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Expand Your Rich Media

The expression “expand your horizons” has unquestionably gotten a little old. Still, given some of the rich media ads I’ve seen out there lately, I think the sentiment might be worth renewed consideration.
These days, most rich media banners incorporate Flash technology to deliver product information, an offer, or a brand-building message. That, though, is where the story seems to end. If consumers want to know more, they have to click through to your site. That’s all well and good if your primary objective is to generate site traffic. But if that traffic isn’t qualified, where does the benefit lie? Wouldn’t it make more sense to pre-qualify potential customers, whether it’s a cost-per-click campaign or not?
The way to do this, of course, is to encourage interaction with your brand or product prior to securing the click. The more consumers know about what you have to offer, the better prepared they’ll be to determine whether it’s something they’re interested in. If it is, they’ll click — and most likely, convert. That’s where expandable banners come into play.
Expandable banners allow us to break out from the confines of a standard banner to provide consumers with much more than was previously possible. That goes for everything from the amount of information that can be included in an ad, to the ability to pre-qualify consumers in what can essentially be a re-creation of your actual site environment.

Recently, “my agency”: was given the task of developing the online ad material for the launch of the “Audi Q7 SUV”:,,bodyStyleId-17,00.html?bodystyle=q7 in the U.S. One of the first ad units that came to mind was the expandable. The idea was to first familiarize consumers with the new vehicle, then generate enough interest to move them down the purchasing funnel.
Audi Rollover Ad
We could have provided the bare minimum in terms of messaging and product information and pushed them to click to the Audi site immediately for more. Instead, we created “several expandable units”: that essentially acted as “nano sites” — customized mini versions of the Audi Q7 section of the Audi brand site. This gave consumers the ability to interact with the vehicle on an in-depth level without having to leave their current site environment. In addition to an uninterrupted surfing experience (which always reflects well on the brand advertiser), users got an enhanced site experience, complete with feature and spec information and, in some cases, video clips specific to each differentiating attribute of the car.
For a considered purchase like a luxury vehicle, the approach couldn’t have made more sense. But there are countless other products out there that could benefit from expandable banners, too. The question is, are you making the most of your rich media?


  1. Cheryl Blakeney
    Cheryl Blakeney August 14, 2006

    When I first encountered an expandable banner, I wondered how many consumers would understand the term “rollover”, know what action to take. Do you have any info on this?
    Your agency did a beautiful job on these banners but not everyone is this talented.
    I’ve run into banners that expand into the existing window without action. I don’t know if they’re programmed to auto-expand when loaded for x seconds or if they simply pop open when the rich media file is completed loaded.
    This expansion suddenly knocks the site content south, usually in mid-sentence and you have to scroll down to continue reading. Very frustrating for the user.

  2. Tessa Wegert
    Tessa Wegert August 14, 2006

    Good points, Cheryl. I haven’t seen any recent stats about consumer familiarity with rollover technology, but more important still is familiarity among your specific target audience. In the case of Audi, media buys were made on sites that attracted a very Web-savvy crowd, so the technology made sense. But a site’s audience profile and propensity to feature rollover ads should definitely be considered before incorporating these banners into a campaign.
    As for auto-expand units, I fully agree that they can negatively affect the user experience. The idea of expandable banners, after all, is to engage the users…not force your content on them.

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