Bill's Predictions for 2002

As I sit here trying to come up with my 2002 predictions for rich media, one thing is clear: never has the crystal ball been more obscured. The arrow one looks to for help in assessing trends is spinning like a dervish. In moments like this, one is reminded of the old Chinese curse: "May you live in interesting times."

Nevertheless, there are a number of movements out there that will have a significant impact on online advertising for 2001. Here's what I'm telling my clients:

1. This is a bad time to be developing new advertising solutions based on Java. With the government and the public's minds focused elsewhere I expect that Microsoft will forge ahead with their usual business tactics which means that Java's days may be numbered, at least when it comes to mass market applications like advertising. In fact, in times of War, Microsoft's winner-take-all mentality might be looked to model to emulate, not a danger to eradicate. Microsoft has already launched warning shots across the bow of Sun's fleet by announcing that Windows XP will not incorporate the Java Virtual Machine and has threatened to turn support of Java off by default in IE 6.



For current rich media technologies, this means they need to be working carefully on their post-Java strategy, figuring out ways to migrate to new technologies as they become available such as "C sharp," Microsoft's Java-like language.

For new comers though, the stakes are much higher. Establishing yourself, especially in this market of shrinking advertising dollars will be difficult, but to do it with a technology whose future is as uncertain as Java is a high-risk gamble.

2. This is the year of the Plug-in. This is a follow-up for point #1. Plug-in based technologies that do not depend on Java will gain increased acceptance. And not just the fairly ubiquitous ones such as Macromedia Flash, Windows Media Player, and Real Player. Viewpoint, which should be incorporated into AOL 7.0 will increasingly be used in campaigns, starting with the AOL proprietary service in the first part of the year, and migrating out more generally by the 3rd and 4th quarter of next year.

And if people begin to stay home more, 3D technologies which can give people more information and mimic the physical act of shopping should find increased usage among e-tailers and "click and mortar" sites. This could be good news for technology vendors like RichFX that use their 3D video graphics technology to bring the shopping experience home.

3. Targeting, Customization, and Optimization are Killer Apps for 2002. As advertisers become smarter and more judicious in spending their advertising dollars, those technologies that are focused on squeezing performance out of a campaign will become increasingly important. Technologies, such as Bluestreak's BlueEyes and Poindexter Systems, which can automate the mass customization and optimization of campaigns without the need for agencies to maintain large staffs to oversee the process will become vital to the success of an agency trying to achieve maximum ROI for their clients.

And as much as I have railed against Gator and their policies the last few months, client-side software which has the ability to highly target individual consumers will become very hot next year. A company like 180 Solutions seems to be doing it right: working with sites to deliver highly targeted ads based on Web usage, while maintaining user privacy. Comet Systems, the cursor company that has been quite of late, could also become players in this space in 2002.

4. Video, Video, Video. There is going to be a lot of video used on the Web in 2002. Not only will tele-conferencing increase but advertisers will increasingly use email and Web advertising to test television campaigns online before deploying them on TV. Some advertisers will actually move all of their video-based advertising online to take advantage of the ever-decreasing streaming costs and increased targeting and ROI associated with online advertising, especially for direct marketing campaigns.

5. Integration. Days of stand-alone interactive campaigns and specialized interactive shops are fast waning. At the agency level, the traditional side of house is being pressured by their clients to integrate interactive work into a comprehensive campaign. Agencies, even those who tried and failed in the past incorporate interactive capability internally, are being forced to try again, but this time with an eye on the bottom line. This means that vendors and publishers are going to have to become more consultative in their sales efforts and more hands on in their approach. With decreased staffs and increased responsibilities, agencies will need to rely on vendors and media properties more as partners in the uncertain world of 2002.

-- 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.

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