OPINION: Rich media a poor name for advertising that works

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In "Pushing too hard may doom rich media", Tom Dugan, president, NewGate Internet, argued that the Internet and its users are simply not ready for a more sophisticated form of advertising. He proposed that "the rich media zealots hop off their bandwagon, sit back a while and ponder the medium they are hoping to affect." He concluded that bandwidth remains a major problem, and the solution to today's online advertising needs is "smaller, less intrusive banners."

Smaller, less intrusive banners? Isn't that regressing to a form of advertising that research has proven to be ineffective? Static Internet banner ads, as a standard, have actually depressed, or at least delayed, interest in investment by big name advertisers. Because advertising dollars make the Internet economy go round, this solution needs to be re-examined. Without big-name advertising funds, the user will ultimately pay.

We've come too far to revert to an advertiser's worst nightmare: a static banner delivering minimal information that many users choose to ignore.

Let's consider the progress that has been made in the world of Internet advertising. After years of skepticism, the Web has revealed itself as a viable medium to risk-averse, traditional advertisers--the breakthrough the online ad industry has been awaiting.

With the support of mainstream advertisers such as Procter & Gamble Co., McDonald's Corp. and Coca-Cola Co., the Internet as an advertising medium has the capability to deliver increased returns for both advertisers and publishers; meanwhile, ad-supported sites can maintain the delivery of free content to the user.

TIME TO ACT

In addition, we've come so far that the bandwidth bottleneck is no longer an excuse for publishers to dismiss more attractive and effective advertising. Today, there are technologies that begin to solve this vexing problem. In fact, some solutions enable the most innovative advertising concepts to be quickly delivered to users over a 28.8K modem.

The time to "sit back and ponder" the medium has passed. It is time to find a better, more effective form of advertising on the Net.

According to research conducted by Grey Interactive and ASI Market Research, larger, more complex and sophisticated online ad units are much more effective than standard banner ads. They are more memorable, have higher click-through rates, offer increased communication and the potential for branding.

Which leads us to a solution--the badly misnamed, and in some circles surprisingly controversial, rich media.

Essentially, rich media gives advertisers the opportunity to begin using some of the creative techniques that have been successful for them in other media. It enables animation and sound to captivate the nature of TV advertising and the interactivity of the Web. It's not richer advertising. It's just better advertising.

PUBLISHERS' BEST INTEREST

Publishers should be working more aggressively to deploy the existing technologies, and understand how they can best be used and improved. It is in their interest to see that these solutions succeed.

Advertisers should begin paying at least as much attention to the creativity of the advertisements themselves as they have to the buying of media--the kind of creativity that has powered the advertising industry in other media.

The technologies are here now. It is time to learn how to put them to best use to begin pushing the creative parameters and show ourselves just how effective advertising on the Internet can be. If we don't learn to use them effectively, the big money will be left on the sidelines, and that would be too bad for everyone.

Richard Hopple is chairman-CEO, Unicast Communications, a New York-based rich-media software company.

Copyright November 1998, Crain Communications Inc.

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