A view from James Booth

Tech viewpoint on rich media

Rich media has been the mainstay of online brand marketing for more than ten years, thanks to its ability to deliver a blend of video and interactivity directly to where the user can be found. But, unlike standard display advertising and pre-roll video, rich media has been late to the programmatic agenda.

So what is programmatic rich media? Let’s start with the programmatic. Just as stock-market trading activity migrated from ticket-waving and noisy phone calls to sophisticated platforms relying on algorithms to seek out and bid on interesting stock, online media buying increasingly exploits real-time trading opportunities now made possible thanks to demand-side platforms and supply-side platforms.

The DSPs and SSPs are integrated, allowing near-real-time transactions to happen. And as a bid only takes place in the presence of the ideal target audience, where the parameters are set up within the DSP, spend wastage is reduced while performance is enhanced. Programmatic rich media is the same transactional process but, once a bid has been won, the creative delivered would be an interactive, multimedia rich media unit that may well expand on user interaction to deliver a bigger canvas.

Unlike standard display advertising and pre-roll video, rich media has been late to programmatic

But rich media isn’t as straightforward to deliver. For rich media to expand safely, the code used to control it must sit neatly with the code of the host site; any mal-alignment can result in the layout of the host site breaking. As such, rich media creatives are usually pretested on the planned host sites prior to the campaign going live. This is all well and good should you know which sites the target users are going to appear on. But should you wish to exploit the benefits of programmatic and optimise your campaign to target the best users, you risk firing untested units all over the programmatic landscape and, in turn, causing havoc.

2015 will be the year programmatic rich media moves centrally in the online advertising mix. Thanks to a few exciting solutions now in market and gaining rapid traction, many of the aforementioned issues have been solved. And this is great news for advertisers – well-executed programmatic rich media can deliver extraordinary results. I have regularly seen engagement and interaction rates of more than 20 times that of old-school approaches.

The good news is that, today, the raft of Internet Advertising Bureau Rising Stars formats, plus numerous bespoke units, are deliverable programmatically. For creative designers, new opportunities open up. For instance, the ability to refresh the creative to specific viewer types based on what they have previously seen, where they are located, what device they are on etc. Rich media is moving into a very exciting new phase and it is just beginning. It’s time for brands to take note.

James Booth is the chief executive and founder at Rockabox