DoubleClick Ups Rich Media Ante

Online ad leader DoubleClick unveiled new additions to its DART ad server, designed to help it better address rich media creatives — amid increasing competition from upstarts in the space.

The updates — promised by New York-based DoubleClick’s executives in June, during its Insight 2001 user conference — include several aimed at making rich media ad trafficking and tracking easier.

The company said its DART 5 ASP technology now has interfaces for 10 types of rich media, including Macromedia Flash, the most popular format — an enhancement that should make it easier for marketers and publishers to run rich media ad campaigns.

Analyzing the impact of such campaigns should also be easier, since the DART upgrade now includes click tracking for Macromedia Flash — obviating the need for hard-coded tracking code in rich media, thereby simplifying the process of tracking and deploying the ads.

The new DART also can more easily serve interstitials. According to the firm, sites using DART now can publish and track interstitials just like they do for standard banners — without requiring any additional trafficking or tagging.

The updated version of DART now handles file sizes up to 100 kilobytes, and also includes “Fetch-On-Demand,” which helps in the delivery of Java applets as banner ads.

DoubleClick also said that it has created a certification program for rich media technology vendors. The program is aimed at identifying which technology firms’ ad formats are usable on DART, which serves ads on some 2,000 Web sites, including those in DoubleClick’s own ad network.

The program includes “silver” and “gold” compatibility levels. A firm receives the “gold” label if its technology is served through DART “without any significant support issues and without any significant reporting discrepancies,” DoubleClick said. Enliven is the first rich media provider to have met its gold standard, the company added.

In all, the changes are intended to promote the use of rich media. Larger file sizes, more easily-tracked and trafficked creatives, and fewer compatibility issues between DART and ad vendors mean that there are — ostensibly — also fewer reasons why advertisers shouldn’t use rich media, and why publishers shouldn’t offer the ad types.

Such efforts by the industry leader bode well for the beleaguered online ad sector, since it’s believed that rich media ads are more attention-grabbing and more effective for branding than standard banners. As a result, publishers can charge higher premiums for the ads, and advertisers could see a better return on their spending.

“DoubleClick continues to lead the industry in providing innovative tools to help make online marketing an effective and compelling medium for marketers,” said Chris Saridakis, who is senior vice president of DoubleClick’s Global TechSolutions division, which oversees DART. “These rich media innovations mean greater profits for Web site publishers, more impactful messages for advertisers and a richer user experience.”

But the moves also come amid new competition for DoubleClick in the ad serving space, from upstarts like Bluestreak.

Originally a rich media ad technology firm, Newport, R.I.-based Bluestreak earlier this year began offering its own ad server, Ion, along with promises of better rich media capabilities and fewer reporting discrepancies than DART and other competitors.

It wasn’t until its acquisition of Engage’s AdKnowledge in September that Bluestreak became a major player in the third-party ad serving space.

DoubleClick, meanwhile, has taken several other steps to ensure that DART remains the dominant ad serving technology. In recent weeks the firm bought L90’s competing ad server, adMonitor, and entered into talks — now likely stalled — to buy Real Media’s OpenAdStream software.

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