NYC's i33 Agency Hopes Live Ad Units Can Monetize 'Living Search Engine'

  |  October 10, 2007   |  Comments

Plan calls for creating banners that initiate chats with company reps.

New York interactive agency i33 is developing "live ad units," banner ads through which company representatives will answer questions about products and services fielded by users of a new Web site called Attendi.com.

The live chat ad units are one of several methods i33 and Attendi.com plan to use in monetizing the site, billed as a "living search engine," a site where people can search for others willing to share information and advice. Attendi.com is the brainchild of i33 Chairman Drew Rayman and i33 is doing the site development.

"It's based on the idea that he'd been toying around with for a new type of search capability," said i33 President and CEO David Levin. "There's a lot of expertise in the marketplace that isn't really searchable. He came up with this idea for Attendi, (pronounced "attendee") a search engine to help you when you're looking for complex information."

The site is a mixture of Web 2.0 technology, social networking, chat, and search. "Most social networking sites focus on who you know," said Levin. "We focus on what you know."

The first advertising to appear on the site will be standard Google AdWords. "But, over time, we're going to be building in some very unique advertising capabilities," promised Levin. The first will be the live ad units.

He said a person searching for information on a topic will not only be presented with the names and profiles of regular people – "Attendis" (pronounced "attendees") -- claiming to be knowledgeable but also with names of "sponsored Attendis," representing companies and willing to offer their services. Levin said the company reps will be clearly highlighted as being sponsored.

The live ad units would be separately displayed on the pages. "Most likely they will be typical type banners in standard ad size units," said Levin. Clicking on the banner will initiate the chat session. The concept sounds very similar to live, in-banner video chats initiated last year by IBM but Levin said i33 is not, at least initially, going to use video. He said Attendi presents advertisers with people who actually are searching for assistance makes it unique.

"There are advertising unit capabilities that embed live chat technology into ad banners," said Levin. "The difference is... we are going to be able to serve the ad unit based on when somebody raised their hand." Levin said Attendi will need to grow before corporate sponsors will be willing to provide personnel to field the live ad program. "The live ad unit does require us to reach a certain presence as far as users," he said. Additionally, i33 is considering "extending out" Attendi to other platforms, including mobile, and wants to offer "widgets and stuff that will create other revenue."

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