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Web publishers join forces to reach prospects at work

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Aiming for advertisers that want to reach prospects as they surf the Net at work, five leading Internet publishers last month launched the At-Work Brand Network.

The effort is the first coordinated attempt by a group of publishers to sell Internet ad space by day-parts across a network of sites reaching people in their offices. It addresses the need, long stated by online advertisers, to reach their target audience by time of day, as they do with other media such as broadcast TV and radio.

The five publishers are CBS MarketWatch, CNet Networks Inc., NYTimes.com, USAToday.com and Weather.com.

Ad agencies Avenue A and White Horse are the charter agencies for the network, placing a campaign for their client, AT&T Wireless.

"Day-parting is a staple in most media planning," said Maggie Boyer, VP-media buying at Avenue A. "Now we feel it finally exists [online]."

AT&T Wireless is using the network for a three-pronged campaign that includes an offer for free hardware if users sign up for the service.

Boyer said the ability to target the at-work audience by day-part was important to AT&T Wireless. "We can communicate with the core audience when we see their peak [Internet] usage behavior," she said.

The effort to form the network was spearheaded by CBS MarketWatch, which has experimented with ad sales by day-part for the past year.

Scott McLernon, exec VP-sales and marketing at CBS MarketWatch, said the plan was spurred when he noticed an abundance of print advertising by Hewlett-Packard Co. in mainstream business publications to promote its proposed merger with Compaq Computer Corp. (The merger has since been completed.)

"I wasn’t seeing any ad dollars [from HP] flow into my site, or to the Web," McLernon said. "To get these guys’ attention, and to get them away from the traditional manner of advertising mergers—which is full-page print in publications like The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal—we needed to do a morning roadblock across the Web."

McLernon approached his ad sales counterparts at other leading business networks about forming a consortium to sell a morning block of advertising, reaching online business users at work. He said HP was interested in doing a buy across the sites, but the deal got shelved at the 11th hour. However, the consortium and its mechanisms were in place to launch the At-Work Brand Network, and Avenue A signed up to be the guinea pig.

"This is phase one of a process of making this a seamless and viable opportunity for all advertisers," Boyer said. "We’re willing to be a pioneer."

However, she said, hurdles remain. These include: creating terms and conditions for online orders, working out technical requirements among the sites and having a reasonable turnaround time for creative.

McLernon said the network is adhering to the terms and conditions for online orders proposed by the Interactive Advertising Bureau. It is working with standard ad formats and has a technical operations person acting as a liaison among the partners to test new creative formats.

Each site has a list of prospects to call on, based on existing relationships, as well as a target list of marketers that have not used online advertising in the past.

Advertisers can place one order and submit one creative file to the network, rather than deal with five different sites, McLernon said.

Pricing is "premium," he said, because of this one-stop shopping, plus the network’s ability to target specific audiences by day-part and to tap into the creative talent base of five different networks.

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