The most modern definition of Rich Media Advertising describes this as different from standard display advertising in the fact that it is interactive, engaging, or informational, or it transcends conventional IAB-determined advertising standards, often using broadband connectivity to do so.
So what is rich media advertising? Is it in-page and pre-roll video rich media? Is it mobile video advertising? Is it in-game advertising? Podcast advertising? Yes, yes, yes and yes. The internet is now a tool to increase branding and awareness and with the consistent rise in bandwidth, rich media is everywhere. Technologies like video, audio, Java, and vector graphic (Flash, VRML) have existed before but the term “rich media” really got these things together in relation to advertising. Pushed into the mainstream by Suzanne Brisendine of Intel, Allie Shaw of InterVu and Mara Lapacis of Channelseven.com, rich media is now fast overtaking static advertising as the be-all and end-all of digital advertisements.
Rich media ads have performed dual roles since their advent on the internet. In advertising terms, these roles are called lean back and lean forward. RMAs that require an action to display are the lean back ads and those that often start playing even with an accidental rollover are the more aggressive lean forward ads. Back in the days when dial-up was the way to go, such aggressive lean-forward RMAs that loaded 50k of content before the page loaded were difficult to work with. This brought in guidelines about limiting the size of rich media ad files.
But these guidelines vaporized, almost, when dial-ups gave way to DSL, cable, T-1, T-3 and other broadband services. In February 2001, IAB intervened using the interactivity of RM ads to lay down that when a prospective customer makes an action can three additional streams of up to 50K can load in the ad space. This is to say that RM content can now be sent on demand. The point was to save uninterested visitors from having to pay for the duration of the loading of an ad. However, RMAs could not adhere to this because it is not a standardized size concept. Therefore sites laid down further guidelines about the kind of RM sizes they could support. In the absence of standardization, it still remained difficult for ad developers to create interactive advertisements.