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Banners in Motion          Print the current page
by Brian Chmielewski

Banner advertising is the most visible and pervasive form of advertising on the Internet. Because of the awareness that banners generate, they are the perfect tools for getting your commercial interests in the face of many global villagers. Sony, AT&T and Microsoft know this and budget their resources to get impressions of their corporate name onto your computer screen.

Recognizing the enormous growth potential for online purchases, it would be wise to re-distribute advertising dollars now. AT&T did just that when it substituted a two-week Internet campaign in lieu of two 30-second television commercials. Why? Because AT&T capitalized on the latest thing in banner advertising - animation and audio.

Today, companies such as VDONet, Vxtreme (acquired by Microsoft in August), RealNetworks (formerly known as Progressive) and Narrative Communications are introducing audio and video software products to the Internet for use in advertising, not just Internet page design.

Narrative Software's Enliven is distinguished by compression and decompression codes that organize multimedia material so that it streams faster and decompresses on the fly. For those who are part of a network, the streaming banner ad begins to play while you're loading a Internet page. For those entering though a dial-up connection, long download times may cause problems because users could move off of the page before the ads finish loading. The publisher loses that "impression", which eventually translates into receiving less money for the ad.

There are some drawbacks that you should be aware of if you are considering the use of streaming video and audio in your new banners. First, the technology for these ads is in its infancy. If you compare full-motion video at 24 frames per second, film at 30 frames per second, and clips of RealVideo (RealNetworks) at 28.8 Kbps, you will experience dismal video at six or eight frames per second. Second, many Internet publishers hesitate to run these fancy ads on their sites because of the fear of long download times, the risk of crashing their readers' browsers, the inconvenience of requiring exotic plug-ins, or the lack of cross-browser support for such technologies as Java and ActiveX. And lastly - you guessed it - it's going to cost you. Server software starts at around $995 (RealNetworks) and goes up to $7995 (Narrative). The authoring software ranges from $249 to free; viewing Enliven-driven products requires no software, while RealPlayer can be freely downloaded.

The bottom line is this: What do you expect out of an advertising vehicle and how much are you willing to spend to see that your expectations are met?

Whether you wish to increase the brand recognition associated with your product, pull traffic to your site or build a database of names for research or sales leads, banners do work - animated or not. If you believe that speed triumphs over aesthetics in advertising, then static banners are the way to go. If you think that you need an alternative method of attracting Internet users, then maybe audio and video are the answer.

For more information: The Narrative Communications collection of banners can be seen at http://ww2.narrative.com/gallery.nsf . To download RealPlayer visit http://www.real.com/products/player/playerdl.html . Visit Intelliquest for details about last month's Business Week poll at http://www.intelliquest.com/about/release32.htm . For professional assistance with your banner needs, see http://www.BannerNetworks.com.

First published in WebPromote's newsletter.