Rich Media Jabberwocky

'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves

Did gyre and gimble in the wabe.

All mimsy were the borogoves,

And the mome raths outgrabe.

I remember when I first came across the search engine, Google, late in '98 or early in 1999.

What I liked about Google, what attracted me to it at first, was the name. I'd studied astronomy at Berkeley for a year before settling on being a formal student of philosophy and English, and I recognized the word, "google," as being a variation on "googol," which is the label for the number that is 10 to the 100, or a 1 followed by 100 zeroes. When he asked his young nephew what the biggest number he could think of was, mathematician Edward Kasner was told a "googol." And let's not forget the name of the theater complex in the Simpsons' Springfield is the Springfield Googleplex.

Anyway, I liked the name because I thought it was clever.

In 1999, a new rich media creative platform came on the scene from United Virtualities called "Shoshkele." Its name, legend has it, came from the founder's daughter. I don't recall if this is her nickname, or if it was all that she was able to utter when asked, "what is the most unique out-of-the-banner object you can think of?"



"Hmmm.... Cool technology, but the name is kind of confusing," I remember thinking at the time. But, hey, it was go-go dotcom days. The less something made sense, the more successful it was supposed to be.

United Virtualities continued with their free-style naming with "Ooqa ooqa," supposedly something else one of the children in the extended corporate family of United Virtualities uttered one morning over breakfast. Doesn't in the slightest indicate what it does, but the name is... well... okay, it isn't catchy. But it is different and nonsensical. If you are wondering, Ooga ooga is a kind of browser wrap that allows an advertiser to convert the gray void of the unoccupied spaces of the browser into a branding opportunity.

United Virtualities has since gone on to more conventional, albeit still confusing nomenclature, such as Yachne for their avatar-based, roomless chat product (an interesting idea if successfully married to IM, which is ostensibly chatroom-less chat). Yachne is a girl's name meaning gracious in Hebrew. I like that name. It's sweet, and no doubt is the name of a child within the UV family. Oh, and there is also the "Shvitzer," which is Yiddish for "braggart" or a show-off. This name seems to come closest to describing what it is labeling.

But I wonder, how about the "Kvetch?" It's an ad unit that has an automatic complaint filing function. Or maybe the "Plotz," an ad unit that pops up all over your screen?

Oh, wait... we already have those, and they aren't from United Virtualities.

Not to be outdone, PointRoll has a simpler, if just as confusing, system of naming their various species of rich media units. Not only is it impossible to deduce the function of a particular type of rich media format from the name, but the names are all associated with images of kids that, from a certain angle, seem sort of offensive.

FatBoy... well, that speaks for itself, don't you think? I mean, the kid's fat. Okay, the unit gets "fat" when you mouse over it, I get it. But couldn't we have called it, "The Widener" or something? Must we really insult the poor kid by calling him fat and then making him wear a beanie with a propeller on it?

TomBoy... okay, the girl likes to wear doo rags and sweats. So does Alicia Keyes, but she seems far from a tomboy. This is the name of the video-in-a-banner and animation product. It does look really cool, but the label gives me pause.

The BadBoy... it is a free-floating ad format (kind of like Shoshkele, or Eyeblaster). The unit is great, really. Why going beyond the borders of a banner is bad I have no idea. I thought it was good. Why the kid representing the idea has to be a swarthy, young Rocky Balboa confuses me even more.

Finally, there is the TowelBoy. It is essentially the BadBoy, it just runs faster. It "snaps" out and then comes back again, like getting snapped in the ass with a wet towel. Something everyone with bad memories of high school locker rooms knows about. The towel boy was the kid you DIDN'T want to be if you were in a locker room.

What's next, HomeBoy? MailBoy? PoolBoy?

I am afraid that with the next few rounds of new creative types, some of these rich media companies might start going with specialty deli sandwich naming conventions. Could you imagine asking a site if they can serve up the Morey Amsterdam, Phil Silvers, or the Ray Walston?

Why can't we have names like "The Ad That is Big" or "The Ad That Floats on the Page?" Eyeblaster and Unicast, by contrast, have nomenclature for their species of ad formats and units that are more banal, perhaps, but that make sense. The Floating Ad, the Commercial Break, the Polite Banner, the Full Screen Superstitial... these I understand.

Most confusing of all, beyond sorting through the names and functions of each ad, is what the hell production at the agency has to do to get sites that say they run rich media to run it. If anything needs real standardization at this point, aside from impression counting, contracts, and ad serving (can you believe these things are still on the list?), is rich media. Or, maybe what would be better is if sites found a way to really, truly accommodate the reach media types they claim to accept. As it turns out, most of the time, each site accepts their version of a particular brand of rich media. Days and days - sometimes weeks and weeks - go by with revision after revision before a site will finally accept the rich media ad unit they told you they accepted at the time you submitted the RFP.

Well, I'd love to stay here under the Tumtum tree all night, fo shizzle, but Mxyzptlk promised me some fabulous, grabulous, zipzoopzabulous Bandersnatch.

Next story loading loading..