There Is Nothing Rich About Rich Media

I am embarrassed and angry about the rich-media industry (but mostly just angry).

For the last five years, rich-media vendors have been using Adobe Flash, and more recently HTML5, to irritate, frustrate, disrupt, distract, annoy, and torment the general public.

Using invasive rich media ads to capture a consumer's attention is like trying to save a man dying of thirst by drowning him in water.

Flash is a technology that, despite its flaws, has fundamentally increased the level of interactivity on the Web. It made Web-based video streaming, audio, and even applications a reality. Recently, the introduction of HTML5 took Flash one step farther by enabling developers to build rich applications that could work in browsers without plug-ins, and even render natively on mobile devices. Over the next few years, HTML5 will continue to blur the lines between desktop and Web-based applications with persistent storage among its capabilities.



We have the technology to produce brilliant, useful, meaningful, and functional ads, and yet we are squandering it.

I believe that rich-media vendors are doing tremendous harm to the online display advertising industry. We are enabling a generation of advertisers to believe that invasive is a substitute for persuasive.

(Please don't bother sending me an example of your great advertising, because the exception does not prove the rule.)

We need to demand something better.

As the CEO of Adventive, a rich-media provider, I can't stand by and watch it happen. I believe that we all need to be deeply passionate about user experience, because advertisers are best served when their customers have a positive brand experience.

We need to rid the display market of bad rich media. We need to educate advertisers and publishers alike that it is in their own best interests to use rich media wisely (and sparingly).

After all, if your goal is to sell something, not pissing off your customer is a great first step.

A Manifesto for Rich-Media Vendors and Publishers:

A rising tide in rich-media advertising is good for everyone. The ability to create ads that have entire applications embedded within them creates endless opportunities for rich-media vendors to build incredibly compelling ads.

As an industry, we need to agree on ground rules that we all live by:

1. We will only use rich media when it adds value to the user experience.

2. We will not use an ad to block or push down text on a content site unless a consumer explicitly clicks.

3. We will not make it hard to close an expanding window to drive artificial clicks.

4. We will try our best to help advertisers build great consumer experiences.

5.  We will build ads that seamlessly integrate into the websites and applications they are served on.

Fixing rich media is good for advertisers, publishers, rich media vendors -- and, most important, consumers.

I am publicly committing that my company will honor this manifesto. I promise that with every single ad we build on my watch, we will work to enhance the user experience.

Will you join me in honoring this manifesto?

11 comments about "There Is Nothing Rich About Rich Media".
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  1. Bill Chambers from Bright Chapel Financial Services, November 4, 2010 at 12:35 p.m.

    Mr. Koretz's view is honorable and pure. But, persuasive can only work if it has engaged the attention and invasive is often the best or only way to do that. I agree that creatives should always try first to use the Rich Media tools to PERSUADE & SELL and not merely annoy.

  2. Jim Courtright from Big Thinking By The Hour, November 4, 2010 at 1:08 p.m.

    We call the old model "aggregate and aggravate". It should be rethought and reinvented through technology like HTML5.
    Our belief: Stop making ads. Start making content. Content that people want to see, brought to you by a brand/website.
    Imagine viewers thanking a brand for their content, instead of cursing them.

  3. Mark McLaughlin, November 4, 2010 at 1:34 p.m.

    This is an important discussion but turning a mediapost blog into a sneaky self-serving promotion deep in the article is just wrong.

  4. Kern Lewis from GrowthFocus, Inc., November 4, 2010 at 2:44 p.m.

    In partial defense of creative types and agencies in general, let us not forget the client demanding more invasion and disruption. Perhaps even "requesting" better hiding of the close button, or having the product visual move so that it is tougher to click closed.
    This must be driving consumers mad, because every web visitor has a goal in mind when they go online. Browsing is usually a second event, after the task is completed. If you interpose yourself too aggressively between viewer and that initial goal, you earn negative points for slowing them down. Bad ju-ju, that.

  5. David Koretz from Adventive, Inc., November 4, 2010 at 3:59 p.m.

    @Mark, self-serving? Hardly.

    I am stepping up to make a commitment to do what I believe is right in the industry. A commitment that could cost my business economically, because we won't build the ads that are profitable but harmful.

    You should understand it fully before you make such a strong accusation.


  6. Ari Rosenberg from Performance Pricing Holdings, LLC, November 4, 2010 at 5:45 p.m.


    Tea calling the kettle black -- your responses on this board are harsh, judgmental and point to your view on things with links back to your own blog if I am not mistaken. Talk about self serving -- lighten up Mark -- you're not the only person in media that has a brain -- calling David "sneaky" is likely a projection of how you think of yourself.


  7. Jonathan Mirow from BroadbandVideo, Inc., November 4, 2010 at 6:12 p.m.

    Ahhhh - ya'll lighten up. The web is all about shameless self promotion. David's just been taking writing lessons from Ashcan of WatchMojo. By the way, in case you haven't seen my weekly media commentary - check it out at By the way, I do agree with David, the unfortunate thing is that considerate gentlemen don't win on the web: dill-weeds who do mouse-overs that cover the entire page with leaping video screens do. It's sad, really...

  8. Aaron Zeitner from A2Z Enterprises Incorporated, November 5, 2010 at 2:59 p.m.

    It is important to remember that emerging technologies, have a natural learning curve, as millions of dollars are invested in these 'failures'. It is the job of the visionaries within the industry to utilize these 'failures' as proper due diligence and adapt.

    Mark my words: The solution is being developed now, you have no idea who, what or when it will be unveiled. It is going to be a fun ride, so jump on or be left behind!

    I bet you haven't heard of me yet. I look forward to it!


  9. David Koretz from Adventive, Inc., November 5, 2010 at 3:29 p.m.

    @Aaron, you're right... I have never heard of you.

    A quick Google search reveals there are thousands of "A2Z Enterprises."

    Are you the one selling thong underwear with the college logos on the back, or the one giving religious tours in India?


  10. Lee Freund from TubeMogul, November 6, 2010 at 1:06 p.m.

    Some good points here but the problem with rich media and display creative is much deeper.

    It is widely accepted that display creative side of the business has quite a long way to go. The vast majority of a marketers' resources (time and $$$) are invested in media and web site development. While, relatively speaking, next to nothing is invested in display creative design, development, testing, and optimization. A major challenge is that most agencies do not know how to use display effectively. In most cases, display does not fit well into the agency business model. Agencies make big $$$ building web sites not banners. Ironically, millions more people will be exposed to the banners than will ever make it to the brand web site or Facebook page. Additionally, very few creative agencies know how to develop digital media creative work that drives results. Most design on gut feeling rather than best practices or historical learning. Most creative teams never even see reporting or performance analysis on their work.

    Display creative takes a back seat to nearly all other digital marketing disciplines. This is our challenge and opportunity.

  11. Elizabeth Kulin from ZEDO, November 15, 2010 at 12:39 p.m.

    If you can get it to work for your site, rich media formats can help internet publishers make more revenue. Learn why we here at ZEDO, Inc. believe that:

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