As it turned out, last Friday, Macromedia turned over the running and management of the Macromedia Flash Advertising Alliance (MFAA) over to Emerging Interest. Up until now, Macromedia had run the MFAA internally, in the form of Whitney Allen, a consultant that Macromedia hired to understand the advertising market and to get Macromedia more involved in it. And so this article is really about Flash, Flash Advertising, and the MFAA.
It is important to note that at EI, we are technology agnostic. We are more concerned with what works. But, at least for the moment, Flash is about as close to a standard as you can find in the rich media advertising space and so it’s a very important technology. And that makes organizations like the MFAA important for the (at least) near term future of the online advertising industry.
So what is the MFAA? It is an organization of Publishers, Agencies, Ad Networks, Tech Vendors and others who have a vested interest in making Flash Advertising work better than it currently does. They have a vested interest because, for each of these groups, Flash advertising makes their companies' life easier and more profitable.
For the Publishers, like CNET Networks, using Flash within larger ad units has helped them justify triple digit CPM’s and sell their inventory out 3 months in advance.
For Agencies, like TBWA/Chiat/Day, Flash gives the creative departments easy to use tools that allow them to be more creative and help brand their client’s message with more impact.
For Ad Networks, like DoubleClick, Flash, with its vector graphics technology and wide distribution of players, represents a viable, bandwidth friendly rich media technology with mass market potential.
For Tech Vendors, like Enliven and Unicast, their technology has been wrapped around Flash because of its easy to create interactive media assets.
So why do you need an Alliance? Simply because Flash is not a standard, even though it has “standard” like qualities. And Flash, traditionally has not been easy to deploy, track, or create in an ad production environment.
One of the Alliance’s biggest accomplishments this past year has been the development of the Flash Tracking Kit. Here’s what it does and why it’s important:
First, Flash was never meant as an advertising technology so the notion of tracking things like “click-through”, and being able to relay that info into an ad delivery and tracking system was never in the Flash “spec”. There is a way to get that information, of course, but it has been in the form of a crude work-around.
It required that new versions of the same creative be generated – by hand – for each site and each network the Flash creative was going to run on. It required that a long and complicated string of letters and numbers – the DNA of the click tag information including site and network identification information – needed to placed – again, by hand - by some creative developer (who would probably rather be watching reruns of Big Brother 2 than doing this work) and at the same time, keep everything straight and make sure that every piece of creative got delivered to the right place at the right time. In short, a nightmare.
The Tracking Kit eliminated that problem by allowing developers to put a generic “pointer” in the Flash file that basically said, “Hey Dummy, go look for the click tag information where everyone else and his mother puts it.” End of problem: developers make one piece of creative and networks who support the standard can run it, almost like they would a standard GIF.
But, of course, it’s not a standard GIF and there are many things that can potentially be tracked in a piece of Flash creative. So now the problem is, how do you do that (track multiply things in a single Flash creative) and how do you get that info out to the ad serving software?
Well, that’s why there is an organization called the MFAA. Its job is to figure those things out. Emerging Interest is there just to help the process along.
-- Bill McCloskey is Founder and CEO of Emerging Interest, an organization dedicated to educating the Internet advertising and marketing industry about rich media and other emerging technologies. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.