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Compressed Data: Internet Commercials With a Television Finish

Boil down all the complaints that advertisers have raised about pitching their wares on the Internet and you find the central criticism: they wish the Internet could be more like television.

Now, at least in one way, they can have their wish.

Starting today, some visitors to Iwon.com will see flickery 30-second commercials for Toyota vehicles and ThermaSilk Shampoo, complete with audio.

The first two commercials on the site are moody, dialog-free narratives. A hapless hiker caught in the rain receives a camping stove delivered by someone in a Toyota sport utility vehicle. And a woman on the receiving end of a carnival's flaming-knife thrower ends up displaying the heat-activated benefits of ThermaSilk shampoo.

Aaron Silverberg, the brand director for ThermaSilk at Unilever, said the new Web technology allowed a more subjective approach than its past Internet ads.

"The television commercial we run on Iwon is based on very powerful imagery," he said.

Iwon is among the first sites to use technology from the Atlanta firm EyeWonder. It allows video to be included on Web pages without requiring users to download viewing programs or software plug-ins. EyeWonder is also working with AOL Time Warner's CNN.com, the search site Lycos and the advertising network DoubleClick.

In recent months, as online ad spending has tailed off, many sites have been experimenting with creative, intrusive, sometimes downright obnoxious forms of advertising. Many of these ads incorporate sound and motion, often using Macromedia's flash technology, which in essence creates animated slide shows.

But designing and producing such ads is expensive and time consuming. By contrast, the EyeWonder technology uses standard television video, albeit reduced to the size of a baseball card.

"One of the big benefits we can offer advertisers and agencies is that they can take the commercials they have already invested hundreds and thousands of dollars on and run them on another medium," said Jonas Steinman, co-chief executive of Iwon.

If advertisers become convinced that they can influence viewers who simply watch their commercials, maybe they will become less distressed by the ever declining portion of people who actually click on ads.

In other words, the sites, too, want Internet ads to be more like television.


Saul Hansell, The New York Times. June 11, 2001

Copyright © 2001 The New York Times Company. All rights reserved.