Rich Media Revealed: What, Why and How

Most marketers are familiar with the term Rich Media. But most are still leery about putting their marketing dollars toward these types of ads. After all, text and display ads can yield significant ROI, so why take the plunge into Rich Media ads with all their bells and whistles and associated costs? It’s a good question, and one we’re ready to answer. Let’s first become more familiar with Rich Media ads. Then we’ll explain their benefits, and share a few tips of the trade.

A Rich Media ad contains images or video and involves some kind of user interaction. While text ads solely use words and display ads use pictures, Rich Media ads offer ways for the audience to interact with the ad. They can expand, float and peel down as well as contain content such as videos or games. And unlike a Standard Flash ad that only tracks a single click-through, a Rich Media ad can contain multiple click-throughs as well as track actions such as answering a poll, sending to a friend, viewing a gallery, tweeting and so much more.

In fact, Rich Media ads can contain as much content as a microsite, so the user doesn’t even have to click through to a full website. In addition to the actions already mentioned, users can also download coupons and rebates, use a store locator, submit a registration form, add ratings/reviews, shop, play games, track the weather and click to call – all right from the ad. The possibilities really are limitless.

There are a few main types of Rich Media ads. Here’s what they are and how they work:


– An ad that is within a fixed position on a page.


– An ad that expands beyond its initial pixel dimensions – in any direction, shape or effect. Expansion can happen upon user interaction (by click or mouse-over) or automatically when the page loads. Collapse can also happen on user interaction or automatically based on a timer.


– An ad that floats on top of a page’s content. The ad can move with the content or maintain a locked position on a page as the user scrolls.

Multi-Directional (MDE)

– An ad that expands in multiple directions, depending on where the ad appears in the page. For example, if the ad is served on the left side of the page, it will automatically expand right, and vice versa.


– A type of Expanding ad that pushes down the content of a web page when the ad expands. Can be frequency capped.


– A glimpse of the ad is shown in the corner of a web page. When the user interacts, the rest of the ad peels down to reveal the full message.

Mobile In-App

– An ad that’s served into the publisher’s ad slot of a mobile phone app. This is an In-Page type of ad, meaning it keeps its size.

So, you’re probably thinking, “That’s all sounds great. And creative. And costly.” How can a marketer justify the cost associated with Rich Media when formulating a media plan? Well, when you start looking at some of the latest research, it’s hard to not include Rich Media.

Consumers are more connected now than ever, and they expect a rich, and even personal, online experience. Rich Media works because it invites the audience to interact. In fact, consumers click three times more often on Rich Media ads than standard banners, and the engagement rates for Rich Media content are now five times higher than for standard banners. Also, each of the top 10 verticals by spend saw CTRs at least 1.7 times higher, on average, for their Rich Media ads.1

And Rich Media ads not only command attention on desktop, but they are outperforming standard mobile banners as well. The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) conducted research in June 2013 that showed Rich Media mobile ad formats overall generate three times the interaction rate of standard mobile banners with higher recall for campaign brand name and message.2 More recently, according to mobile RTB ad exchange Smaato, global advertising spend on rich media also increased by 117% between the third and fourth quarter of 2013. In contrast, image ad type (banner ads) saw a 15% drop.3

Now that you’re more familiar with what Rich Media is and why you should consider it, let’s discuss how to execute to achieve optimal ROI. Below are five Rich Media best practices to always keep in mind:

1. Know the Consumer

– Select ad formats and features that speak to your audience where they are. Rich Media ads are great for first exposure, because they increase brand favorability.

2. Integrate Offline & Online

– Make sure your online creative complements your offline creative to amplify the message.

3. Be Consistent

– Each frame of the ad should be able to stand on its own, with the brand or product name on every frame.

4. Keep it Simple

– Messaging should be clear and not overshadowed by Rich Media bells and whistles.

5. Deliver a Strong CTA

– This is crucial to engagement and interaction. Tell users what they need to do and make sure it’s visible and persistent on every frame.

article-support-image-bewell-rich-mediaReady to get on board with Rich Media? We’re here to help. Here’s an example of a Rich Media campaign Brand Populace created and executed for a healthcare client. Not only was it the first campaign to include tweeting from an ad in the healthcare vertical, but it also won Best Health Care Rich Media Online Ad in the Internet Advertising Competition.


  1. Millennial Media
  2. Interactive Advertising Bureau. “Maximizing the Mobile Opportunity.”
  3. Aquino, Judith. “Ad Tech Companies Show Location Data, Rich Media Drive Mobile RTB Growth.” Ad Exchanger. 14 Feb. 2014.
  4. Phillips, Craig. “Five Smart Steps to Rich Media ROI.” Target Marketing. 10 Jan. 2014.