Tech Industry

Informercials spawn on Web

Just as life imitates art, the Web imitates television. In the latest example, Eagle River Interactive and TV Tyee launch an infomercial site dubbed 800.com.

Just as life imitates art, the Web imitates television.

In the latest example, Eagle River Interactive and TV Tyee today launched an "infomercial" site on the Web dubbed 800.com.

Like TV infomercials, "Webfomercials" give users a detailed rundown of a product, complete with multimedia. But instead of ordering by phone, consumers can buy the product online. "The site integrates TV with Internet technology to bring a high level of consumer involvement to infomercial sales," said Kevin Rowe, executive vice president for Eagle River.

Advertising experts say that Webfomercials will become more common as the Web becomes more of a mass medium. TV metaphors such as Webfomercials and "channels" increasingly are being applied to the Web because many consumers are already familiar with them.

The examples are mounting. At the Demo 97 conference in February, Narrative Communications said it would begin promoting its Enliven technology as a means of creating Webfomercials. Narrative's Web infomercials will be animated interactive ads with audio. Last year, EarthLink Network and National Media Corporation struck a deal for Webfomercials.

The first ad comes for the 800.com site comes from Philips for WebTV. Consumers get a detailed rundown of all the specs (RFU DC output is mentioned) and detailed answers to eight frequently asked questions. (Will I be able to switch between my TV and WebTV? Yes, a switch on the WebTV remote control allows you to easily switch between the image generated by the WebTV box and what's on network or cable TV.)

The ad also comes with photos of the set-top box, remote device, and remote keyboard for WebTV, although an advertiser could choose to use a video clip instead. If you like what you see and read, you can buy it online using a credit card.

TV Tyee also produced a TV infomercial on WebTV, which directs users to the newly launched site, as well as a toll-free phone number. It's half-hour infomercials are among the most widely watched, such as one promoting the Soloflex exercise machine. Its other clients include Apple Computer, AT&T, and the San Francisco Giants baseball team.

Eagle River Interactive provides information technology training and interactive marketing services.