South African marketers are earmarking an increasing proportion of their online advertising budgets to rich media formats in recognition of the excellent returns rich media produces when used wisely.

That’s according to Diane Charton, GM at Acceleration Media, who notes that research from World Wide Worx shows that rich media banners accounted for only 7% of South African online ad revenues in 2003 and grew to 15% by 2005.
By some estimates, use of rich media ads has grown by 30% around the world over the last three years. Rich media ranks alongside search as one of the fastest growing forms of online advertising in the world.
Says Charton: “We’ve seen a sharp rise in broadband penetration in South Africa over the past two years, which has made rich media a viable marketing tool.
“In addition, local marketers have come to understand just how effective rich media is in winning attention from users and drawing responses from the audience. Our experience is that rich media ads have a response rate that is two to three times better than standard ads.”
“Bandwidth targeting allows rich media ads to be aimed at broadband users and simpler standard ads at dial-up users, eliminating the danger of alienating dial-up users,” Charton adds.
That means companies can take advantage of rich media to rich broadband users without irritating dial-up users.  Rich media are digital media formats that go beyond the traditional online ad formats of static banner images and animated gifs. They are developed using multimedia technologies such as scripts, animation, audio and video. These ads take advantage of more advanced presentation methods like Flash, Dynamic HTML and JavaScript, as well as audio and video.
The presentation is designed to create a more engaging and interactive experience for the user.  Charton outlines a number of common ways of presenting rich media ads:
* Expanding ads that roll out when the mouse cursor hovers over the ad and shrink when it is removed;
* Floating ads (also known as eyeblasters or free-form overlays) that are super-imposed over the Web page content and move down the page as the user scrolls;
* Advanced formats that engage viewers in unexpected ways, such as allowing the user to fill in a keyword obtained from offline ads for a reward or prize;
* Pop-ups served in a small window while the main Web page loads;
* Transitional creatives, which are full Web page creatives that are served in the main browser window between two pages of a Web site. After a set period of time (usually 5-7 seconds), the user is automatically forwarded to the Web page he or she had requested;
* In-page banners – traditional rectangles, blocks or vertical skyscrapers containing Flash content;
* Peel down ads – these peel away a little at the corner of the page and then expand even more on mouse-over;
* Cursor chasers – ad elements that spring out and follow the user’s cursor for set period; and
* Streaming video – Flash-based videos that work in any browser format.