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Rich media and 3d modeling as marketing tools

While rich media such as Flash has been a thorn in my side in the past, broadband uptake is now at a level where it is now a viable form of promotion. More than 66 percent of online retail purchases are made via broadband connections (Nielsen Netratings). According to Infonetics, broadband equipment shipments were up 74% during 2004 over 2003. Jupiter Research predicts that rich media advertising will account for over half of all spending on online ads.

What is rich media advertising?

Rich media is the combination of integrating animation, sound and interactive elements into advertisements. No longer is it confined to the traditional banner, many new forms have evolved in the last few years. These include:

1) In-page ads - ads that are either static in viewing or expand when a mouse is moved over them.

2) Over-the-page ads. Creatives that cover the content until they are either clicked on or closed.

3) Pop-up ads. Much like traditional popups, but may slide in to view from various angles.

4) Interstitials. Ads that appear in between page views

5) In-Stream ads. Creative displayed before, between, or after a stream of content.

According to the Internet Advertising Bureau's final rich media guidelines released in 2004, the following standards should be followed when using various forms of rich media advertising.

Animation

Duration: Keep total animation time at under 15 seconds.

Photosensitve epilepsy sufferers can have seizures triggered by content with flicker rates of between 5 30 per frames second. It's recommended to have flicker/smooth transition rates at between 1-2 per second.

Audio

Audio should always be initiated by the user

Controls

Closing of the ad or audio ad must be present in non-user initiated experiences

Click behavior

Click-throughs should occur in the same window as pop-killers are presenting a major challenge to new window targets. 

Hmm.. I'm not too sure on that last point, I'm yet to see a pop-up killer that doesn't allow for links to open in a new window when the target in the code is set to "_blank". Personally, I don't like using ads that open in the same window as it takes people away from the site where they viewed the ad.

At any rate, rich media is opening up all sorts of options for advertisers; but it doesn't just have end with the ad.

Rich media - beyond the banner

Savvy site owners are harnessing the power of Flash and Java technologies for *useful* purposes. As I've mentioned in the past, a Flash splash page may draw some oohs and ahs on the first visit, but then rapidly become a pain in the butt to regular visitors. Flash for navigation, while also pretty, can seriously disrupt search engine spiders.

So what can these powerful technologies be used for?

Interactive 3d modelling

I recently started communicating with Damian from AARKid, a web development firm that specializes in 3d modelling with Java.

Using photos or plans from clients, they create a realistic 3d models of products, adding "hotspots " to highlight various aspects. These hotspots can also allow potential clients to view the product in operation.

One of the challenges of online shopping mentioned regularly by consumers is the fact that they cannot "touch" a product. At best, they usually only get a series of screenshots to inspect the product.

Enhancing the presentation of your products and services using 3d modeling can assist in securing more sales as the client can feel more familiar with what you are offering.

AARKid's 3d modelling approach allows potential clients to "grab" the image and rotate it in almost any direction as demonstrated below:

As you can see, this is very effective. - I played with this for ages :). It took around 30 seconds to integrate and there are no plugins that need to be configured.

If you're interested in using rich media and 3d interactive models in particular as a marketing strategy, visit Damian at AARKid's site and mention TTB - Taming the Beast referred visitors get a special bonus or discount!

Michael Bloch
Taming the Beast
http://www.tamingthebeast.net 
Tutorials, web content, tools and software.
Web Marketing, Internet Development & Ecommerce Resources
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