Overture unveils new ad service

The commercial Web search company introduces a contextual advertising service aimed at broadening its ad network--and taking on rival Google in new territory.

Overture Services, a commercial Web search company, on Monday introduced a contextual advertising service aimed at broadening its ad network and taking on rival Google in new territory.

The product, called Content Match, allows Overture to place advertising text links on relevant content Web pages of newly signed distribution partners, which include Microsoft's MSN and Edmunds.com. The service builds on Overture's core business of selling commercial placement within search results that appear on partner sites including Yahoo and Microsoft. Advertisers pay Overture a per-click fee for preferred placement in those search results, and Overture splits the sales with its partners.

Pasadena, Calif.-based Overture has had Content Match in the skunk works for months, with the ambition to grow and diversify its distribution network for its roughly 88,000 advertisers. Meanwhile, Google has been snatching up customers for its own service, Content-Targeted Advertising, which it launched in March. Mountain View, Calif.-based Google has signed up such customers as Knight Ridder Digital and MapQuest. Another major competitor, Primedia-owned Sprinks, has aligned with partners such as AOL.

Still, Overture said that its formula for placing ad text links on relevant content pages, as opposed to search pages, will give it an edge against rivals.

"By combining advanced technology, an industry-leading editorial team, and customized partner implementations, we believe Overture will deliver the most relevant contextual advertising product on the Internet," Bill Demas, general manager of Overture's Partner Business and Solutions Group, said in a statement.

The content-related ad links will appear on the side or bottom of Web pages. The company announced that the ads will be visible on the MyFamily Network of Web sites, the Away Network and Advertising.com.

Overture expects to initially offer the service in the six international territories, with plans to expand it to other areas by the end of 2003. The company estimates that the market for contextual advertising will reach $2 billion within five years.

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