DoubleClick, Macromedia to Collaborate

DoubleClick is aiming to beef up its rich media capabilities by formalizing an alliance with Macromedia , the leading developer in the space.

The deal solidifies sporadic, and largely fruitless, discussions between the two firms during the past two years, centered around making tracking and trafficking easier.

Although few details were disclosed of how the two firms now plan to work together, DoubleClick said its alliance with San Francisco-based Macromedia would result in closer links between its ad servers and the multimedia software giant’s Flash MX technology.

The “MX” version of Flash emerged on the scene earlier this year when Macromedia updated its browser-based, vector-graphics-based animation software to include greater server connectivity. For instance, Flash MX enables Flash-equipped browsers to interact with data stored on the server to stream video and dynamically update content.

By integrating Flash MX into its DART for Publishers, DART for Advertisers and DART Enterprise ad servers, the process of setting up and tracking rich media campaigns will become easier and more cost-efficient, said Doug Knopper, vice president and general manager of online advertising solutions at New York-based DoubleClick.

It’s also expected that Macromedia Flash MX also will include improvements that better aid campaign tracking.

“It’ll make deployment, serving, trafficking, and creation of rich media using Flash and the DoubleClick system much more efficient, much easier to deploy, have better reporting functionality, and much better testing and reviewing facilities,” Knopper said. “All of the features and functionality that the DART system could roll out would only get so far unilaterally, and by linking up with Flash, which is the basis for almost all rich media, we can make sure the process becomes more efficient, bulletproof, and the review process streamlined. We can make all of that happen that we previously weren’t able to do … working individually.”

Such capabilities have become more important in recent months as support grows for rich media. Research has shown that rich media advertisements are more effective than static ads, and they’re also potentially more profitable for publishers, since they command a higher price tag.

But Knopper declined to go into detail about how the two firms’ offerings would be integrated, and what kind of improvements could be expected. For instance, it’s not clear whether future DART releases would begin to offer support for multi-interaction tracking.

“While we’ve talked internally about a lot of specs and details, we’re not at the point where we’re ready to give the details of specific products,” Knopper said. “We’re looking at [multi-interaction tracking] very carefully. We understand that’s something the market is looking for very closely.”

Knopper added that he expects for both companies to have rolled out new products incorporating the other’s technology by the middle of next year.

The effort comes as DoubleClick is looking to continue its dominance in the ad serving market through upgrading DART to handle new forms of media and tracking — enhancements that in some cases have been popularized by newer, smaller firms.

For instance, New York-based EyeBlaster has made a name for itself as one of the top rich media ad servers after just over a year in the marketplace, and also offers multi-interaction tracking.

“At a minimum, I think [the DoubleClick-Macromedia alliance] is another validation of what we’ve been doing,” said Joe Apprendi, executive vice president at EyeBlaster. “It’s difficult to see how we will react, we don’t really know what product will be launched, and when, so we’ll definitely pay very close attention to see what reaction is, and what the market feedback is.”

Meanwhile, DoubleClick has worked to make Flash ads more easily trafficked and tracked on its servers.

Last year, the firm introduced a new version of DART that included XML support, allowing third-party technology providers to share data with its tracking system — a feature likely to be brought to bear in the work with Macromedia. Later in the year, DoubleClick added support for click-tracking for Flash, which simplified rich media deployment by obviating the need for hard-coded tracking code.

Macromedia, at the same time, has been working to develop standards for tracking multiple interactions, but has yet to gain enough support for the effort from major industry players.

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