So, what was the announcement and what does it mean? On the surface, the press release was rather non-committal and vague. Macromedia and DoubleClick have announced that they have formed an alliance and are working together on an unspecified product with the sketchy delivery date of the middle of next year. The unspecified nature of the release may be one reason why there seemed to be so little buzz following the announcement on the usual industry discussion lists. But for those who follow the rich media industry, an announcement that the largest rich media technology vendor is joining forces with the largest ad serving technology vendor was momentous and signaled the end of one era and the beginning of a new one.
For one thing, it was an acknowledgement on both sides: for DoubleClick it is an acknowledgement of just how important rich media has become to the future of online advertising. Currently, 20% of ads delivered through DoubleClick technology are rich media and 30% of those are based on Macromedia Flash. And those ads receive 6 times the click through versus non-rich media ads. Obviously, DoubleClick would like to increase the click through rate on more of its ads and that means making it as easy to deliver, track, and manage rich media campaigns as it is to do Gifs today.
For Macromedia, whose attention in the past has been focused on the Web development community, it is an acknowledgement that advertising represents a significant market for them. One reason for this is that the average weekly Flash advertising impression numbers have increased in the last year from around 100 million (in Sept 2001) to over 2 billion a week (in September 2002). (To see the latest stats you can go here).
What it could mean for the industry is that finally the infrastructure will be in place that could potentially allow vector-based graphics to supplant raster-based images as the standard format for online advertising. This is all good news for the advertiser (better messaging, lower cost), good for the agencies (enhanced creative possibilities, easier campaign management), and good for the consumer (more interesting, richer advertising).
And judging by the reactions of some of the current rich media vendors I spoke with yesterday, good for them also. According the Joe Apprendi of Eyeblaster, the announcement is a validation of the Eyeblaster business model: “Eyeblaster is in the market today with over a 1000 campaigns and the only rich media vendor to be accepted by AOL, MSN, and Yahoo! ” And it is this kind of interest that has validated rich media in general and has convinced DoubleClick on the need to invest in these types of technologies, according to Joe.
As far as Unicast is concerned, this announcement is good news as well. According to Allie Savarino, Unicast’s VP of Marketing, “Unicast has a very strong relationship with DoubleClick and supports DoubleClick creating standards around DART products. The furtherance of Macromedia Flash as a standard authoring tool helps our business.”
And DoubleClick’s view is that it sees itself as an open platform, open to all vendors and technologies. The one thing that almost everyone agrees on is that this announcement is a harbinger of lower rich media costs in the future. Whether those cost savings will be realized through increased productivity, increased competition, lower production costs or a combination of all three is anyone’s guess.
But one thing is for certain. Online advertising just got exciting again. Advertising is about to get a whole lot easier and a whole lot more interesting and so is the competitive landscape. And it’s a good thing too. We all need something new to talk about. And something to get advertisers excited again.
Next week, I promise, we’ll finish up floating ads.