INTERACTIVE;NEW TOOLS MAKE IT EASIER TO BUY WEB ADS;AS NUMBER OF MEDIA SITES SWELL, PRODUCTS TO HELP TARGET AUDIENCE WIN AGENCY FAVOR

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The challenge facing media planners on the Web will soon shift from finding sites on which to advertise to knowing which tools to use for help.

Focalink Communications, a Palo Alto, Calif.-based new-media company, today introduces MarketMatch, a product that allows advertisers to better determine which sites meet their target audience (http://www.marketmatch.com). In test through yearend, MarketMatch is being used by San Francisco agencies Hal Riney & Partners, Anderson & Lembke, Young & Rubicam and J. Walter Thompson USA, among others.

AGENCIES GUIDING DEVELOPMENT

"Incorporating exactly what agencies want is part of our core strategy," said Dave Zinman, VP-sales and marketing at Focalink. "What better way to develop a product than to ask future users exactly what it is they want and need?"

Focalink also recently introduced SmartBanner, an ad management tool that allows agencies to serve and track clients' ads on Web sites.

Although the 20-plus agencies currently testing MarketMatch aren't yet paying for it, annual subscription fees are expected to range between $5,000 and $10,000.

Focalink has formed an alliance with the McKinley Group to use the ratings and site descriptions of its online guide Magellan as part of the content criteria in MarketMatch. Additionally, Fo-calink is expected to announce a similar alliance with a market research company that will provide psychographic descriptions of various Web site audiences.

"With the Web, zeroing in on segments is difficult. Advertisers don't know if they're reaching people from Yankee Stadium or Comiskey Park," said Ron Kovas, Focalink's president.

Based on specific criteria selected by the planner during an online search, MarketMatch will generate a list of Web sites. MarketMatch offers ad rates, contact information, traffic data, brief content descriptions and Magellan ratings.

Users can download information into Excel or other spreadsheet programs to generate reports for different clients.

"After having just done an exhaustive analysis for my client Saturn, I know a tool like MarketMatch can save us a lot of time," said Mark Thomas, VP-media research at Riney. "It can also be used as a leveraging tool and help to put agencies and sites on equal footing."

OTHERS OFFER SIMILAR TOOLS

Focalink isn't the only company hoping to help agencies buy more efficiently on the Web.

New York-based WebTrack Information Services, DoubleClick and i-traffic also offer simi- lar services.

i-traffic ( http:// www. i-traffic .com) this week will announce it's spinning its Traffic Resource product off as a separate company called The Traffic Resource. Derrick Chen, formerly a VP at i-traffic, will be president of the new company.

The Traffic Resource also soon expects to incorporate information from third parties to fit into its media planning tool, like site reviews and other advertising opportunities like keyword searches and Web-based networks.

The Resource includes information on cost, content, traffic and specific whereabouts of banner placement opportunities on sites.

Agencies pay $750 and up per quarter to use the service; it's believed upwards of 25 are currently paying to use the tool.

"The Traffic Resource lives and breathes in an office that focuses on online advertising and planning," said Scott Heiferman, founder of i-traffic. "But we don't want the Traffic Resource to become distracted with other agency services."

i-traffic handles creation and media planning of online advertising for clients including Duracell, Discovery Channel, Hearst HomeArts and Cox Communications.

John Kane, VP-associate director of new technologies at Y&R, has used both the Traffic Resource and MarketMatch.

"Even though MarketMatch is just launching now, it seems like a second-generation product because of the homework Focalink did in developing it," said Mr. Kane. "I think MarketMatch is a more comprehensive tool that allows me to conduct very sophisticated searches. It's a very powerful tool."

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