Enliven Taps Kliger as CEO

Newly independent Enliven has brought in its original founder — and a player in its continued financing — to head up its operations until a new chief executive is found.

Scott Kliger, a partner at Sage Hill Partners and one of Enliven’s original founders, will head up the company as interim CEO as it seeks to find stable ground amid a rough market for online ad plays. Sage Hill provided financing to the company after its February spin-off from Excite@Home, which cited a need to shore up its own operations and cut expenses.

It is not known whether Kliger’s appointment comes as a result of the earlier funding, as Waltham, Mass.-based Enliven has declined to disclose its details.

Kliger, who started Enliven in 1995 as Narrative Communications, will oversee the company’s management team (including president Frank Kashner) in what he described as a transitional period.

“This is an exciting opportunity to dive back into a company I truly believe in and built,” Kliger said. “I am looking forward to working with the major players in our space to advance the use of rich media in interactive advertising.”

The word choice is deliberate. Enliven is actually planning to distance itself from the troubled “Internet” rich media industry by expanding its product line under the larger rubric of “interactive” advertising — in other words, wireless and interactive television.

Kashner hinted at such moves in a February interview with InternetNews.com. But with Kliger on board, the company’s giving signs that wireless and iTV efforts are a definitely priority.

It’s quite a change for the hitherto rich media-focused firm, one of the earliest players in the field. And it’s a gutsy one, since both fields are already rife with competitors. Aside from the expanding ad networks, Enliven faces competition from a swarm of platform-specific players, like iTV firm ACTV and wireless ad firms WindWire and SkyGo.

Nevertheless, Kliger remains optimistic about the company’s prospects.

“The time is right,” he said. “Enliven has the most complete set of rich media solutions available today, a seasoned management team and the technology to elevate Web advertising to a new level of effectiveness and reach.”

Aside from the enthusiasm, Kliger brings his financial experience and contacts from Sage Hill, in addition to his tech expertise as one of Enliven’s original developers. Before he left the company to pursue a career in venture capital, Kliger had served as Enliven’s chief technical officer, and had built the firm’s original rich media ad platform.

By announcing that it would expand its product offerings to wireless and iTV, Enliven continues an industry-wide trend to move away from the stormy Web advertising arena into nascent related fields.

The move had really been begun months earlier by the larger ad networks like DoubleClick and 24/7 Media, who all have announced wireless and iTV initiatives. But it’s gaining additional steam as of late: earlier this week, the online ad industry’s largest association — the Internet Advertising Bureau — announced that it would become the “Interactive Advertising Bureau.” A subtle change, but one that perhaps speaks volumes about where the industry thinks its future fortunes lay.

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