New service tracks Web competitors

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Imagine having the ability to know what your competitors advertised last week on the Web, how much they spent and where they spent it--all at the click of a mouse.

AdRelevance, a Seattle start-up, will introduce this real-time service Sept. 7.

The results, at least in the service's test phase, don't necessarily track with data from other sources, the latest reminder to proceed with caution in evaluating all Internet data. The ad spending is at best a rough estimate.

AdRelevance, founded by President-CEO and ex-agency executive Will Hodgman, collects its information from servers around the country that cache, or store for quick retrieval, pages from Web sites. That can give AdRelevance quicker turnaround than services such as Media Metrix and Nielsen/NetRatings that rely on panels of PC users. The new service, however, doesn't offer a demographic breakdown. Mr. Hodgman sees AdRelevance as a complement to existing services.

AdRelevance will allow subscribers to track impressions, call up banner ads and see spending for companies and products in nine industries, including automotive, computer and financial services.


It's up to advertisers to decide whom to believe.

AdRelevance, for example, counted 14 million IBM Corp. ad impressions in June on 11 sites on which IBM spent $350,000. Nielsen/NetRatings found a smaller number--about 5.4 million IBM impressions with messages on seven major sites.

NetRatings tracks only home use while AdRelevance tracks use at home and at businesses. None of the 11 AdRelevance sites appeared on NetRatings' record of major sites for IBM ads.

The spending estimate also appears low; IBM this year plans to spend about $3.75 million a month on North American Web ads.

Mr. Hodgman noted his service is undergoing "calibration" prior tformal launch. AdRelevance, which will target ad agencies, marketers and Web sites for its service, will charge basic annual fees of $25,000-$100,000.

New York-based agencies OgilvyOne and iDeutsch as well as Avenue A are part of the test. Avenue A, a Seattle-based Web media buying company, is using AdRelevance for clients such as computer marketer Gateway.

"This is another element of data that gives our clients a competitive edge" by showing what rivals are doing on an almost real-time basis, said Mike Leo, Avenue A VP-sales.

Mr. Leo said AdRelevance spending data, based on ad rate cards, "is totally questionable." But in noting Competitive Media Reporting's InterMedia Advertising Solutions has released no 1999 spending data, he said he's happy to see AdRelevance enter the field.

InterMedia President Joe Philport declined comment.

Allen Weiner, NetRatings' VP-analytical services, questioned the ability to accurately track spending in a market reliant on barter, discounting and partnerships. But he said the service will be "a good metric" of additional information.

Copyright August 1999, Crain Communications Inc.

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