Wednesday, March 3, 2010

MEDIAPOST: Whatever Happened To Rich Media?

For many years the rich media space was a hotbed of activity. All the usual suspects were out in the marketplace duking it out for the top spot. Eyeblaster, Eyewonder, Pointroll, Klipmart, United Virtualities, Doubleclick; all of these companies were investing in new technology and the development of new ideas that would make digital creative units pop and spark and generate impact in the eyes of the consumer. Somewhere along the way, through consolidation and a focus on data and ad networks, they seem to have lost their luster.

You may argue, but let me make my case.

When was the last time to heard of a truly innovative development in rich media? When was the last time a rich media company pitched you on an idea that was groundbreaking and truly unique? The category itself suffers from a sense of pessimism and the selection of a rich media partner these days tends to come down to two things; relationships and price. Media Strategists recommend the companies and people they like doing business with and the partners that can come to the table with the most efficient pricing. There is very little reason to pay a premium for a service that has become commoditized and the category is not doing much to prove this model wrong.

The apparent growth in the category is coming from these companies morphing into traditional ad servers, which is indeed an opportunity because some digital players don’t want to partner with the big dogs (namely Google/Doubleclick and Atlas). While I recognize that ad serving is a huge opportunity and a natural complement for these rich media vendor services, isn’t that a step backwards?

You can’t tell me that we’ve seen all of the innovation we’re going to see in rich media. I can’t live with the thought that what we have now is what we’ll have in the years to come. Is the web page as it stands the way the web page will be in the future? What happened to offering rich media across multiple platforms, including location-based screens, mobile and integrated into video? What about the development of truly socially enabled units that integrate Facebook Connect and other elements so integral to the growth of the web? What about just giving us something different?

The ad network space may have something to do with this as most ad networks have restrictions on the size and capabilities that rich media can have and far too many media plans are reliant on ad network buys, but I have to believe the future involves more creativity than that. The future of digital advertising involves syndication of content and social functionality, and rich media needs to start thinking that way as well.

The immediate response to this article will be postings on the Spin Board and direct emails to my inbox from the rich media sales people wanting to share all of the “innovation” in their models, but before you hit send on that message I would ask you to take an objective eye to your offering. Are you really doing something different or are you splitting hairs on an already established idea? Innovation can be painful, and sometimes you need to hear some painful words in order to take that exciting step forward. Maybe this is that time?

Have you seen anything exciting in rich media as of late? Let us know!