Adsmart Targets Service Professionals With Business-to-Business Network

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The banner ads most likely to fit well on www.patentcafe.com have nothing to do with smacking gophers with hammers or hitting monkeys with virtual boxing gloves.


Andy Gibbs, the president and founder of Patent Café, Yuba City, CA, grew frustrated with the some of the general, broadly targeted ads that ran on his intellectual property site, which caters to a very specific clientele of inventors and entrepreneurs.


"With the generic ad serving services in the past, I've had to deal with ads for Visa cards, home mortgages, all that generic content. It's distracting," he said.


So Gibbs became one of the first sites to sign on with a business-to-business advertising network that Adsmart, Andover, MA, starts operating this month. The unit of net holding and venture giant CMGI Inc. announced the program yesterday. Adsmart plans to run ads on sites divided into categories trafficked by professionals in the legal, insurance, real estate and other industries.


The move comes as Internet companies that serve banner ads on the Web are working to build their presence in the business-to-business realm, an area of online commerce that grabs fewer headlines - but yields considerably greater revenue - than the Web sites designed for consumers. Adsmart rival 24/7 Media Inc., New York, announced an expansion of its business-to-business network in late December.


Like DoubleClick Inc., another New York competitor, Adsmart serves ads primarily on well-recognized brand-name sites. But like Flycast Communications Corp., a San Francisco-based network slated for final acquisition by CMGI this month, Adsmart "is designed and driven by the buyer's side instead of the seller's side," said vice president of marketing Joanne Currie. Adsmart works closely with the brand managers at its various advertising clients.


Four sites have joined Adsmart's b2b network, and the company is in talks with another 20. A handful of technology-related Web destinations will move to the new network from Adsmart's existing consumer-based network of about 400 sites. The business-to-business and business-to-consumer sides will remain separate, Currie said.


Like many online marketing tactics, Adsmart's business-to-business idea came in part from the traditional direct marketing world.


"The office suppliers who are online, OfficeMax, Office Depot and Staples … have their own catalogs that market specifically to business-to-business. They have a catalog that goes just to legal professionals, filled with legal items," Currie said, adding that the same is true for medical professionals, educators and others. "They're just dying to be able to reach those people online," she said.


A challenge for Adsmart is that a business-to-business network will generate fewer impressions than its consumer network does. Still, the company hopes the b2b side will reach revenue levels similar to its existing network in the next six months. Currie estimated that impressions on the new network will cost double what consumer-directed ads cost. She said she couldn't estimate what click-through rates will be like.


Currie expects some clients to design separate ads for business sites - thus eliminating the gophers, monkeys and home refinancing banners. Some of the business sites that have already signed with Adsmart seem to hope that is the case, at least. Adam Turteltaub, marketing director at Legal Recruitment Network, Los Angeles, wants ads that will help enhance the legal jobs database site the company operates at www.emplawyernet.com.


"The right advertising in a given [medium] can actually add value," he said. "If I'm an attorney at a site and I see an ad for something that's relevant to me, it adds value, as opposed to something that's randomly placed there," Turteltaub said. He hopes the ads help his firm build deeper relationships with other legal sites as well.
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