Rich media ad servers improve ad campaigns

Click on a banner ad for “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” and it expands to full screen, the movie’s haunting images playing in high-def. That’s a first for a Paramount Pictures digital ad. It’s also an example of how interactive advertising takes advantage of the Web’s most advanced tools through relationships with rich media ad servers — in this case PointRoll.

“Our objective was to debut the movie footage in the highest resolution possible,” says Amy Powell, Paramount sr. VP of interactive marketing. “We tried to create really beautiful imagery and allow the banners to house HD video from the film that would reflect (director) David Fincher’s vision.”

The creative for the HD video marketing campaign came from agency Avatar Labs; PointRoll provided the backend technology that made the ad work seamlessly on a variety of websites. “They send us the video, the logos, the photos, but we create it, code it and track it,” says PointRoll regional VP Dea Lawrence.

Rich media ad servers such as PointRoll, DoubleClick, Eyeblaster, EyeWonder, Interpolls and others emerged during the first Internet boom of the late 1990s and early 2000s. Now these Web 2.0 companies work closely with film studios, TV networks and creative agencies to develop new technologies, integrate with websites, blogs and social networking sites, and provide metrics for their clients.

“Creative agencies now are looking for two things,” says DoubleClick group product manager Ari Paparo. “One is full-screen, high-quality video, built around Adobe Flash 9. The second is interactivity and ‘virality’ — the ability to let people put an ad with interactive elements on their homepage or Facebook or MySpace page.”

The trick is unifying all of the groups to deliver a consistent message across platforms. For “Cadillac Records,” EyeWonder worked with Sony Pictures and its agency, Universal McCann, to produce expandable ads featuring video for a TV spot, a movie trailer, photos, a soundtrack and links to MySpace and Facebook,

“When it’s working well, the studio, the creative agency and the rich media ad server are all coordinating their efforts,” says consultant Susan Lambert.

For “Revolutionary Road,” Bladimiar Norman, VP, interactive marketing, Paramount Vantage, partnered with Interpolls for the design, development and ad-serving of the rich media units.

The Visionaire Group handled the Flash banners. Interpolls served, tracked and reported the high-impact video expandable ad units. “We took the video trailers and edited them to 15 seconds to retell the story the trailer is doing in a non-expanding unit,” says Visionaire CEO Dimitry Ioffe. “It’s a well-priced, high-impact ad that lets us do a tremendous amount in the space.”

Digital marketing involves intense creative collaboration between client and agency. “It’s a reciprocal relationship where we’re constantly looking to (our partners) to see how they’ve pushed technology and what they can offer,” says Julianne LaMarche, prexy, interactive, at agency Crew Creative.

Eyeblaster marketing VP Amit Rahav notes that the entire process is much more complex than simply getting people to click on banners: “We want to establish rich media that reflects the consumer’s experience, throughout a life cycle that expands across all these different environments, from the search engine to a social network.”

Among the new trends that the rich media ad servers are exploiting is what PointRoll’s Lawrence calls “dynamic data. When you click on an ad, it automatically knows where you’re located via reverse IP lookup, and without you putting in the zip code, it’ll tell you the theaters where the movie is playing near you and the showtimes.”

One new trend in this arena is mobile marketing. PointRoll recently worked on a rich media ad on the iPhone for Focus Features’ “Burn After Reading.” Eyeblaster just announced a partnership with Nokia.

Rich media ad servers and their creative agency customers say the marketing experience will only get better. “We don’t see rich media as having limitations,” Ioffe says. “The only limitations are sites that want to set restrictions to control the user experience. But if there’s a great idea and we go early to the sites with it, the sky’s the limit.”

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