Designers Create Artifacts, Not Art
Design and Business Sustainability in 2012

Effective Design Strategies for Rich Media Ads

Rich media advertising has morphed from a simple way to create a more engaging banner or skyscraper placement into little mini-sites within a larger publication, complete with streaming video, games that visitors can play, built-in data capture and referral mechanisms, and other sophisticated interactive elements that five years ago would have required its own Web page and heavy development chops.

The following trends, which I noticed in recent online ads deployed by EyeWonder, exhibit many of the hallmarks of compelling user experience and design for rich media placements.


Build Your Concept from Real-World Examples

It's easy to fly some copy into your ad, show a nice photo of your product, and toss in a big button that says "Buy Now" with a low price next to it.

What's much harder is finding a real-world experience and marrying it to your product. One recent online ad that caught my eye was for the show DogFights on the History Channel. Upon rolling over the placement, the navigation of the ad is like flying your own fighter jet and locking onto a target. Upon "shooting" one of the planes you're chasing, you reveal an area of the ad. Try it out here.

Strong advertising like this doesn't require a traditional menu for navigation, or any of the common UI features you'd expect in the microsite. The behavior of the navigation is instead more like a video game -- which is an interesting analogy, since a fighter jet video game is still borrowing from the real world experience of flying a jet. (Not that I've ever flown one...)

I also love this mini-Space Invaders that my colleagues at Worktank made for the HTC Advantage, which is always great fun and can lead to some solid click-through.


Ease Your Audience Into the Virtual Experience

If you're designing a rich-media advertisement, generally you're going to disguise some kind of extended experience in a banner or skyscraper, presenting some call to action asking someone to roll over the ad. Smooth the transition into the experience, and reward them with the depth of it. Otherwise, they aren't going to interact with it over a long period of time -- and gain more interest in purchasing your product or service.

Here's an example that's less like a game and more like going on vacation. Different areas of content are part of a portion of an island in the Galapagos that you can "visit" when you expand open the placement. Try the demo here.

Both of these rich media ads are experiential in nature, matching up to the content of the television programs they're advertising. How do you translate this kind of approach into more traditional advertising for products and services? Here's a great example that raises interest while foregrounding a solid product.


Make Pass-Along Easy, and Integral to the Concept

The following example from Nissan hits the two points above and completely integrates referrals. You can use various keys on your keyboard to trigger breakdancing moves from the on-screen avatar. If you press record, the ad unit tracks your moves and allows you to forward the "movie" to your friends. This ad works like gangbusters, using some really smart ActionScripting create a big impact, and create some big awareness around the car for the right audience. Try it here.


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