But the Tao of Economics states that the only unchanging rule of business is that all things change. Like a couple of up-and-comers on The Sopranos, a new breed of vendor has entered the market in an attempt to shake things up at the top. One of these companies is Israeli-based Checkm8 (pronounced Checkmate).
As their name implies, Checkm8 is hoping to take the current consolidation in the industry one step further by becoming the one stop solution for all rich media needs, but with a strong publisher-focused model.
Currently, there are three approaches that rich media vendors can take to sell their services: the product approach, the platform approach, and the tool approach.
The product approach usually involves the development of a particular set of effects tied to a unique delivery mechanism and marketed as a separate product name different than the company name. For example, the company Narrative developed the product Enliven, (which eventually became so associated with the company that the company changed their name to the product.)
The platform approach emphasizes the deployment of a set of products or effects over a delivery network. Eyeblaster and Bluestreak have taken this approach in recent years.
The tool approach, on the other hand, de-emphasizes a network or particular product in favor of a toolset that allows users to create their own set of branded rich media products. Macromedia Flash, for instance, would fall into this category: a tool that is incorporated or supported by a series of products that are not owned by Macromedia. And this tool approach is the method that Checkm8 has adopted as their game plan of choice.
Checkm8’s model is centered on licensing to publishers a robust toolset to enable them to develop their own series of branded or non-branded rich media products. The goal is to provide sites more creative flexibility, with a less costly but more integrated and streamlined approach.
That is an idea that has found traction with some major European sites, most significantly Terra Lycos in Spain which currently uses Checkm8 to serve 50% of their rich media traffic, according to Silvia Travesani, a Terra Lycos Ad Operations manager who delivered a presentation on Terra Lycos’s use of Checkm8 at last month’s Admonsters conference. (Admonsters is a consortium of ad operations specialists). According to Ms. Travesani’s, since implementing the Checkm8 system in September 2001, Terra Lycos’s rich media costs have significantly decreased and they can now create rich media house ads at no cost. Reasons for incorporating the Checkm8 system at Terra Lycos included eliminating the complexity of maintaining multiple vendor relationships and wanting to own the rich media solution in-house.
The Checkm8 system supports geo targeting as well as day parts and the creative can be customized based on the users browser type, connection speed and screen resolution. The system supports IE and Netscape 4.0 and up on both Windows and Macintosh. But Checkm8’s real differentiator is the vast number of rich media types that are supported and which can be combined to create unique rich media products that the publisher can productize.
According to Checkm8’s product information, those types include Contextual ads, Transparent layers, Expandable ads, Margin ads, Watermarks, Resizable ads, Morphing ads, Floating ads, Fixed ads, Synchronized scenarios, Scrolling ads, Inner spots, Pop ups/unders, Previews, Cursor ads, Scrolling ads, HTML ads, Video ads, Underlayers and COMBOS…And quite honestly, I don’t even know what some of those mean. But I do know that the system opens up a lot of creative possibilities that are currently not being explored.
Currently Checkm8 is supported mostly in Europe but has started to make in roads in the United States. Lycos US, Iwon, About.com, and Salon are some of the sites that are currently trying out the Checkm8 system here.
But the real question is whether publishers will be able to handle this new-found freedom. Terra Lycos, it seems, has made a concerted effort to develop their own products using the Checkm8 system and training their sales staff on how to sell these new rich media possibilities into their advertising base. But many of the rich media vendors that have a strong foothold in the United States do not have a strong presence in Europe. Whether Checkm8 empowered media sellers here will be able to successfully go up against the mind share that has accumulated among a handful of established rich media vendors remains to be seen. But, like The Sopranos, it should be fun to watch.