Vibrant Media plans to offer an enhanced version of its controversial IntelliTXT contextual keyword targeting product that will include product images and company logos, ClickZ News has learned.
According to sources close to the company, Vibrant Media recently began a beta test of IntelliTXT Plus, which it plans to launch in the next quarter. The images will appear in the "tool tip" displayed when a user mouses over certain keywords within the content of a page. Keywords are marked with a double green underline.
Potential applications of IntelliTXT Plus are adding a company logo for a branding effect, or showing the image of a product alongside the text offer, for a direct-response campaign.
The original IntelliTXT ads are text-only and mostly used for direct response, according to Vibrant Media CEO Doug Stevenson.
IntelliTXT has drawn fire from some critics who say it crosses the line between editorial and advertising. Earlier this month, Forbes.com stopped showing IntelliTXT ads on the news pages of its site. The ads will continue to appear on certain informational pages like company profiles, which are not editorially driven. It had been experimenting since August with placing the ads in different areas of its site, but made the move to appease its editorial staff's concerns, according to Jim Spanfeller, Forbes.com president and CEO.
"While the general feedback was more positive than negative, our editorial staff was uncomfortable with the concept, and we therefore decided not to continue placing these ads in any staff-generated content at this point in time," Spanfeller said.
Vibrant advises against placing its ads on a home page or on breaking news pages, since targeting ads to those pages would be difficult due to the variety of subjects covered on the same page. Instead, it suggests placing the ads on pages with more targeted content, so that Vibrant's contextual matching process can be most effective.
Microsoft has advertised with IntelliTXT ads for more than two years, and has not seen any consumer backlash, according to Jason Tsai, media director at Microsoft's agency, Universal McCann.
"We're very sensitive to that sort of thing. We don't do pop-ups for Microsoft, for example. If we ever got complaints about it not being transparent, we'd stop using it," Tsai said. "The addition of a logo should make it even clearer to users, in addition to giving a branding effect."
Tsai rates the effectiveness of IntelliTXT ads on a direct-response scale above banners, and approaching search, which he calls the "ultimate DR killer app."
Other advertisers have not seen the stellar results that Tsai mentioned. When Avenue A/Razorfish turned to IntelliTXT in October for a major telecom brand's direct response campaign, the advertiser was disappointed with the results, and cancelled the planned one-year run after just a month, according to Lisa Bronson, media supervisor at the agency.
"It was great originally. The CPC was set lower than what we usually average out for a search campaign, and there seemed to be a decent amount of inventory. But we got a ton of clicks and no conversions," Bronson said. "Our feeling was that it was too much of a novelty. It's a really interesting concept, but it seems that consumers aren't used to seeing advertising served in that manner, or they're not in the frame of mind to purchase."
Stevenson claims the company has heard few if any complaints from publishers and advertisers who have used IntelliTXT. He says a one percent churn rate and stable click-through rates show that it is an effective ad vehicle.
"It takes time for some people to get used to a new idea. When GoTo [now Yahoo's Overture] first launched paid search, people objected. Now, it's the standard model," Stevenson said.
Other publishers choose to run IntelliTXT ads throughout their site. AskMen.com, for example, welcomes the opportunity to gain additional revenue from its entertainment and informational content, which is more commercially focused than news sites like Forbes.com.
"We brought this to our editorial staff, and they didn't see an issue," said AskMen.com VP Ashkan Karbasfrooshan. "Their biggest concern was that the ads be targeted, and so far they have been."
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Kevin Newcomb joined ClickZ in August 2004, covering search marketing and other online marketing topics. He has been reporting on web-based businesses since 2000.
Before the bubble burst, Kevin was a marketing manager for an online computer reseller, handling copywriting, e-mail marketing, search marketing and running the affiliate program.
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