GoTo Switches Name to Overture

Pay-for-performance search engine GoTo is expected to announce today that it will change its name to Overture Services Inc.

The company officially makes the switch Oct. 8, when it also changes its Nasdaq symbol from GOTO to OVER.

Executives at GoTo began discussing a name change more than a year ago, prompting head scratching among industry observers because the firm had just won a legal battle with Disney over logo similarities that was much publicized in the trade press.

“Nobody sues Disney and wins,” one observer said at the time. “As a matter of practice, if you're successful in a lawsuit, you hold onto something you win.”

“[However,] Overture communicates more about who we are,” said Ted Meisel, president/CEO of GoTo, Pasadena, CA. “GoTo was a great consumer name, but there was also a lot of [legal] noise around GoTo.”

Meisel said too many companies' names use the word “go” in some fashion and that his firm has received cease-and-desist letters from most of them. The change to Overture will help the firm avoid distracting legal wrangling, he said.

As a result, the traffic-light-type logo GoTo fought Disney so hard for will be replaced with a blue circle-within-a-circle logo — a combination of a play on the symbol for a target and the first letter of the company's new name.

“We thought about some made-up names, a la Accenture,” Meisel said. “We also thought of names like Direct Path. In the end, we settled on Overture because Overture means introduction.”

When asked about the brand equity his firm has in the GoTo name and logo, Meisel said “I think we have more of a reputation in our [marketing] niche than in the business world as a whole.”

Meisel also said that the consumer orientation of the GoTo name made some business partners jittery. Often, they would ask “how do we know you're not going to set up on our site and then steal our traffic,” he said.

GoTo supplies pay-for-performance search capabilities to companies such as America Online, Lycos, AltaVista, Ask Jeeves, HotBot, Earthlink and CNET. GoTo claims to process 2 billion search queries per month.

The company plans to send direct mail and e-mail announcing the switch to its 45,000 active advertisers, plus some former advertisers. Print ads in marketing and advertising trades are also planned.

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