Macromedia Pushes Flash

Alliance will develop standards for creating, delivering and tracking rich media in advertising.

Macromedia Inc. is delving deeper into the advertising world with its Flash animation tool.

While Flash is already being used by advertisers, previously its use was not directly encouraged by its maker. Now, Macromedia is trying to foster the use of Flash in rich-media advertising, which uses animation or interactivity to push products and services.

Macromedia announced last week the formation of an alliance dedicated to rich-media advertising. The Macromedia Flash Advertising Alliance, which includes advertising agencies, advertisers, ad-serving networks, Web site publishers and other technology vendors, will try to create a standardized way for rich-media advertising to be created, delivered and tracked.

Founding members include DoubleClick Inc., America Online Inc., L90 Inc., New Line Cinema and Bluestreak.

"The main thing is to start developing standards," said Doug Jaeger, interactive creative director for advertising agency TBWA/Chiat/Day New York, an alliance member.

Jaeger said his agency does a lot of Flash development, but for marketing campaigns, it uses mostly animated GIFs because of the higher cost and longer product timelines associated with Flash ads.

"Flash is really seen as a way to start to invigorate the banner space," Jaeger said. "The alliance is a great idea. There have been little pockets of success, but this opens up the entire arena."

The first byproduct of the alliance is the Macromedia Flash Tracking Kit, which provides developers and ad-serving networks with an easy way to assign click codes to Flash ads to track the click-through rate and effectiveness of campaigns. The kit is available for free download at

The kit lets developers dynamically insert a clickstream into the HTML around a banner ad, said Whitney Allen, Macromedias rich- media project manager, in San Francisco. "Thats saving a lot of time and reducing a lot of the cost."

Marissa Gluck, an analyst with Jupiter Media Metrix Inc., said a survey conducted by her company last year revealed that 54 percent of advertisers have deployed Flash ads. However, rich-media advertisements made up a small percentage of their budgets. In fact, 73 percent of the executives surveyed said they have no funds earmarked for rich media.

"Were relatively bearish on rich media because of the cost involved," said Gluck, in New York. "Advertisers need to have an exponentially higher return, and thus far we havent seen much evidence of that."

Gluck noted there havent been many studies yet to determine the effectiveness of rich media vs. other advertisements.

"The good news for Macromedia is Flash is definitely the tool of choice and has a pretty devoted constituency in the developer community. Now thats moved into the agency community," Gluck said. "The bad news is it still is very expensive to produce rich media."

Macromedia officials said the alliance will meet quarterly to discuss issues such as reducing costs and increasing deployment of rich-media advertisements. The first meeting is set for this week in San Francisco. ´