College Web ad networks compete for marketers

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As the online market for 18-to-24-year-olds expands, college ad networks are busy locking up relationships with Web site publishers and marketers.

One major player is Future Pages, a college online newspaper broker based in St. Paul, Minn., that brokers ads for 98 online college publications across the country, reaching a potential student body of 1.8 million, including Arizona State University, the University of Michigan and Ohio State University.

In May, music site SonicNet launches an online effort on the Future Pages network targeted to students before they leave for vacation.

"It's just a great fit," said Scott Bonn, exec VP-advertising sales and marketing at SonicNet. Future Pages' reach of college online newspapers is "consistent with our plan to really penetrate the college market over the next six weeks."


A new Future Pages client, Mr. Bonn said he was impressed with the universities in its network.

Future Pages, which sells banners for $40 per thousand impressions, has recently done a campaign for Encyclopaedia Britannica and formed an informal relationship with Brand Dialogue, Young & Rubicam's new-media unit.

Angelina Kwok, senior account manager at Brand Dialogue, has said she would consider the ad network for online college promotions for any of its clients, which include Andersen Consulting Co., Citibank and Dr Pepper/Seven Up Inc.

"There are a couple of companies out there that claim they have relationships with newspapers," Ms. Kwok said. But Future Pages "seems to be really helping these college newspaper sites get off the ground."

And Ms. Kwok sees the online college newspaper as an increasingly important part of student life.

A former directory for small business Web sites, Future Pages shifted its focus to college newspaper sites and a year ago launched its online network. It's focused on educating sites about everything from how to track ads and data to how to improve their Web sites by adding features like online classifieds, business directories and chat rooms.

If advertisers want to place print ads, Future Pages refers them to print ad network American Passage.

"We wanted to be a one-stop solutions resource," said Tom Borgerding, VP-marketing and sales. And even though American Passage has announced it is now placing online media, he said until it starts threatening to take away clients, Future Pages won't change its relationship with the company.

Another contender in the marketplace is Student Advantage, the Boston company that has built a discount network with 1.5 million student members and 15,000 local merchants nationally. It recently acquired on-campus promotional company Collegiate Advantage, as well as Web sites, including online community Main Quad and college news service U-Wire.

Last week the company launched a redesigned Web site to reflect the new content and services, said Mason Myers, general manager of Student Advantage Network.


Mr. Myers said Student Advantage expects to finalize a partnership with two national college sites shortly, and that by third quarter it will start selling media for college online newspapers. Mr. Myers said its relationship with sites like U-Wire, which draws on hundreds of universities for its news, will help it, as well as its experience with marketers like AT&T, Intel Corp. and Sony Corp.

"We're going to be competing directly with [Future Pages] in a few months," Mr. Myers said.

Brand Dialogue's Ms. Kwok thinks both networks have a role, but doesn't view them as competing. Future Pages is her choice for a network of college newspaper sites, she said, whereas Student Advantage's forte is in direct marketing.

Future Pages' Mr. Borgerding doesn't see rivalry either. Student Advantage is "a great company and they're going to be very strong, but we're very different from them," he said. "I'm guessing there's going to be a lot of competition within this college group come fall."

Copyright April 1998, Crain Communications Inc.

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