Yahoo! Firms Up Rich Media Partnerships

Yahoo! is formalizing relationships with several third-party rich media vendors to make it easier to create and distribute online ad campaigns that use animation and interactivity.

Through the agreements, Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Yahoo! will add formats created by Point-Roll, Eyeblaster, EyeWonder and Unicast to its regular sales offerings, rather than working with the vendors on a one-off basis, as had been done previously.

Yahoo! also had shied away from standardizing the rich media formats it supported. For instance, Gateway ran Point-Roll ads on the network as early as two years ago. But the portal itself continued to experiment with its own rich media technology — including units similar to Philadelphia-based Point-Roll’s drop-down panels, which for a time appeared in ads for financial clients like Datek.

Yahoo! also has tested video ads like those of Atlanta-based EyeWonder, animated ads similar to formats managed via New York-based Eyeblaster’s platform, and transitional ads that functioned similarly to the Superstitial from Unicast, which is also based in New York.

However, the portal now says it’s eager to make the roll out of future rich media campaigns faster and easier by formalizing its relationship with vendors, and by integrating their offerings into the network’s technology and sales.

“By working directly with industry leaders Eyeblaster, EyeWonder, Point-Roll and Unicast, Yahoo! will provide marketers with cost-effective, turnkey solutions in developing leading online campaigns,” said Yahoo! Chief Advertising Sales Officer Wenda Harris Millard. “Marketers who want high-impact, creative executions on a global platform come to Yahoo!, and through these relationships we are strengthening the infrastructure to support our clients’ needs.”

As many in the online ad space, including Yahoo!, continue to suffer from stagnant advertising spending, some see rich media as one of the ways online publishing can reverse their fortunes. For one thing, sites often can charge a higher premium for ads using video, sound, and animation based on Macromedia Flash .

Additionally, studies sponsored by industry groups like the Interactive Advertising Bureau aim to encourage advertisers and agencies to buy into such formats by showing results that indicate that rich media is better at branding than static or animated GIF executions.

But one of the difficulties hampering online advertising comes from the time and effort necessary to plan and execute Internet buys. That’s not withstanding separate design and implementation issues particular to elaborate rich media formats.

“I come from an agency background, with 15 years at J. Walter Thompson,” said David Riemer, vice president of marketing solutions for Yahoo!. “We had it down on how to distribute a television commercial. Rich media is incredibly powerful and people think it’s incredibly impactful, but it’s not as simple to execute.”

Working with a formalized roster of rich media vendors, “is going to standardize a lot of the way we work with [the vendors],” he added. “We’re always looking for ways to make it easier for our marketing customers to brand online, and one way is to give then better rich media tools.”

In that spirit, Yahoo! plans to continue adding rich media partners to its lineup, as well as experimenting with formats created in-house.

In particular, Riemer said the publisher is looking to standardize the sales process and technology behind the “takeover” or “floating” ads that occasionally appear on Yahoo!’s home page. The company is also looking into streaming media and other forms of transitional ads, he added.

“We’re continuing to explore relationships with other partners,” he said. “We’ll work to identify more partners and build solutions on our own. In no way is it the end of it.”

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