Net Publishing Bigs Debut At-Work Brand Network

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Five of the Internet's most well-known publishers announced an advertising sales consortium yesterday.


Dubbed the At-Work Brand Network, the consortium consists of CBS MarketWatch, CNET Networks, NYTimes.com, USATODAY.com and weather.com. Its first client is AT&T Wireless.


The network will allow advertisers to submit creative to one of the publishers for distribution across the network. It also will let them place one order and get one report, as opposed to dealing with five publishers, a statement by the group said.


The network also aims to capitalize on the Internet's penetration at work. The five publishers in the At-Work Brand Network claim an unduplicated audience of 17 million people, or 43 percent of the total at-work Internet audience.


All five are members of the Online Publishers Association, which has been working to get online media measured more like traditional media and, as a result, get a bigger chunk of media buyers' budgets.


However, five big publishers banding together and touting their reach would seem to fly in the face of Internet marketing's original promise: reaching the right person with the right ad at the right time.


"If you are an AT&T, or any broad-reach marketer looking to reach 43 percent of the online audience in one shot, great," said Adam Shlachter, interactive media director for The Sloan Group, a New York ad agency. "However, most marketers utilize interactive advertising because of the targeting capabilities available, more so than sheer reach, especially when your message is related to specific products and services."


Shlachter's assessment is accurate. However, giant companies not generally known for targeted marketing have been showing signs that they are preparing to spend more on the medium. For example, online research aggregator eMarketer has seen a spike recently in orders from packaged goods manufacturers like Kimberly-Clark for its research reports.


"We take that as an interest in the Internet, and the possibility they may do something about it, which could mean more advertising," said Geoff Ramsey, president of eMarketer, New York.


Ramsey said online advertising on average accounts for 3 percent of ad spending overall. Packaged goods firms, however, usually spend less than 1 percent of their budgets on online advertising, he said.


"All it would take is a small trickle [of increased spending from packaged goods companies], and we're going to see some pretty big increases in online advertising," Ramsey said. "This is a step in the right direction. We need top-quality, branded Web sites to band together and create advertising platforms."


He said also that the targeting and the reach-and-frequency schools of thought aren't necessarily mutually exclusive for online advertising.


"While I do maintain that the Internet is best as a targeted medium, you still have to reach a critical mass of people," he said.


Also, like all things Internet-related, its advertising's ability to target was the subject of a lot of hyperbole, said Scot McLernon, executive vice president of sales and marketing, CBS MarketWatch.


"There is theory and reality," McLernon said. "Showing a car ad to somebody who is 34 years old, who wants an SUV, who wants to buy it tomorrow and who wants it in red" belongs in the theory category.


"The reality is there is reach and frequency," he said. "For us to be able to finally identify the affluent demographic at a time when we have never been able to reach them before -- which is at work -- with a roadblock across five sites as they're doing their morning news read ... is a pretty nice opportunity."


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