“They don’t call it rich media for nothing, because it’s expensive,” quips Pete Crofut of Google, explaining the type of new-age online advertising that is appearing more and more, particularly on social networking websites.

So-called rich media featuring sight, sound and motion also might be called Internet Advertising 2.0, the successor to static banner ads that were the first to appear online.

Rich media advertising is informational, non-disruptive engaging and interactive, says Crofut, Google’s team manager for rich media sales.

With some ads, Internet users are encouraged to play a video game or the like, all in the name of getting them interested in a particular product.

“They are ads that people share with friends,” he says. “They allow meaningful dialogue with consumers.”

Such advertising features alluring imagery intended to get an Internet user to click on and thus enter the virtual world of the ad itself.

That can include compelling video showing the new 4-door Porsche Panamera in action – and also offer practical information such as specifications and where to buy the vehicle.

The ads also can include game-like applications, such as a Ford Mustang ad that allows Internet users to customize the car from an option-packed menu.

“The goal is to get the consumer into the ad,” says Dean Donaldson, digital experience strategist for Eyeblaster, a media firm. “It lets people play around and explore.”

Crofut, Donaldson and others spoke at a J.D. Power and Associates Internet Roundtable session entitled, “Rich Media Gets Their Attention and Encourages Them To Take Action.”

“Rich media is a perfect example of having a good first impression with consumers,” says Sarah Ripmaster, PointRoll ad firm’s vice president-automotive sales. “Rather than screaming at the consumer, let’s have a conversation. It’s two-way rather than one-way.”

It’s a matter of making advertising relevant to consumers rather than subjecting them to “one of those obnoxious ads,” says Paul Aaron, a producer for the ad agency Crispin Porter and Bogusky.

Donaldson touts the effectiveness of properly done rich media advertising.

“If I can touch it, play around with it and watch a video on it, the branding potential is double what we see on TV,” he says. “It offers a richer engaging experience.”

Donaldson adds: “Show me one other media that can have someone fill out and immediately send a form saying, ‘I want a test drive.’”

Ford Motor Co. in particular has made a big push to social networking and rich media, says James Farley, the auto maker’s vice president of marketing and communications.

That doesn’t mean Ford is abandoning traditional advertising, such as TV, although Farley quips, “During prime time, half the viewers are either asleep or drunk.”

Dealers and others need a marketing portfolio that includes a mix of online and traditional advertising, says Bill Bates, BMW of North America’s manager-pre-owned sales.

“Before you get customers on your website, you’ve got to get on their shopping list,” he says. “The way to do that is by a range of marketing, whether it’s a newspaper ad or a tri-state BMW dealers’ spot for the World Series telecast.

“It’s dangerous to put all your eggs in one basket,” he says at a National Remarketing Conference. “You need a marketing portfolio, just like an investment portfolio.”

Proponents of rich media say it offers a tracking capability that helps gauge ad effectiveness.

“You can track hundreds of things, certainly impressions and clicks,” says Crofut. “Long term, you want to look at post-conversion data: Do they come back 30 days later? Did someone play a video, stop after 15 seconds but then returned 30 days later?

“We’re looking at types of lasting experiences.”

But there are limits to the metric measurements, says Donaldson. “Can we measure everything? No. But we can determine how long they explored and if they searched.”

He adds: “In automotive, you see a delay between play and search. Sometimes it’s three weeks. With non-automotive, you usually see a spike.”

sfinlay@wardsauto.com