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More Options for Rich Media Ads

The exclusive sale of banner ads has not proven to be the windfall of cash that most people were hoping for, and the industry buzz is moving towards rich media advertising. Several companies are announcing new solutions, or improvements upon current options. Activate has announced a solution to insert rich media ads into on-demand streaming content. Unicast has also announced an agreement with Real Networks to include links to audio and video within their trademark "Superstitial" online commercial.

Activate ( www.activate.com) announced a solution to insert new rich media ads, both audio and video, into on-demand streaming content, in cooperation with AdForce (www.adforce.com). The solution, which is currently only available for the Windows Media Player, will allow Web site advertisers, advertising agencies, and content publishers to deliver re-purposed radio and television commercials to an online audience.

According to Frank Kemery, director of marketing at Activate, the solution is designed to let those accustomed to advertising offline "tiptoe onto the Internet", as the feel of a streaming ad will be similar to television and radio advertising.

Streaming media advertising generates a higher CPM than other ad formats, and therefore presents an opportunity for content sites to support production and distribution of their audio and video content. Kemery notes that a content site needs to determine what its breakeven point will be, and determine to what extent it can exceed that level, with advertising sales. For each business this will be different as each sites? CPM price will depend on the quantity and quality of the audience it offers.

Kemery did add, however, that it is not necessary to have an audience the size of CNN.com to make the service profitable, as he believes that sites with a small, targeted audience, will be able to capitalize.

Activate has developed a system to include an AdForce tag in the Windows Media metafile (.asx), which will bring up an appropriate ad -- based on much of the same technology as a banner ad serving system -- and insert it into the stream at the beginning, 2 minute mark, or at the end. The ad insertion slots will be 15, 30 or 60 seconds in length. While the system is still in its early phases, Kemery believes that people have been trained by television to complacently watch ads of this length.

Activate expects to release a similar system for the RealPlayer later in the year, as well as a system to insert video ads into live webcasts. Kemery says that Activate is currently capable of inserting ads into a live webcast, but there is not yet a friendly user interface.

Another school of rich media advertisers is taking advantage of flash technology to grab the attention of the low bandwidth audience. Unicast (www.unicast.com), announced a strategic partnership with RealNetworks (www.realnetworks.com), to include the ability to click through to Real video or audio from within a "Superstitial" commercial. RealNetworks also announced that it will be selling the "Superstitial" as a rich media option for advertising on the real.com network.

Unicast's "Superstitial," is a short Flash animated advertisement that loads invisibly to the user, into the browser's temporary memory in-between loading Web pages, when the modem is idle. Once the entire file is complete, it launches as you click to the next page, providing advertising that the user can?t avoid, but which does not hinder the performance of a site.

In response to the rising trend of rich media advertising, NetRatings (www.netratings.com), announced on Wednesday, that they have joined forces with Emerging Interest Group (www.emerginginterest.com), to develop a standard to measure ads delivered in rich media formats. Under the leadership of this initiative, companies that produce rich media advertising formats, such as the Unicast Superstitial, Java banners, Macromedia Shockwave and Flash bannerks, IBM Hotmedia, Audiobase and the Bluestreak format, will all develop a standard protocol for tagging their ads.

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