Rich media - growing on both sides of the pond

Blog posted by Matt Gower
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Matt Gower, Managing Director, Europe at Martini Media, explains why rich media is a sound investment for brand marketers.

Rich media ads are delivering higher engagement rates than static ads all over the world, and industry predictions show those numbers continually improving. The IAB has approved several new standard rich media ad formats in recent years to encourage brands to bring their campaigns online and into mobile. These new formats, the Rising Stars, are larger and visually stunning, and can incorporate social, video and other interactive elements, including maps or games.

Not surprisingly, Forrester predicts that rich media and video will attract the largest share of budgets moving toward 2016, in both the US and Europe. While the US has always had a habit of jumping onto the latest technology trend, Forrester asserts that the EU market is more mature. Yet despite their differences, both are clearly seeing results with rich media. 

The appeal of rich media is no surprise. For brand advertisers, there’s no better way to tell stories. In the US, momentum is building in rich media. As the industry in that region focuses on attracting global brands, there is a push for bigger, richer ad units, like the Rising Stars. 

While brand marketers clearly love these robust ads, inventory shortages create an obstacle to wider adoption. The networks and exchanges that control a large portion of US inventory are made up largely of older, static units. Furthermore, the networks and exchanges can present brand safety issues that give brand marketers pause. 

For this reason, rich mobile and mobile video are growing in the US. In order to achieve scale with rich media advertising, brands are almost forced to delve into mobile. The steady adoption of HTML5 and new Rising Star mobile ad units is helping to move things along, if slowly. Forward thinking, premium publishers are adopting rich mobile ads, although many publishers still rely on standard display units for their mobile sites.

The introduction of new premium paid marketplaces is also helping to open up rich media inventory and bring advertisers online. These networks, which are frequently invitation-only, feature top-tier publishers and quality ad units, guaranteeing brand marketers the level of audience they require in a brand-safe environment.

In the UK and EU, mobile also lags, although not as much as it seems to in America. As eConsultancy reported in November 2012, “In Europe, the mobile revolution is well under way, with premium publishers typically generating 50 per cent of their traffic through their mobile sites. Despite this, mobile display only accounts for six percent of the display advertising spend in UK and lower in the rest of Europe.” 

That said, the IAB recently announced a growth of 1,601 per cent in mobile advertising spend in the UK, compared to 111 per cent in the US. In fact, in contrast to that six per cent, mobile now accounts for 10 per cent of the overall digital spend in the UK according to the IAB. 

The focus on tablet advertising is also ahead of US interest in the mobile device. It seems that in the UK, mobile is viewed as a much more mature channel, with brands embracing it fully to reach their target consumers. There’s more focus on integrating mobile with other channels, whereas the US is still just dipping its toes. Even as 4G rolls out in the UK (rollout in North America began in late 2010), mobile video has grown £1m in 2011 to £13m in 2012. Mobile rich media is definitely on the upswing. 

In display, rich media performs far better than traditional counterparts. DG MediaMind’s annual Global Benchmark Report showed that rich media ad clickthroughs in the UK doubled to 0.28 per cent from 0.14 per cent, in comparison to standard banner ad clickthroughs, which remained unchanged at 0.08 per cent. Floating and expandable ads drove the growth. Of course, clicks are only part of the story with respect to rich media, and viewability is a key metric. The most viewable ads in rich media were floating ads, wallpaper ads and commercial breaks, according to the same report. 

UK firm AdForm reports that rich media ads are seeing five per cent higher engagement rates across Europe in comparison to standard banners, and that that engagement rate actually jumped 74 per cent between the first and second quarters of 2012. 

In the US, the IAB reports a 9.6 per cent interaction rate with Rising Stars vs standard banners at 3.9 per cent. The Rising Stars outperformed the best performing standard banners by 2.1x in an IAB study. The results are promising in either part of the world. 

Regardless of which country you’re in, rich media is performing, and it’s beating out traditional display for user attention and interaction. For brand marketers, it’s clearly an investment worth considering on any screen.

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