NetGravity investigates discussion list claims

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As it prepares to launch an initial public offering, ad serving company NetGravity is investigating claims of poor customer service posted May 19 to the widely read Online Ads Discussion List. The posting, by Steve Ikadians, who identified himself as a NetGravity customer of unknown company affiliation, said, "We feel as though we are stuck with software that no one is using and we constantly are paying [for] substandard support."

Immediately after the posting was made, NetGravity, several of whose employees are members of the o-a discussion list, started investigating the claim and found no Mr. Ikadians on its customer service database. "When anybody posts anything negative about our company, especially about service and support, we want to follow up," said Rick Jackson, VP-marketing at NetGravity. He said NetGravity has confirmed Mr. Ikadians is not a customer, but declined to comment further, noting that the company is in the quiet period before its IPO.

Upon further investigation, o-a list moderator Richard Hoy discovered the posting was made from the site of a NetGravity competitor, though he declined to name the site.

The episode highlights the influence of online discussion lists, a key source of information for ad industry executives and companies that monitor the lists for customer service and marketing issues.

Mr. Hoy, who initially required list members to include their company affiliation when registering, said many members balked at this. "People from Procter & Gamble Co. [for example] said, "I don't want to put the full affiliation because it looks like my company is supporting my position, when they're not'."

Instead, the list requires a valid e-mail address. While Mr. Ikadians' address is valid, he joined the list only shortly before making the post. Attempts to reach Mr. Ikadians by e-mail were unsuccessful.

Copyright May 1998, Crain Communications Inc.

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