IAR Bits and Bytes

Macromedia Hands over Flash Advertising Alliance

The Macromedia Flash Advertising Alliance (MFAA), a group the software firm established to foster the use of its technology by the online advertising community, has a new home, after the company handed over management responsibility to publisher and events producer Emerging Interest.

Macromedia is paying Emerging Interest, which is headed up by rich media advocate Bill McCloskey, a management fee to run the 800-member organization, and the two companies will share in any revenues brought in by conferences. The announcement was made at the MFAA quarterly meeting in New York, but specific financial terms were not disclosed.

Although the use of Macromedia’s Flash in the online advertising industry has grown immensely because of its wide adoption and ease of use, the format has certain drawbacks that proponents — including the MFAA — are working to address. Namely, it’s difficult for advertisers and agencies — especially those using third-party ad servers — to keep track of user interactions with Flash ads.

Until the MFAA released a Flash “tracking kit” back in January, measuring things as simple as click-throughs posed a problem. Now, as the next step, the company, and the MFAA, are working out ways to track interactions within Flash ads — such as hovers, clicks within ads, and entries into forms.

Measuring this type of interaction becomes especially important as the industry works to establish online advertising as a branding medium — often using Flash as a means of making ads more compelling — and as many players try to reduce dependence on click-through as a metric of success.

Founding members of the MFAA include AOL, CNET, DoubleClick, 24/7 Media, Unicast and the New York office of TBWAChiatDay.

Enliven Tweaks its Focus

Rich media ad firm Enliven said it has reorganized its business to adapt to changes in the marketplace, focusing more on providing campaign management tools in lieu of ad production.

Specifically, Enliven president Frank Kashner said the company has seen “a dramatic shift in the Internet advertising industry toward using Macromedia Flash as the creative tool of choice for Internet advertisers.”

Enliven, which offers its ads in both Flash and Director formats, previously handled production for most of its clients’ campaigns. However, that changed when the company debuted its offering for Flash creatives. The “power and simplicity” of Flash, Kashner said, “has made it possible for interactive ad agencies to now do their own production in-house.”

As a result, the company’s Production Consulting unit had seen the bulk of company restructuring. About ten employees were let go as part of the reorganization, according to a source close to the firm.

“We essentially exited the Production Consulting business,” said chief executive Scott Kliger, who said the labor-intensive unit suffered from a lack of scalability and was the business’s least profitable group. “But it doesn’t change any of our products or services offerings, in that if someone needs production consulting, we do have a small in-house team and contract relations with people who used to be part of that.”

Kashner said the firm would maintain the in-house team because it expects the rich media market to expand significantly, and wants to make sure the company can help clients without their own production capabilities.

The news comes just a week in advance of Enliven’s roll-out of a new ad-serving product, designed for Flash ads. Kliger said the product would appeal to clients for its ease of use and advanced tracking features.

DoubleClick to Rep VerticalNet

Online ad network DoubleClick will sell inventory on VerticalNet’s sites, according to terms of an agreement announced Thursday.

Through the deal, VerticalNet’s 59 industry-specific B2B marketplace sites will be integrated into DoubleClick’s Audience Network, which focuses on repping high-traffic sites (as opposed to the DoubleClick Brand Network, which handles premium properties).

Horsham, Pa.-based VerticalNet also said it would use DoubleClick’s DART for Publishers ad serving platform. The company also said it would use DoubleClick’s promotions and email list services units to market itself.

Snowball Launches Subscription Services

San Francisco-based Web publisher Snowball said it would begin charging users for access to portions of two of its sites, IGN.com and HighSchoolAlumni.com.

“The new premium offerings enhance our users’ experience while providing Snowball with an additional revenue stream to complement our main business of online advertising and integrated marketing programs,” said Snowball president, Rick Boyce. “We are pleased with the initial response to these offerings, as it confirms that we are providing content and many new services that our users value.”

Snowball will begin charging $19.95 per year for access to IGN’s IGNinsider, which aims to woo subscribers with exclusive content that includes a Acrobat-format magazine and enhanced message boards.

HighSchoolAlumni.com will begin charging $14.95 for premium features that include the ability for users to post “then” and “now” photos, to contact alumni, and to post messages.

Commission Junction Launches Open Marketplace

Affiliate network Commission Junction followed through on its promise to publish payment and conversion statistics on all advertisers, publishers and banner ads on its network.

The effect, according to insiders, is that potential affiliates will shy away from low-paying merchants, who use Santa Barbara, Calif.-based CJ as simply an inexpensive ad network tool — eventually driving those merchants off the service.

Commission Junction said it serves about six billion impressions per month, making it among the largest ad networks. (CJ prices on cost-per-action and cost-per-sale metrics.)

Despite the apparent effort to dissuade low-paying merchants (who are less profitable, and often more costly for Commission Junction), the company touts the fact that it’s created an open marketplace for pay-for-performance advertising.

Catalina Marketing Acquires Patent Portfolio of OneClip.com

Catalina Marketing has purchased the patents of New York-based OneClip.com, a move that the St. Petersburg, Fla.-based supermarket marketer says will boost its online promotional business.

The acquisition gives Catalina access to two issued patents covering the process of distributing and redeeming electronic coupons, as well as 14 patent applications covering the distribution and redemption of targeted coupons.

The move is expected to better Catalina’s chances in the judicial arena, as for the past several months it’s been embroiled in patent disputes over online couponing with several other online marketers, including coolsavings.com.

Wink Launches “Subscription-on-Demand” iTV Campaigns for Time Inc.

AOL Time Warner’s Time Inc. magazine unit will use technology from Alamedia, Calif.-based interactive television firm Wink Communications to create an iTV campaign.

The new effort will pitch Sports Illustrated and Entertainment Weekly to subscribers of Wink-enabled cable systems (which includes AOL-owned Time Warner Cable). Using their remotes, viewers will be able to register for a subscription for the magazines from the commercials.

The two, 60-second enhanced ads will begin airing this quarter, Wink said. Spending was not disclosed in the effort.

Digimarc Goes for Web Kiosk Market

Tualatin, Ore.-based Digimarc says a new deal with SeePoint, a Web-enabled kiosk maker, will help retail marketers link offline sales to the Internet.

SeePoint manufactures and deploys kiosk systems for clients including Viacom, Phillips-van Heusen and San Francisco Airport.

Under the agreement, Torrance, Calif.-based SeePoint will offer Digimarc’s MediaBridge technology as a way for SeePoint’s customers to connect branded print promotions — like catalogs, product inserts or member cards — to a Web kiosk. Ideally, kiosks will offer targeted information or buying opportunities via the Internet or local data stored in the kiosk.

The software allows a scanner or Web camera to detect digitally watermarked print materials, and load a Web page. A ‘D’ symbol on the printed material indicates that the object is MediaBridge-enabled.

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