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Internet

DoubleClick localizes Web ads

The Net ad firm launches a targeting service that lets local advertisers reach Web users from their own communities.

Internet ad firm DoubleClick today launched DoubleClick Local, a targeting service that lets local advertisers reach Web users from their own communities on sites that DoubleClick represents.

That ability could be key to regional companies with physical storefronts, letting them target people who can drive their cars to the advertiser's location.

"The Internet ad market is still early, and local market advertising is still in its infancy," said Kevin O'Connor, DoubleClick's chief executive, noting that Jupiter Communications predicts that localized Internet ads will account for $1.5 billion in spending by the year 2002.

"Some ads you want targeted to specific content; others, you want targeted to a specific area--local banks, supermarkets, department stores," said Bill Bass, an advertising manager at Forrester Research.

"It's now to the point where regional advertisers are interested enough and savvy enough that this could be a decent-sized market," said Bass. O'Connor said target advertisers for the new service will be national chains such as McDonalds or General Motors that want to offer a promotion in a specific region, as well as regional companies with operations in several states such as phone companies and banks.

DoubleClick Local builds on DoubleClick's ad-serving capabilities and its Internet ad network, which groups Web sites into ten interest areas, such as sports or business and finance. DoubleClick represents such sites as AltaVista, the Dilbert Zone, the Food Network, Automobile magazine, Modern Bride magazine, Travelocity, and U.S. News & World Report.

DoubleClick Local will compete for advertisers with local sites run by Microsoft, America Online, Yahoo, CitySearch, and local newspapers.

But DoubleClick has one advantage: it doesn't have the considerable cost of producing local content, news, and information that the local guides bear. Instead, it simply serves local ads on sites it already represents to users from the advertiser's area.

DoubleClick Local also will save on marketing costs to advertisers, observers say. It can add the new local feature to its stable of current advertisers, and it will do online sales with ad banners on its own service to reach regional and local advertisers. The firm has added sales, marketing, and engineering personnel for DoubleClick Local and expects to take on more in the next several months.

DoubleClick uses a site visitor's IP address to identify their geographic origin; for large ISPs, it has mapped the geographic location of individual POPs (points of presence or call-in numbers). No site registration data is used. AOL users aren't targeted because they all appear to come onto the Net via AOL's Vienna, Virginia, location.

In a beta test of several months, DoubleClick found it can be accurate in localizing users 75 percent of the time, and 85 percent in California, according to an independent study. The company also said it reaches 15 million local users per month including more than 1 million each in San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C.

A regional theater chain and Rutgers University used the service to advertise to local users during the testing period.