Firms Rush to Fill Ad-Tracking Void

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Internet ad-tracking companies went from few to many with a number of new companies bursting into the space in the past month.

The most recent player in the field is London-based Xtreme Information's Internet Ad Watch, which rolled out its service Oct. 1. Fast on its heels is InterMedia Advertising Solutions, New York, which plans to announce details of a new service in the next few weeks.

Both Xtreme and IAS come from agencies steeped in traditional ad measurement. Xtreme, which has tracked print and television advertisements since 1984 in 90 markets for clients such as IBM, Visa and MCI, is extending its service by tracking creative and ad placement daily on the Web. The service uses spider technology to monitor "anything with a gif," including banners, buttons and rich media.

IAS, a division of Competitive Media Research, has measured Internet ads for three years. It searches 300 sites for spending patterns on a monthly basis using spider technology as well as manual searches. However, client demand has forced the service to evolve. As a result, the company plans to measure impressions as well as spending in a more timely fashion, according to Joe Philport, president of IAS.

Companies are hungry for competitive information, which is driving these new services to fruition, said Claudine Singer, an analyst for Jupiter Communications, New York. "There's a lot of marketshare to grab. [These services] are intriguing because the ability to react to competitive information will be far better on the Web than with traditional advertising."

The recent downpour of ad spending has contributed to the appearance of these companies, according to Jim Nail, senior analyst for Forrester Research, Cambridge, MA. "[Companies] up until this point haven't spent a significant amount of money on Web advertising," he said. "Now the money is getting out there big enough that people want to evaluate their planning much as they do with traditional advertising."

The biggest player in the field thus far looks to be AdRelevance, which was acquired by Media Metrix on Oct. 6. AdRelevance offers a broad program that tracks online ad spending, creative, placement and spending in the U.S., and provides a detailed report to clients on a weekly basis. AdRelevance, Seattle, can search as many as 300 sites for a fee of $25,000 to $100,000 per year.

Xtreme, which tracks online creative and ad placement on 95 sites in 11 countries - including the U.S., U.K., Australia and Germany - may have a leg up in the international realm, according to CEO John Gordon.

Xtreme plans to add 12 sites a day to its search capabilities while expanding to 10 new markets by spring. Larger sites will be tracked every minute and smaller sites 24 times a day. The service costs $10,000 for the year.

The competition has its eye on the international market as well, and most of the players expect to enter new markets shortly. AdRelevance, New York, for example, will look to foreign borders in the near future, according to Will Hodgman, the company's president/CEO.

The New York-based Leading Web Advertisers, which offers a service similar to AdRelevance, is in discussions with an unnamed organization that will collect data in markets other than the United States, said Leon Liebman, LWA's chairman. LWA went live last month and has 12 companies beta testing it. The service tracks 530 sites for a fee of $36,000 to $60,000 per year.

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