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It was inevitable: Webfomercials

Narrative Communications promotes technology to create jazzy Web ads that include useful information.

INDIAN WELLS, California--Look out: infomercials are coming to a Web site near you.

At least that's the hope of Narrative Communications, a maker of streaming multimedia software, which will begin vigorously promoting its Enliven technology as a means of creating jazzy Web advertisements that blend useful information and an old-fashioned sales pitch. The company will today demonstrate a Web "infomercial"--an interactive ad for Netscape Communications--at the Demo 97 Conference here. Narrative also plans to form a group dedicated to evangelizing Enliven as a tool for creating innovative new ad content.

Narrative and other companies, such as Dimension X, believe that most users pay little heed to traditional ad banners on Web sites. By providing tools to create more animated and interactive ads, though, the companies think they can keep the attention of fickle, wandering users.

"Banner ads today are delivered mainly through animated GIFs, but they have real creative limitations," said Scott Kliger, vice president of engineering at Narrative. "They don't have sound."

Kliger says Enliven can be used to create banners that literally sing the praises of an automobile or word processor and may provide information in a compelling graphical format. However, some Web sites, not to mention users, are bound to be put off by ads that begin to resemble editorial content.

The Enliven product family includes a Netscape plug-in, server, and producer, which together allow users to view multimedia animations as they are being downloaded from the Net. Developers create the multimedia clips using Macromedia's popular Director authoring tool.

Kliger also said that Narrative is working on a Java version of its Enliven plug-in, a development that will allow the software to run on broader array of platforms than 32-bit Windows, the only platform it supports now. The Java plug-in will ship sometime in the first half of this year, he said.