Rich formats – streaming video, simple interactive games, page peels, floating ads and so on – are already in common use. But what if we could add more layers on interactivity on top of our ads and gather more information about our users?

Indeed, we’re seeing rich media ads become analogous to micro websites that feature their own embedded content management systems (CMSs) that will allow you to change content as and when your campaign evolves. Your CMS could allow you to control graphic elements, video streams, and geo-targeted and localised content into a single banner ad.

Other breakthroughs include clickable video. Imagine, for example, adding an interactive element to your video, allowing a user to vote in a poll or explore the pair of your shoes the model in your add is wearing with a click. The possibilities become endless, from both a creative and marketing perspective.

Closing words

So, in my view, it’s the richness of the information that you can both present to and gather about the audience that differentiates rich media from standard media. Perhaps it’s more useful, then, to talk about rich-information media than it is to simply talk about rich media.

Of course, these sophisticated ‘rich’ formats will eventually become so ubiquitous that the term ‘rich media’ will seem quaint. But in the meantime, it’s a good idea to look at ways of using rich-information media to draw closer to your audience.

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