Andover Signs Advertisers to Banner Alternative

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Technology Web-site network Andover.Net has signed its first advertisers to GIFWorks, a new Internet application that lets graphic designers carry out tasks directly on the Net in an environment that looks similar to the familiar Windows desktop -- with a key difference. The application also bears the ads of Andover.Net's clients.


"It looks like a Windows application, but users are working on the Internet," said Bruce Twickler, president/CEO of Andover.Net, Acton, MA. "[They're] using the Internet as a computer."


And merchants are using the new application to advertise. The technology lets Web designers build animation to install in their sites for free, but exposes them to the ad spots. The application, accessible through www.gifworks.com and www.andover.net, went live last month.


Andover.Net this month said it signed content delivery service iSyndicate, San Francisco, and book retailer Fatbrain.com, Sunnyvale, CA, as the first GIFWorks advertisers. Technology giant IBM Crop., Armonk, NY, began advertising on the site after promoting itself elsewhere on Andover.Net's network.


Andover.Net hopes to turn a profit by charging advertisers about $50 to $60 for every thousand page views the site delivers. Twickler touted improvements GIFWorks ads offer over regular banner advertising, especially a stickiness advantage. Designers tinkering with their graphics are staying at the site for an average of 10 to 15 minutes, compared with the three to four minutes typical on most sites. Visitors are viewing about 20 pages on average.


Click-through rates on GIFWorks banners have so far been between 1 percent and 2 percent, the company said. Rather than exclusively running banners that attempt -- usually in vain -- to tempt Netizens from the top of the page, the advertisers' links can wrap around two sides of the desktop work area and include longer text that Twickler likens to magazine advertisements.


GIFWorks visitors are, by definition, Internet savvy, something Andover.Net hopes will appeal especially to hi-tech advertisers. Twickler also sees value in being able to target potential consumers while they are on the job, where they might behave differently than when they're surfing at leisure at home.


"The opportunity to communicate for 10 to 15 minutes to someone who's sitting there working is something completely new," he said.


Andover.Net is advertising GIFWorks in the nooks of the Web that draw visual designers, especially image archive pages. The company will let large archives offer the application directly within their sites. In the early going, www.gifworks.com is drawing 30,000 unique visitors daily.


The company expects those numbers to increase. Twickler conceded GIFWorks is not as broadly sophisticated as traditional graphics software packages such as Quark and Photoshop, but said it's better for letting people work with animated images that use multiple frames, such as banners.


Designers can pick a font for their banner, make it three-dimensional, fine-tune its animation, color it and download it to their machine, all in one application, whereas otherwise they might be forced to use two or three different software packages. GIFWorks' desktop displays many of the same pull-down menus and tools as a typical Windows application.


The new technology is Andover.Net's first that lets people actually work online, though the firm expects to launch other packages this month. Andover.Net already offers software online, lets programmers access free code and publishes online news for IT managers.


Andover.Net's other major advertisers include Microsoft Corp., Redmond, WA; Intel Corp., Santa Clara, CA; Netscape Communications Corp., Mountain View, CA; and Xerox Corp., Stamford, CT.
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