Ask Jeeves Debuts New Ad Units to Lure Traditional Brand Advertisers

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You can add Ask Jeeves to the growing list of portals that are trying to nudge profitability by tweaking the size of banner ads served on their sites.

Ask Jeeves Web Properties, a division of Ask Jeeves Inc., Emeryville, CA., on March 19 debuted four new ad units that it hopes will make its services more attractive to traditional brand advertisers and help it achieve profitability in the fourth quarter of 2001.

This follows similar announcements that CNET, New York Times Digital and Excite@Home will offer larger banner ad units. Excite@Home said it is incorporating the new units into its targeting and tracking services and is packaging them into custom programs for clients.

The four ad units Ask Jeeves introduced include Branded Response, available on its reply page; Branded Animation, which features multimedia and is available on the company's home page; interstitials, which are triggered by key words; and DirectLinx, text-based advertising. Ask Jeeves said that for advertisers looking to build brand awareness, its new ad products offer highly targeted opportunities to drive traffic and increase transactions on the Web.

Peter Hershberg, Ask Jeeves' vice president of targeting and acquisition, hopes the new units help Ask Jeeves lessen its dependence on dot-com companies, which account for about 60 percent of the company's business.

"We're shifting our emphasis from dot-coms to traditional branding companies," he said. "We won't turn our back on the dot-coms, but we'll shy away from doing business with the ones that can't pay their bills."

Hershberg said the company has 15 advertisers signed for the new products, including Honda. Campaigns incorporating the new ad units should roll out in a few weeks.

" users view the Internet as a great tool and resource for finding answers to questions," said Doug Hoffman, Honda's national advertising manager. "Becoming part of the answer that users are seeking is a highly effective way to deliver a message."

Hershberg said the Branded Response units feature relevant content about an advertiser's brand that is available to the user when a related question is asked. The content can appear in a question-and-answer format or as a hint or fact presented in paragraph form. Branded Response is centered on the Ask Jeeves reply page and features an advertiser logo prominently placed.

"We wanted to create something that is more advertorial than advertising," Hershberg said. "So we created a placement to connect ads to a question a person is asking."

Sometime next month, Ask Jeeves plans to roll out Branded Animation, a multimedia version of its Branded Response unit. It offers advertisers sponsorship opportunities on the home page.

"We will run no more than two campaigns a month for a total of three or four days each," Hershberg said. "Otherwise, it can lose a lot of its value if it is used too much. We envision this as part of a larger ad campaign for advertisers."

Ask Jeeves also is making available interstitials, which will open behind a Web browser and are triggered by key words or particular content. The new browser window consists of an advertiser's page or a customized Web area. These, too, will be limited to no more than two per day per user.

The DirectLinx units feature targeted, text-based sponsored placements designed to look more like an answer than an ad, Hershberg said. They have a capacity for up to 30 words or 150 characters and can be optimized on the fly. The DirectLinx ads are being served by L90 Inc., he said.

"We're open to flexible pricing on these," he said. "We'll accept them on a CPM, CPC or CPA basis."

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