AltaVista to Resell Unicast Ads

Web search engine AltaVista becomes the first domestic search engine to resell Unicast’s rich media interstitial ads through a deal announced Wednesday.

Unicast’s Superstitial ads load in the background while a user is viewing a Web page, and then pop up in a separate box when the user begins to go to another page.

AltaVista will accept and resell the Superstitial ad format as part of the company’s standard advertising offerings.

The deal comes after AltaVista began running several Superstitials through a special deal with Unicast and advertiser Rock The Vote. The companies said clickthroughs on the ads topped 21 percent.

“Accepting Unicast’s Superstitial brings us new incremental ad inventory and provides our advertisers with a dynamic platform to communicate with millions of AltaVista users worldwide,” said AltaVista vice president of sales David Karnstedt.

The AltaVista agreement is big news for Unicast, which competes in the rich media interstitial space against rivals like Net-Mercial.

AltaVista, which is in the process of repositioning itself away from a full-service Internet portal and more as a search engine, is beefing up public and b2b awareness of its search capabilities. The site handles more than 50 million search queries daily — giving Unicast a lot of potential inventory to cover.

“Increasingly, technically advanced Web sites such as AltaVista are taking aggressive steps to offer their advertisers the types of formats needed to effectively message their brands online,” said Unicast chairman and chief executive Richard Hopple.

“Advertisers crave formats like the Superstitial because they have the ability to convey powerful, emotional messages that get noticed online and that complement their offline efforts.”

Unicast also has pacts with DoubleClick, Engage, 24/7 Media and other ad networks to carry and serve ads in the Superstitial format.

DoubleClick previously sold inventory on AltaVista; the companies in August announced they would be parting ways in a gradual ramping down, with AltaVista to handle all of its own sales by 2004.

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