We were surprised when rich media advertising company ePod took a dive a couple of weeks ago. After all, they had great buzz, an experienced (and well connected) management team, and some big clients such as HBO. So we contacted Seth Fineberg, Managing Editor for Emerging Interest, an advertising technologies awareness group, to find out why enough rich media ads aren't being sold to keep vendors afloat and investors happy.
Fineberg blames everybody but the clients. He says, "There's no lack of client-side interest. Studies say all these wonderful things about rich media results. Right now really is the time for new forms of advertising to emerge. However, there are no standards now in measurement or technology. So, very few publishers have stood up to say, 'Ok we're offering more than just standard ad units.' A media buyer has a nice piece of rich creative in their hand, so they'll go to a publisher and the site rep will say 'Oh goody! no problem.' Then comes the time to deliver the ad and all of the sudden, 'Oops we're not compatible with that.' This is a very typical scenario."
Fineberg adds that new ad technology companies aren't helping either, "Do you know how many agencies get cold-called every day with the same spiel? 'Hey we're going to change the face of advertising with this!' They just don't want to hear it anymore. There's no framework out there and this stuff has to run somewhere. Publishers have to universally give the thumbs up on standards first."
Stefan Tornquist, Director of Marketing Communications for ePod's competitor Bluestreak (which coincidentally got a $19 million investment round the day after ePod hit the dust) says standards will be difficult to agree on. He says, "Standards are the foundation of any industry. I know the IAB is working on it, but it's probably not that easy with this multiplicity of tech. I could sit in a room with five random tech people and we'd all suggestion standards that made perfect sense for our technology and not a bit of sense for others. I can see why it's a daunting task."
While we're waiting for standards to be set, investors are getting restless so more companies like ePod may not make it through. Which, ironically may make setting standards easier. Just wait to see who's standing at the end of the day. Does this mean the best tech will be chosen? Or just the tech from the company who has the best investor relations?
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