AdRelevance Launches Ad Reporting Service

Seattle startup AdRelevance Inc. expects to raise the ante in marketing intelligence on Sept. 7 with the launch of AdRelevance Service, an automated tracking program that allows Internet marketers to monitor competitors' Web advertising.

While complementing existing audit offerings, the service will allow online marketers to retrieve, analyze and report on competitors' online advertising by placement, impressions, creative and rate-card spending. It claims a larger ad footprint coverage than existing online ad tracking services.

“It's very difficult to devise marketing and communications plans, media strategies and even creative plans without some kind of understanding or facts about what my competitors are doing,” said Will Hodgman, founder and president/CEO of AdRelevance. “Our product gives you, in real time, the ability to assess the competitive landscape to your advantage.”

Scouring the Web around the clock, the service will collect detailed public-domain information about ad banners, buttons, textlinks, interstitials and rich media. Once corralled, the data is warehoused, classified, statistically analyzed and correlated to AdRelevance's archive of Web traffic data.

“There's absolutely a need for good competitive advertising data,” said Jim Nail, senior analyst at Forrester Research, Boston. “That's very important for putting a good media plan together.”

AdRelevance has already signed deals with seven U.S. ad agencies — OgilvyOne, Dahlin Smith White, McCann/Anderson & Lembke, Deutsch, StarCom IP, TeamOne and Magnet Interactive — which have been beta testing the service and may become regular customers.

“What has interested them is the ability to have a view of the competition that few people at this point have,” said Hodgman, who spent 15 years in the industry before founding AdRelevance along with Dan Weld, a computer science professor at the University of Washington.

Subscribers will annually pay from $25,000 for basic service to $100,000 for an expanded package. Reports can be accessed from the site.

Pricing may become a sticking point. Forrester's Nail pointed out that buyers of Nielsen's NetRatings not only get ratings but competitive data.

“The issue right now is that marketers still are spending a limited amount of their marketing budget on the Internet,” said Nail, “so, if you've got to pay $40,000 for ratings services plus another $25,000 on competitive information, it's a lot on research.”

A key selling point for AdRelevance is the recency of its data. Interwatch takes six weeks to report, Media Metrix four weeks, and Nielsen/NetRating's two weeks. AdRelevance takes only one week.

Targets for the AdRelevance service include content providers, ad agencies, advertisers, analysts and market researchers, e-commerce brands, news media and third-party companies such as ad networks that serve software companies.

The service initially will track segments including automotive, computer hardware, software, financial services, travel-related services, online retailing, content providers, telecoms and consumer electronics. Healthcare and political spending online are next on the agenda.

Hodgman said these industries contribute as much as 75 percent of the total ad spending on the Internet. According to Forrester, U.S. online advertising last year was an estimated $1.3 billion, up 136 percent from 1997. Spend this year is projected at $2.4 billion, an 85-percent jump.

“The challenge we face is the acquisition of customers,” Hodgman said. “[So far], we've faced very little resistance because there's a vacuum in this market.”

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