Commentary

The Sport of Serving 'Rich' Media

I had the novel opportunity to attend, of all things, the Bridgehampton Polo Club this weekend, which gave me a chance to reflect on equestrian sport, class conventions, and, of course, rich media. Turns out the three seemingly unrelated topics have a good deal in common, each game, if you will, with a clear set of rules, goals to be achieved, and faux pas to be avoided.

Esthetics factor significantly in each case, but while polo is itself naturally a thing of beauty - riders on majestic, toned, golden brown beasts charging back and forth on a plush green expanse - the 'rich' society person and the 'rich' online ad have to put a bit of thought into it. Both are judged quickly and coldly by their audience, without sympathy. They're lucky if they get a glance, but when they do it's crucial to strike the right note. They have to pique the interest without offending the most fastidious of sensibilities; it's just so simple for their viewers to move on, casting their gazes elsewhere. It's also important to take the setting's style conventions - whether an audaciously hued polo shirt, or a clearly visible company logo - and personalize the delivery in some way.

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I picked up on another relationship while chatting with the swells beside the bar, as I got the impression they were genuinely fatigued by the whole social experience; that they would have rather been at home with a smaller audience. I'm sure the same could be said for the horses on the field, but I hesitate to put words in their mouths.

What is clear is that every rich media ad I've ever come across certainly didn't want to be wherever it happened to be plastered at the time. Each ad always seems to have one objective, which is to get as far away from its current setting as possible; to take me to its home where it will surely be more comfortable and I will surely not. I don't want to be taken off track from whatever it is I'm doing at the time, nor do I want to be taken from my comfort zone.

But -- again leaving the horses out of this one -- the swells were actually revolved to the situation because they knew the value of being present, of being counted as one among their peers. The rich media ad merely trying to promote its brand should be happy just to be noticed, but even the ones actually shooting for a conversion have to seriously consider their target's comfort zone.

However, the most conspicuous parallel between the three amusements is, needless to say, cash! None of it would take place without charitable donations from willing benefactors, each of whom have a vested interest in the proceedings. Society can be understood as a business deal of sorts, of which the polo match is, sad to say, just another accessory. Rich media will only get more expensive as other mediums continue to loose ground to the Web, and online media increasingly becomes the only game in town. One can only wish that once the industry reaches that point, the ads and their surrounding environment retain just a hint of the grace and bearing exhibited on the Bridgehampton Polo grounds this weekend.

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