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Intel sponsors high-tech ads

The chip giant will fund multimedia, interactive ads that it hopes will drive demand for its high-performance chips.

Anyone who has watched Intel "technicians" prancing around in gold lamé lab suits knows that the company is no stranger to the advertising business. But now Intel is spending its money not just to advertise its own high-performance chips, but also to support a new class of Web advertisements for products as low tech as airline tickets and sneakers.

Intel on Wednesday will announce its investment in an initiative to bring beefed-up multimedia and interactive ads to the Web. The first part of the project is to launch ads for AT&T, Delta Airlines, Citibank, and Reebok, according to online advertising and marketing firm Modem Media, which is creating the ads. The campaign will be formally unveiled Wednesday at Internet World.

Funding the production of the new ads is part of Intel's strategy to drive demand for its chips. Wary of feeding high-performance ads to users of low-performance computers, advertisers thus far have relied on relatively flat, low-bandwidth ads that don't require software plug-ins--or a Pentium II chip.

But creators of the new ads say they have addressed advertisers' concerns about going over low-tech heads by creating "scalable" ads that will feed flatter, lower-performance ads to lower-end systems and the full-fledged ads to systems that can handle them.

The banners, which will launch early next week, will attempt to draw users in with various interactive ploys. Citibank will offer what Modem Media claims is the first software demo in banner ad history, letting users test-drive the company's online banking service. Reebok will run two ads starring company spokesman and basketball player Allen Iverson, who will challenge users to steal the ball from him with the cursor.

AT&T will target the college market with a poetry contest featuring moveable type similar to that commonly found on refrigerator magnets; users will have to submit their demographics to enter the contest. And Delta's ads will invite users to click on destinations on a spinning globe to call up travel information.

While Intel is funding the production of these ads, the software technology is coming from partners including RealNetworks, which creates audio and video streaming software; Narrative Communications, which produces streaming multimedia ad technologies that work without plug-ins; Ligos Technology, which makes a VRML tool; and Geo Publishing, which creates streaming animation and video technologies that work without plug-ins.

The advertisers will sponsor studies to gauge the effectiveness of the campaign, querying selected users on their impressions, use, and recall of the ads. The initial campaign will run between two and four weeks.

Advertisers sounded optimistic that the new generation of high-tech Web ads would be more effective. "We are hoping it will give the users a lot more choice with what they do under that banner ad," said Delta spokesman Kip Smith. "That way we can pack more information more quickly to help users make informed decisions on Delta products."

Intel is an investor in CNET: The Computer Network.