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Internet

Talk City chats up longer ads

Chat site Talk City announces a new kind of banner ad that tells a story lasting up to four minutes.

    Hoping to take advantage of the longer times that Internet chatters hang out online, chat site Talk City will announce a new kind of banner ad today that tells a story lasting up to four minutes.

    Talk City is calling the ads "intermercials." Their name is based on "interstitials," a form of Web advertising in which a message pops in front of a user and stays there for a certain period of time--usually a matter of seconds--then disappears.

    Internet advertisers are always looking for new ways to put their message out on the Web. But they constantly skate that fine line between delivering their message effectively and angering a highly sensitized Net community.

    For instance, while smaller companies and those involved in less reputable businesses such as pornography have jumped with full force into junk email and other forms of advertising, mainstream companies have done little more than test the waters, which, by and large, they've found it way too hot.

    Companies have also begun to experiment with more invasive ads, ones that act more like television commercials, popping up in front of the user and doing their thing until finished. But Net surfers have a much shorter attention span than couch potatoes, and companies risk alienating the very customers they are trying to attract if their ads are perceived as obnoxious.

    Netizens are far more accepting of the now-traditional forms of Web advertising, such as banner ads that appear across the top of pages. But the effectiveness of this kind of advertising is questionable.

    Companies try to make their banners attractive with animation and movement. Some have layered them so the surfer can click through to get more information without leaving the site, while others allow users to play games within the banner. Still others actually give viewers prizes for clicking on them.

    Talk City plans to launch fully animated banners that allow advertisers to tell stories over time, taking advantage of the relatively longer time that Netizens stay on chat sites. The concept will officially be launched tomorrow at the Jupiter Communications' advertising conference.

    Chat City is demonstrating intermercials from Toyota, Sears, Toshiba, Diamond Multimedia, and The Web magazine.

    "These innovative advertisers recognize that the most powerful Internet advertising will draw upon the Net's unique real-time and social interactive qualities," stated Peter Friedman, president and CEO of Talk City.

    "While Web banners serve a purpose, they only provide maximum marketing results to the 2 percent of the audience that clicks on those banners. In contrast, chat intermercials command the attention of 100 percent of its audience," he said. "We believe intermercials will become to Web advertising what 30- and 60-second commercials are to TV: the preferred standard for mainstream advertisers."

    In addition, Talk City announced that it hired a new vice president of marketing, Christopher Escher, who has worked for Cunningham Communications and Apple Computer. The company has also hired two new sales executives, Patricia Griffith from Women's Wire and Michael Cassara from Cox Interactive Sales.