AT&T Jumps in Pay-Per-Call Game with Ingenio Acquisition

AT&T has agreed to buy pay-per-call tech firm Ingenio to build its performance-based ad services for increasingly ROI-focused advertiser clients.

“Businesses are starting to look for more performance-based advertising options, and this fulfills that need,” said AT&T Spokesperson Rolf Gatlin, noting Ingenio’s pay-per-call technology is the primary reason for the acquisition.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed, though Gatlin said, “It is in line with the recent similar-sized transactions we’ve made.” AT&T recently completed a $121 million acquisition of Internet Protocol-based voice, Web and video conferencing services firm Interwise.

Once the Ingenio deal closes, the telecom giant will begin rolling out pay-per-call services to its yellow pages clients. “We’ll be trialing it and testing the service across all of our directories businesses… online, mobile and print,” said Gatlin.

AT&T plans to integrate Ingenio’s products with its current roster of directory services including YellowPages.com Network, AT&T Real Yellow Pages and 1-800-Yellow Pages. YellowPages.com President and CEO Charles Stubbs will oversee Ingenio once the purchase is finalized, most likely in early January. “We don’t think this deal will require special or unique restrictions,” said Gatlin, referring to regulatory reviews. Ingenio management is expected to stay on, he added.

It is too early to say whether AT&T will continue serving Ingenio’s clients, said Gatlin. AOL, along with directory publisher competitors Go2, Dex and SmartPages.com, employ Ingenio’s pay-per-call services.

AT&T has ramped up efforts in free directory assistance and mobile in the past year. The company launched its ad-supported 1-800-YellowPages service through a partnership with mobile ad firm Apptera in December 2006.

Also in the mobile arena, Ingenio enabled ad-supported SMS-based directory assistance text messaging through a partnership with UpSNAP last year.

Because the pay-per-call system does not require click-through to a Web site to interact with consumers, the new acquisition could help AT&T coax advertisers without Web sites to extend directory advertising buys online.

“A company that doesn’t have a Web site can still use this service online,” said Gatlin, noting advertisers will be able to purchase pay-per-call driven leads across Web, mobile and print media.

UPDATE:Gatlin clarified his statement regarding whether AT&T will continue serving Ingenio’s clients once the deal is closed. “We will work quickly to ensure a smooth transition for Ingenio’s customers,” he wrote ClickZ News in an e-mail. “Over time, as the businesses integrate, Ingenio’s customers will enjoy greater reach through AT&T’s extensive distribution network and access to a wider array of advertising products and services.”

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