Real-Time Branding: Rich Media And The Tablet
In previous real-time branding columns, we introduced the idea of a rich media exchange, which will become a reality in the near future when various players from across the ecosystem pull together to make it so. This week, I spoke with Cameron Yuill, founder and CEO of AdGent Digital, a digital media and technology company with proprietary display, video and tablet advertising platforms.
Yuill on the Rich Media Exchange
When I asked Cameron what his perspective was on the concept of real-time branding, he responded: “At AdGent, we focus on tablet advertising. For us, the really key part of rich media is where content consumption is happening: On mobile devices.” He says one key problem facing advertisers today is that they cannot buy tablet-specific inventory via the exchanges in any meaningful way. They can purchase traditional inventory like banners and buttons, which will appear on a tablet, he says, but "those ads won’t behave the way tablet ads are meant to behave -- they won’t slide open or interact on contact." This results in a bad experience from a consumer perspective, and a waste of money from a brand perspective. It’s a missed opportunity right now.
Yuill agrees that the idea of a rich media exchange is a good one, primarily because it will help shift brand dollars from TV to online. “In terms of transparency from the buying community particularly, an exchange makes sense,” he says. “The more access to audience and inventory advertisers can get through an exchange, and the easier we can make the buying process, the more likely they are to allocate funds online.” Content consumption habits are shifting from the big-screen TV to the tablet. The data shows consumers are using tablets primarily after work hours and on the weekend -- the same hours they purchase goods online and watch TV. Clearly, brand advertisers need to follow their audiences, and a rich media exchange will make it easy for them to do that.
Yuill and I aren’t in agreement on everything, however. While we agree that it is a wonderful and necessary idea, he doesn’t believe that a rich media exchange will address many of the problems facing mobile advertising today. There are still a lot of obstacles. "For starters," he begins, "most brand advertisers today need to pull in a separate team of designers, developers and media buyers to place mobile ads. It’s still heavily siloed, and that’s a major issue. We will need some standardization to buy and sell rich media for all devices via a single exchange --standardization across both ad units and the technology itself."
However, Yuill believes that the biggest obstacle may be that the publishers are not necessarily ready for rich media on their sites. “At AdGent, we have to assist publishers in getting 'enabled' so they can run HTML 5 ad units. It’s not just a matter of giving out tags and 'away you go' -- there are a host of issues, and it’s a one-by-one process to solve for them.” He adds: "publishers will need to step it up and build tablet and mobile-ready sites. We’ve worked through this barrier to entry for many of the large, premium publishers, but not for the middle-sized sites or the smaller, niche media sites. That will take time, but the rich media performs better for the advertiser and drives a lot more revenue for the publishers."
The other issue that concerns Yuill relates to the design side of the units. HTML 5 ad units offer a myriad of creative options that could never be offered before with display. There are some very exciting elements that advertisers can add -- elements that are not, and probably won’t be, standardized. For example, a car company might run an ad with video that includes a 360-view of the car that can be controlled by touch so a user can flip the car around and see the front, side and back. There might be an option to look at the interior, to change the color by tapping on color swatches. "All of these cool, interactive elements can be included in rich media ads on tablets," he says. "But none of that can really be standardized to the degree required by an exchange so that it could be bought in real-time. We had similar concerns a decade ago when standard banner creative went graphical with traditional rich media players like PointRoll."
What can be done -- and what AdGent and others are doing -- is creating templates that can be quickly populated with assets that enable a buyer to assemble an ad very quickly, which they could then get out onto an exchange. Rising Stars work well for this purpose. If the industry could compile a few additional template-based units, Yuill believes we would arrive at a solid set of creative that could live on an exchange. To attract those TV dollars to the Web, we would want those templates to include video modules, of course.
TV Ads Are Standardized, But Creative is Special
Yuill firmly believes that some ads just can’t live on an exchange. “Can the most unique and special creative rise to the top while allowing standards to describe the advertising format?” he asks passionately. “I should add that I don’t believe the most creative, complex and stunning ads can be or should be commoditized. That good stuff all has to be built from the ground up, or at least on a framework that simply can’t be brought into an exchange. As an industry, we shouldn’t want them to be. We should be aiming to move to the exchanges things that can be standardized; we should be making it easy to repurpose media seen on TV for the Web via template-based ad units. We can move toward that very quickly and without too much pain as an industry. However, from a creative advertising point of view, some ads are going to be special. There are many advertisers who want to do something very cool, unique and innovative that works with the content on the pages on which their ad units appear.”
I understand his viewpoint, but I believe this capability will eventually exist on an exchange -- while allowing the cream to rise to the top via custom ads. Many of these will be included in the new standards, and ultimately, the exchanges. For most advertisers, a rich media exchange represents a much simpler road ahead. And when you’re trying to attract brands online at scale, simple is good.