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Sep 18, 2000
How To

Technology and Tactics Behind Low Bandwidth Rich Media Success

SUMMARY: No summary available.
Having recently spoken at a conference in San Francisco on “Overcoming the Barriers of Rich Media’, Seth Fineberg, e-marketing consultant and rich media expert, is coming to London next week. We thought we’d take this opportunity to introduce him to you, and ask him one or two questions of our own...

Q: Firstly, no matter what we say to some people, we can’t get them to accept that rich media doesn’t necessarily mean high bandwidth. Can you help?

Fineberg: Well, that certainly used to be the case. But the technology involved in creating rich media campaigns is improving all the time, and we’re now seeing lots of campaigns that don’t tax the end user too much. Many transactional ads – those with drop down menus, mouse-overs, multiple layers, and so on – certainly look like they’d be high bandwidth. But they can now be delivered to the user in very small file sizes – while the total content of the ad might be as much as 200K, the user only has to wait for the download of a player or client sized between about 5 and 14K while rest of the ad loads in the background. The client is like the biscuit base of a chocolate bar and the content is the chocolate – the part with all the calories! A rich media chocolate bar would give you all the taste of a real one (and more), but you’d only have to swallow the biscuit base.

Similarly, it’s possible to send rich media emails of about 4K in size – as with banners, the user only downloads a carrier, and the content streams in from the Web. produces emails with streaming audio and video content like this – they take literally seconds to download from mail servers. Yet there are still companies sending out similar content as hefty attachments! I know which I’d prefer to download.

Q: How do response rates to rich media banners compare with those to traditional ads?

Fineberg: I’ve seen campaigns with response rates only as much as two or three percent higher than with traditional banners, but in many cases, even that is a good result. But real media banners can generate response rates of up to thirty percent – a huge improvement on the industry norms for GIF banners. They are also a much better tool for branding than traditional ads because of the experience they allow the user. Prospective customers can actually *interact* with the brand. For example, Freestyle Interactive (in conjunction with Leftfield) recently produced an ad for Sun Microsystems consisting of a 9-hole golf game. Users could actually click through at any point, but it was found that the average time spent playing the game was over ten minutes. That’s ten minutes’ worth of interaction with the brand.

Q: Are rich media banners a great deal more expensive than their traditional counterparts?

Fineberg: ‘A great deal’? No. Obviously they vary in cost, but in the US, you can expect to pay an additional two to three dollars per CPM.

Q: UK e-commerce sites find that the cost of acquiring each new customer is quite high. How could a rich media banner campaign cut this cost per acquisition?

Fineberg: Well, the response to rich media banners is much more easily measured. You can’t gather information about the people who view your traditional banner ad unless they click through (which of course takes them away from where they wanted to be). You can measure that, and you might be able to do some post-click analysis, but there are several steps involved. If you can cut out some of the steps, you can save money. Transactional banners allow you to gather information from prospective customers (and provide information for them) without taking them away from the site they’re currently visiting. Furthermore, they provide the means to ensure that your leads are more fully qualified - if you can give any prospective customer enough information to make a transaction of some kind then you have a qualified lead, even if all they’re doing is leaving an email address. You can use that to re-market at a later date.

Q: Can you give us an example of such a banner?

Fineberg: Nissan wanted to generate some interest around the launch of a new car – as usual without saying what it was called, or what it looked like exactly (it happened to be the 2000 Sentra). They produced a banner containing Flash animations – quick-fire close-ups of the car’s main features interspersed with teaser messages. The ad encouraged viewers to enter their email addresses, and request information or services – a brochure, a call from a nearby dealer, and so on – putting Nissan one step closer to a sale each time.

Q: What advice would you give to publishers and agencies about rich media ads?

Fineberg: Publishers, certainly, should make sure that they’re educated about rich media ads by talking to agencies, vendors and ad servers. They need to be aware that, at the end of the day, they’re accepting an ad that is effectively 5 to 14K in size. The ad itself will actually be larger, but this won’t affect them or their users greatly. Agencies, too, need some education about the technology available – it’s just not necessary to plonk a whole 70 to 100K ad on someone’s site (or expect them to accept it) any more. Some of the poorly educated agencies are getting really into the creative, but their ads are too weighty overall.

Q: What’s the number one thing to avoid when it comes to planning rich media campaigns?

Fineberg: Don’t use rich media just for the sake of it! Rich media campaigns really will tax the end user if there’s no point to them! Keep your marketing objectives in mind, and decide how this technology is going to help you achieve those objectives. Don’t succumb to pressure from your agencies, or employ rich media simply because your competitors do.
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