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When Sports Illustrated's annual almanac comes out on CD-ROM this fall, subscribers will get diamond shopping tips from its exclusive advertiser, DeBeers Consolidated Mines, an N W Ayer client.

David Yakir, senior VP-managing director of Ayer Technologies, is ecstatic: He inherited the new-media mantle when he took over responsibility for the agency's worldwide information systems a year ago, but says he had no idea clients would seize on interactivity so quickly.

Now Mr. Yakir and his three staffers are seeing projects come to fruition. They are developing interactive sponsorship programs for Wired's online service, and have worked with AT&T on sponsoring an Internet area offering selected technology articles from various sources.

Ayer has also placed ads for clients on Prodigy and in Newsweek InterActive and will participate in interactive TV tests from Tele-Communications Inc. in Seattle, Denver and Mount Prospect, Ill. Its media unit, Media Edge, is also working on interactive projects.

But Mr. Yakir said a critical issue is the education of agency creatives and media planners.

"Creatives have to understand that it's different when a user is involved and interacting with your material," he said. "They need a knowledge base of how interactivity works. And media people are now being asked to place advertising on [the] Internet, where we're training them to build domains."

At an expo Ayer held during the spring for agency staff and clients such as Procter & Gamble Co., AT&T and E&J Gallo Winery, dozens of multimedia vendors were on hand to demonstrate interactive TV applications, storyboarding software and online services.

Considering the deep pockets of Ayer's investors, an acquisition of a software or media company down the road is a possibility. The agency already has an alliance with Interactive Marketing Technologies, a multimedia developer in King of Prussia, Pa., with which it worked on the DeBeers/Sports Illustrated project.

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