Defending Rich Media

The ad kicks off with an innocent 300 x 250 banner. But click it, and the entire page gets ripped apart by a zooming sports car, which disappears to display a video of the car. It sounds exciting, and rich media ads get better results than traditional display. And yet, there are still critics who doubt the effectiveness of rich media. Ari Paparo, svp at AppNexus, claimed in a Digiday article that rich media is an unproven channel with questionable ROI.  He also adds that In-Stream Video is a safer bet.

Although I think Ari’s views on in-stream are right on the money, I wouldn’t write off rich media so quickly; If not for rich media, we would have to use only standard banners for display, and rely on clicks as our sole method of measurement. And we know that research from ComScore has shown repeatedly that only a small part of the population is responsible for the vast majority of ever-dwindling clicks.
On the other hand, another recent research study by ComScore has shown that campaigns with high dwell-rates increase brand related keyword search threefold, boosting site visits and brand engagement. Dwell metrics measure the rate of meaningful engagement with rich media banners and engagement length.
It’s not just me saying this – look where the industry is headed: IAB’s rising stars formats are gaining traction very quickly with both publishers and agencies, and the demand for them is growing. These are all ultra-rich media formats.
Neal Mohan, the senior display executive in Google, in his State of Display advertising address at the recent Internet Week, suggested that publishers should reduce the number of ads they offer, but not the real-estate inventory.  This means fewer but larger ads, and, larger ads mean, also, rich media. Video, according to most of the research out there, is predicted to grow the most (again) over the course of the next 5 years. Video advertising consists of both In-stream and In-banner ads. The latter is under the umbrella of rich media, of course.
The stagnating numbers of rich media engagements that brought Ari to the conclusion that rich media is an unproven medium bring me to a different conclusion. It is true that rich media has been commoditized to certain degree, but suggesting moving back to standard banners instead because it has a more proven ROI is like saying you should revert back to 21” CRT TV because everyone has a flat screen now.  Instead, the industry should come up with the next generation of rich media that will surprise users and get them more engaged with brands. Video, Larger ads, interactive features, and different channels and devices are an essential part of that.

Boaz Ram is senior manager of product marketing for MediaMind, an ad technology company.

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