RealTime IT News

DoubleClick Rich Media Play Could Leave Others Poorer

With the start of its beta program, DoubleClick nears the official release of its long-awaited rich media ad serving and tracking platform, which could threaten the early toeholds established in the emerging rich media space.

DoubleClick said on Monday it would begin beta testing the software with a group of 30 publishers, advertisers and agencies, as it fine-tunes the product for an eventual release July 14. The rich media platform has been in the works for eight months, since DoubleClick linked up with Macromedia to create software that could serve and track rich media effectively.

In doing so, DoubleClick will elbow into territory that was mostly the province of smallish technology firms like Eyeblaster and Unicast. Although DoubleClick has not given out many details about the software, it is expected to offer multi-event tracking of Flash and other rich media ads as part of DoubleClick's DART ad technology. In doing so, DoubleClick claims it can simplify the process of trafficking and managing rich media ads -- a process whose complexity has been blamed for driving up the costs of rich media campaigns.

"There are too many cooks in the kitchen," said Nate Elliott, an advertising analyst with internetnews.com sister company Jupiter Research and the former senior rich media manager at DoubleClick.

Instead of having one ad server for banner ads and another for rich media, a single ad server will do. Of course, DoubleClick plans to be that single ad server, although its rival, aQuantive's Atlas DMT unit, is also making a rich media push.

"The wonderful thing about having them in a package is you get all of your data from one source," said Amy Auerbach, associate director of media at agency Euro RSCG, which recently switched over to Atlas DMT for its rich media reporting. "The challenge before is there are vendors in place that can combine different sets of data. But there are additional costs to that. The costs, in general, become very prohibitive."

The greatest threat will be to those who have staked their fortunes on being rich media specialists.

Gal Trifon, chief executive at rich media platform provider Eyeblaster, said it was too early to comment specifically on DoubleClick's offering. However, he made clear that Eyeblaster would not shrink from going toe-to-toe with the larger integrated ad-technology companies.

"Everyone is competing in a way for the same budgets," he said. "We'll just need to continue to defend our share of the pie."

Trifon said Eyeblaster, which has gained two years of experience since launching its platform in the United States, is a leader in the market. Instead of trying to offer an all-in-one solution, he said the company would continue to focus on its rich media niche.

"We're about rich media, DoubleClick is about a lot more," Trifon said. "Rich media has specialties that are currently addressed by our platform. I'm not sure if the same set [of features] offered for simple banners can be upgraded" for rich media.

Unicast, which helps advertisers traffic and optimize campaigns using its large rich media formats, offers a similar rationale. Allie Savarino, Unicast's senior vice president, said the success of the DoubleClick product would hinge on whether agencies really want to have more control over their campaigns.

"Our belief is that agencies and advertisers don't necessarily want or have the need to take on that responsibility," she said.

Still, Elliott said DoubleClick's offering could address the clearest knock on rich media advertising: its complexity. In times of tight budgets, one-size-fits-all approaches can become more attractive.

"When you have so many people involved, things get expensive," he said. "What players like DoubleClick and Atlas DMT can bring is simplicity."