NEW DELHI, Aug 25
Despite the best efforts of advertisers and web sites alike, surfers have shown a remarkable propensity to ignore banner ads that are routinely displayed on web sites. And as if this wasn't gloomy enough, a recent e-Marketer advertising report says that the global click-through rate (for banner ads) has plummeted from an itsy-bitsy 1.35 per cent in May 1997 to a miniscule 0.39 per cent in March 2000.
With advertisers' confidence on Net advertising thus undermined, web sites are having it tough generating ad revenue; and this certainly applies in the Indian context too. But cricket portal CricInfo.com claims to be the first to have harnessed cutting-edge technology that offers a solution to advertisers in India. And this technology is Rich Media.
In the more mature markets of the US and the UK, Rich Media is being widely used for online advertising. One of the most salient features of Rich Media banners is the high level of interactivity that can be built into them. Further, the visual experience is far more engaging to the surfer, as compared to the two-dimensional animation GIFs commonly used.
CricInfo's brush with Rich Media is not recent, of course. CricInfo has used the technology for quite a few advertisers in the UK, Australia etc as early as 1998. In India, the first Rich Media banner campaign debuted on CricInfo in November 1999. The advertiser was Intel.
"Rich Media was used to induce interest and drive traffic to the Intel-sponsored Cricket Carnival microsite on CricInfo using an interactive audio banner," explains a CricInfo spokesperson. The audio banner prompted surfers to identify cricketers by their voices.
"On clicking the right answer, the surfer is taken to the Cricket Carnival to listen to full audio and video interviews, chats and lecture demonstrations of celebrated cricket personalities such as Sir Richard Hadlee, Allan Donald, Desmond Haynes, Dickie Bird etc."
Demonstrating the effectiveness of Rich Media, CricInfo cites the example of the campaign it conceived for Bangalore-based Indus League Clothing. The banner campaign was targeted exclusively at the UAE audience as it coincided with the launch of the Indigo Nation brand in Dubai and the opening of a state-of-the-art showroom.
Not particular about forcing a purchase, Indus League decided against a discount promotion. All it wanted was to get people to experience its showroom. A free T-shirt was the give-away. One objective was to try and capture consumer data in the form of names, addresses, e-mail IDs etc.
Rich Media was chosen to enable the capture of this data within the banner and to build excitement and raise interactivity levels. The banner, created using Flash, had a frame that showed the T-shirt and invited surfers to reveal information about themselves and claim the T-shirt for free.
On clicking the banner, a form opened up - within the banner. Which, in effect, meant that the surfer wasn't redirected to a new page.
On filling in the details and clicking 'Submit', an e-mail was automatically generated with a special code and mailed to the user's e-mail address with a copy to the showroom manager in Dubai.
One of the primary reasons why surfers don't click on banners is because they get redirected to another site. Why go to a site that promises a fistful of dollars that you don't care for anyway, when all you want to do is check mail? As seen in the Indus League case, the problem has been cleverly circumvented.
Which is all very good, but for two questions. How successful are Rich Media campaigns? And how is the surfer to know that a particular banner is a Rich Media banner and is safe to click?
According to the CricInfo spokesperson, the Indus League campaign received over 1,100 instances of people filling in the form in the banner in a span of one week. The effective click-through ratio for this campaign was around 6 per cent, which is great when compared to those of normal animation GIF banner campaigns.
"The Intel audio banner campaign generated a lot of interest on the CricInfo site too," said the spokesperson.
About how surfers can differentiate between Rich Media and GIF banners, the spokesperson said, "By using very creative ideas in the banner, any average surfer can be told about the excitement that awaits him or her in the banner. Once they click on the banner, and it will be obvious that the banner is a very interactive one. Also, in many rich media banners, even before the surfer clicks, he or she can recognize the rich experience that awaits them."
From the web site's point of view, hosting Rich Media campaigns involves a lot more work. Serving Rich Media banners through an advertisement serving software package is more complicated as compared to serving normal GIF banners.
So, naturally, Rich Media banners cost more for the advertiser. "While the cost of creating a normal animation GIF banner could range anywhere from Rs 2,000 to Rs 5,000, the cost of creating a Rich Media banner could range from Rs 10,000 upwards, depending upon the sophistication of the banner," says the CricInfo spokesperson.
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