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Google's plan to go beyond its core Internet search business to sell and serve ads to third-party Web sites will put it into direct competition with DoubleClick and a handful of smaller players. While the Mountain View, Calif., giant sells ads on its own site, it hasn't been in the business of selling and delivering ads to Web publishers.

Google will launch an ad-targeting service to Web publishers, which include AOL Time Warner's America Online and the Washington Post Co.'s WashingtonPost/Newsweek.com. With the program, consumers embarking on content searches via Google will receive ads relevant to their queries.

The move, announced March 4, comes as brands have increasingly turned to search engines for their Web marketing. "Search, in many ways, is the ultimate targeting medium," said Dakota Sullivan, VP-marketing, LookSmart. "As a marketer, you're trying to get in front of people. With search, they're coming looking for you. It's the perfect combination of massive scale and absolute precision."

Internet analysts say marketers are finding that search is an efficient media buy because they're paying only for the people who actually click and go to their Web site. Search makes sense for commerce and transaction-oriented marketers. "It's becoming more important to certain advertisers in the media buy, advertisers looking to drive purchase, sign-ups for information, fulfillment and driving an immediate action," said Adam Gerber, director-media strategy, The Digital Edge, a unit of WPP Group. Search doesn't work as well for marketers looking to buff their brand image. "BMW Films couldn't have been done via a heavy search campaign," he added. AdAge.com QwikFIND aao49e

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