Building IAC Into an Online Ad Powerhouse

Five Questions With Media & Advertising CEO Peter Horan

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Barry Diller's IAC (InterActiveCorp) tapped former About.com and AllBusiness.com CEO Peter Horan this week to lead its media and advertising business, which includes Ask.com, Citysearch, IAC Ad Solutions and consumer applications and portals. The move was another confirmation that the company sees big potential in online advertising and will continue to build a business that rivals other online leaders, such as Google, Microsoft and Yahoo.

Mr. Horan is officially CEO of IAC Media & Advertising, a role expanded from the one former Ask.com CEO Steve Berkowitz left last spring to head up Microsoft's advertising business and includes Citysearch.

Mr. Horan assumes the post in mid-February but talked to Ad Age Digital about the synergies of the businesses and IAC's potential for advertisers.

Ad Age Digital: Tell me why IAC decided to expand this position.

Peter Horan: As the market's evolved we're building all these search properties and those will provide a foundation for local and mobile. Think about a product like Ask Cityas a mobile or local solution. A site like Citysearch is natural part of that.

Ad Age Digital: So it sounds like IAC has discovered there may be some more synergies among the businesses than previously thought.

Mr. Horan: The individual businesses have been run well and are doing well. But it pays to work together, for example, dealing with companies like the [cellular] carriers to get featured placement on deck [a cellphone's landing page] and developing a comprehensive local solution that works. IAC swims in the deep end with Microsoft, Yahoo and Google. We've got to use them all. ... This is not about cost synergies -- it is about growth.

Ad Age Digital: Will one of your first deals be with a cellular carrier? What are your other priorities?

Mr. Horan: It's not doing a big cellular deal but working within the group to figure out a coherent mobile strategy. Consumer uptick of mobile has been a little slow. But it's going to grow and we want to be positioned as a leader. Ask has just unveiled AskCity and Citysearch has been part of the group. Now the idea is how do you create a local product that works really well. IAC has Service Magic, which is [a] home-repair services [business]. So it has the ability to populate all these yellow page type searches.

I also see us really continuing to grow share in search. Google is certainly the market leader, but we don't believe the product is so good that it's unassailable.

Ad Age Digital: What prepared you for this role?

Mr. Horan: What's most relevant is we've really focused on how search has changed the way people gather information. At About.com, for example, I've been approaching it from the search side, how and when we receive the search engine referral. But it's the same thing in terms of dealing with that person searching for info. [At IAC] I'm just involved one step closer to start.

Ad Age Digital: What about the advertising angle? Does IAC intend to build visibility among agencies and marketers?

Mr. Horan: It's accelerating. The IAC Ad Solutions group will report to me. IAC has 60 million unique visitors a month. We give advertisers the ability to touch that audience, which is not only large but we also have behavioral info about what they're doing and they're also typically in a transactional mode. They're active. IAC Ad Solutions is really working on online and offline partnerships ... a mix of on-the-web and offline TV. Advertising has tremendous upside within IAC and it's been underdeveloped.
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