The End of an Era

Change is inevitable.

It has been said that the only person who likes change is a wet baby. Maybe a few lottery winners can be thrown into the mix as well. Still, good or bad, the changes in our lives are what affect us most profoundly.

This past Monday, Enliven, once the leader in the rich media market and a pioneer of many of the established ad-serving and measurement technologies, was sold to Unicast, a former competitor. The reason I bring this up is because I dedicated three years of my life to making Enliven what we all hoped it could be.

Though the demise of another dot-com will hardly raise an eyebrow these days, for those of us who were a part of this particular company, the change evokes a bit of sadness.

However, I come here today not to eulogize Enliven but to celebrate it.

The life cycle of a Web company can still be measured in months. Many of the companies that appear online do so without a full understanding of what awaits them and either quietly fade away or dramatically flame out within a short time. For Enliven, the journey was a long one (almost six years), and the battle for survival was often fierce. Apart from learning how to do business on the Web, Enliven had the task of settling and conquering the unknown land of interactive Web advertising. The perils were often great, but the accomplishments were greater.

During my years with Enliven, our identity was rather diffused. Our moniker changed from Narrative Communications to @Home to Excite@Home to MatchLogic to Enliven to Enliven, Inc. During that time, Enliven pioneered many of the ad-serving and measuring technologies that are still in use today. Enliven developed Java, DHTML, and Flash solutions for advertisers and created ads that could be dynamically updated. Enliven pioneered and created hundreds of gaming ads, printable ads, data-capturing ads, and even an ad that also served as a chat room. My greatest pride was the number of agencies and advertisers we helped to understand how this new technology could meet their needs.

Along the way, Enliven made its share of mistakes. It focused on technology and approaches to advertising that weren’t widely accepted; it burned a few bridges and sometimes failed to explain properly why rich media solutions were the right solutions. But we also assembled a great team, created ads that broke records, won a Clio, and made many of our customers very happy.

Today, the industry continues to change. Online advertisers still test the waters with new ad formats; online consumers continue to accept and reject these new formats; and some advertisers still believe that getting a good click-through rate is the Holy Grail of online advertising.

For Unicast, the battle rages on. With the acquisition of Enliven’s technologies, the company will be able to offer even greater value to its clients. I congratulate Dick Hopple and the Unicast team for their fortitude and success in the face of a really tough marketplace.

The future of online advertising is uncertain, but I am ever hopeful new models will emerge, offering greater use and flexibility of online ads. Though I am now watching from the sidelines, all in all I’m glad I got to be a part of the whole thing.

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