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Software streams into banners

Repositioning itself as a technology supplier for Net advertising, Narrative releases a new version of its Enliven streaming software.

    Repositioning itself as a technology supplier for Internet advertising, Narrative Communications today released a new version of its Enliven media streaming software.

    Enliven 2.0 is targeted for use in Internet ad banners to jazz up static banners by streaming audio, video, or animation to grab the attention of Web surfers. The new client software is a small Java applet that downloads with a Web page, so viewers don't have to download a browser plug-in or a helper application to see a multimedia banner.

    "Plug-ins don't work for advertisers; users don't want a plug-in to view ads," said Alison Parker, Narrative's director of marketing communications.

    Narrative, whose chairman is Lotus technology guru John Landry, is now targeting its product for advertising because the education and entertainment markets, its first focus, have been slow to develop, according to Parker.

    "Enliven 2.0 points the way in which Internet advertising has got to go if it's going to get real," said Dick Shaffer, president of analyst firm Technologic Partners. "If Internet advertising is going to amount to anything, it has to convey more than it can with a simple banner. The Internet can never compete with TV if all that you get is the equivalent of a two-second ad."

    In February, Narrative demonstrated "infomercials" for the Web built with its technology, and in mid-March released Enliven 1.5 for ad agencies.

    The company today named a variety of Web publishers and ad agencies that would use its technology.

    Enliven is not alone in offering streaming multimedia for ad banners. First Virtual Holdings offers a service that creates animated banners, mostly for clients of its Internet payments technology. Zapa Digital Arts has built Java-based authoring tools designed for Web advertising. Other general streaming multimedia tools also are used to spark up ad banners.

    Enliven 2.0 includes three components: the Java applet as client, a server that tracks how users interact with ads, and Enliven Xtra authoring tools that are based on Windows versions of Macromedia's popular Director authoring system.

    Building on Director, which is widely used in ad agencies' creative departments but often in its Macintosh version, lets users create ads in a familiar environment. The server piece of Enliven 2.0 doesn't track individual users but follows what parts of ads are clicked on.

    More than 20 company Web sites, ad agencies, and ad networks announced they'll support Enliven 2.0. They include DoubleClick, CBS SportsLine E! Online, Infoseek, Lycos, and Talk City.

    Agencies include Anderson & Lembke, Messner Vetere Berger McMamee Schmetterer, Poppe Tyson-Silicon Valley, and CKS SiteSpecific.

    The Enliven client software is free and distributed with ads. The server, available now on Windows NT 4.0 and by year's end on Sun's Solaris, costs $40,000, but Narrative is offering a service that charges advertisers 1 cent per ad served plus a $4,000 set-up fee. No pricing was announced on the Xtra authoring tools.