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InContext / An inside look at the business of digital content

The resurgence of rich media ad products

As advertisers limit their programmatic spend and publishers shift strategies toward direct sold ads, flexibility and customization of ad formats becomes increasingly important. 

May 20, 2024 | By Shawn Pokorny, Director of Campaign Services – Clipcentric

Let’s travel back in time to the digital publishing world of 2014 when programmatic was just beginning its march to ascendancy. At that time, it accounted for just 52% of display-related advertising revenues. Flash video ads still had two years of life left! And digital media consumers were enamored with interactive rich media ads.

High-impact, creative ad formats from a decade ago peacefully coexisted alongside premium publishers’ content (remember the corner peel?). But as the open programmatic marketplace took off, many of those compelling ad units died out as publishers sought to fill pages with easily transacted, low-yield static banners. 

It’s time for a rich media revival in advertising

Publishers and advertisers are beginning to question the value they get from OMP. As more advertisers limit their programmatic spend and more publishers shift strategies toward direct sold ads, flexibility and customization of ad formats becomes paramount. 

Here’s why high-impact rich media creatives are poised for a comeback:

Rich media ads engage users who are primed to tap, swipe, and scroll

TikTok, Tinder and countless other apps have shaped how users behave online. While static ads can lead to banner blindness, compelling interactive rich media executions that give users something to do can increase dwell time and brand engagement. Top ad features that drive engagement include:

It’s easier than ever to run rich media ads without being disruptive

High-impact units once thought to be disruptive – such as wallpapers, immersive page takeovers, floaters – seem less so now. Today’s web viewers battle pop-up video players, cookie banners, adhesion units, and multiple ads in viewport at once. A new generation of high-impact rich media units can reset the balance between user experience and ad revenue. 

When done well, these ad executions command top CPMs and allow publishers to reduce ad clutter… and they’re actually creative! We’ve worked with partners to develop formats for numerous ad campaigns that showcase premium creative that’s truly one-of-a-kind. For example, last July we helped Vulture create a high-impact homepage takeover for Starz announcing the new show “Minx.” 

A super billboard ad with video appeared atop the page and triggered an overlay of a champagne bottle bursting through the main story image. The “tear apart” of the homepage revealed an animated poster for the show, before reverting to the homepage again. The ad performed 6x better on a key metric versus a standard ad. Though bold, a single high-impact execution like this one, instead of a page cluttered with ads, can be more memorable and generate far more revenue. 

High-impact immersive ads combat banner blindness.

First party data and dynamic rich media creative are a powerful match

Savvy publishers are incorporating first party data not just into audience targeting but also into the actual creative being served. Rich media ads can turn data into powerful, personalized ad executions. Data-driven creative and optimization capabilities enable publishers to combine first party data with advertiser data feeds for real-time ad customizations. 

Imagine selling an airline a campaign that can dynamically show available frequent flier miles and flights this weekend from a viewer’s closest airport, and videos of that destination. Combining relevant data plus arresting creative assets like video or animations, and executing it via a single ad tag, lets publishers sell high impact ads at higher CPMs, without creating complexity for ad engineering or operations teams internally.

Programmatic ad containers with low quality fill hurt your site’s brand (and revenue)

If you’re a premium publisher, the ad experience on your sites should also be premium. But overreliance on programmatic fill can litter your site with Temu carousels. Publishers that are investing in direct sold ad programs can’t treat creative as an afterthought. Make impressions more valuable by offering interactive, rich media ad products that engage users and give your advertisers options for delivering their message in a compelling way.

Versus open programmatic fill, direct-sold rich media ads give publishers more control over their inventory, command higher CPMs from advertisers, and offer more compelling features and creative that resonates with users.

The rich media revival will lead to improved ad quality and revenue

Advertising is still the major revenue lever for media executives. Shifting focus to direct sold ads requires a thoughtful rebalancing of the ad products portfolio to ensure publishers are offering effective, compelling ad experiences that connect with users and meet the goals of advertisers. High-impact, rich media formats offer the flexibility, customization, and performance that will command higher CPMs. And, unlike a decade ago, they’re easier than ever to efficiently execute.  

About the author

Shawn Pokorny is an ad operations veteran with 15+ years of experience designing and managing display ad campaigns for major publishers including Paramount, Yahoo!, PGA Tour, Dotdash Meredith, The Guardian, and more. He leads Clipcentric’s campaign services team.

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