Search within banners: Two new platforms

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A new type of banner ad that allows Web users to conduct searches within the ad unit itself may be worth a look by b-to-b marketers wanting better-qualified prospects to come to their sites. Chitika’s eMiniMalls and Inoventiv Corp.’s Search&Display rich media ad units deliver a new type of ad capability to the marketplace—ads that allow prospects to find information on products and services without leaving the site they’re on.

According to a November 2005 report by Martin Nyberg of Borrell Associates, part of what will drive in-ad search is the ever-increasing number of sites owned by advertisers that offer an inventory database. These sites, which include recruitment and trading sites, can put their entire inventory directly in front of prospects using the new ad units.

The appeal of the new units is that they promise a way to builds a relationship between prospect and advertiser, rather than the broad results provided by a regular search or even on a vertical b-to-b engine.

Chitika and Inoventiv’s offerings are similar but have several important differences.

Chitika’s ads appear on targeted sites with product pictures, prices and tabs that expand to provide more details when moused over. A product summary is given along with a search box to look for similar products directly through the ad.

Inoventiv’s ads act more like search engines where prospects can search the advertiser’s database of products or information through the ad, which the advertiser must provide. A site for industrial supplies might show an ad for related trade magazines and content, for example, which could be searched from the ad without leaving the original site. This searchable database can be content, products, or services in rich media format.

What do the new ad units offer b-to-b marketers? “The biggest advantage with these is that they offer a different type of ad unit beyond the traditional text link ad,” said Forrester Research principal analyst Charlene Li.

“In the case of eMiniMalls, b-to-b publishers can feature a specific product that’s relevant to its audience, or let Chitika figure out what to put in the right place. The potential may be limited for b-to-b publishers and marketers primarily because it’s more of a direct response mechanism targeting the purchase end of the marketing funnel, whereas most b-to-b activity tends to be focused on the research and consideration phase.”

If Li is right, Inoventiv’s entry could prove more useful in the b-to-b space.

There are no known b-to-b adopters of either Inoventiv’s or Chitika’s offering. However, Inoventiv President-CEO John Marshall is optimistic about the potential, pointing to some success on the consumer side. “By allowing prospective buyers to search and retrieve requested information within the ad unit, Search&Display qualifies the business user while at the same time effectively enhancing the brand’s campaign,” Marshall said.

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