IAR Bits and Bytes

Unilever Taps MSN For Hellmann’s Summer Promotion

Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft’s Web portal MSN will serve as the cornerstone for a new online marketing effort from Anglo-Dutch consumer packaged goods giant Unilever.

Through a new agreement between the two, MSN will promote Hellmann’s/Best Foods new pourable salad dressings on its network. A new “Click Here to Refresh” campaign designed by MSN is aimed at helping women refresh their minds, bodies and souls this summer with fresh tips and tricks for healthy living — in part, by pushing Hellmann’s salad dressings.

The campaign consists of “living courses” on MSN WomenCentral — three, live Webcast events hosted by undisclosed, but “well-known healthy cooking consultants.” The courses will offer self-improvement tips to maintain a healthy lifestyle, and improve women’s minds, bodies and souls through food. Following each course, the celebrity host will participate in a chat on MSN.

The live courses and subsequent chats will be Webcast on June 20, July 26 and Aug. 23.

MSN also created a co-branded content area in MSN WomenCentral to promote the courses, offer consumer product information about Hellmann’s/Best Foods Salad Dressings and promote the “Bring Out Your Best” consumer contest, the capstone of the summer campaign.

Hellmann’s will use offline marketing and advertising to direct online users to visit the “Bring Out Your Best” site, where visitors can nominate women who strive to bring out the best in themselves, their family or their community.

24/7 Media Offers Superstitial Network

New York-based ad server 24/7 Media is offering network buys of rich media interstitials, through an arrangement with Alley ad firm Unicast.

24/7 Media’s new Superstitial ad network is comprised of about 40 North American sites that support Unicast’s Superstitial ad format, and which have agreed to offer excess inventory through a network media buy — similarly to the way 24/7 Media, DoubleClick and others sell their banner networks.

Publishers of the Superstitial Network are existing sites represented by 24/7 Media’s Network sales force, and include AT&T, Women’s Forum and Knight Ridder’s Real Cities. All told, the sites generate nearly a billion impressions monthly and represent 32 percent of all impressions on its banner network, 24/7 Media said.

The new network is an outgrowth of a deal struck last year between Unicast and 24/7 Media.

“On average, the Superstitial campaigns generate a 200 percent higher response rate for advertisers,” said Will Tifft, vice president and general manager of the 24/7 Network, which oversees the new Superstitial network. “As a result, 24/7 Media has created a stand-alone network of consumer destination sites to attract Unicast’s more traditional advertisers and also make the buying process simpler and quicker.”

To encourage publishers to join the new network, 24/7 Media said it plans to launch an “aggressive” internal sales effort this week.

Engage, Dow Jones Offer Electronic Tearsheets

Venerable business publisher Dow Jones will begin offering advertisers electronic tearsheets through a deal with Andover, Mass.-based Engage, which is majority owned by CMGI.

It’s the latest effort by the ad network to lessen its dependence on pure Internet advertising revenues. And, the companies say, it will help to reform an outdated business practice. According to Engage, the electronic tearsheets will provide an alternative to what it described as the costly and “often ineffective” process of delivering newspaper copies to advertisers to confirm that ads have run.

Using Engage’s Content Server software, Dow Jones now offers advertisers Web access to electronic copies of advertisements they have run in The Wall Street Journal or Barron’s. From a PC, ad reps and clients can view the published page containing their ads, eliminating the need for a printed copy.

The process thus eliminates the storage, postage, and labor costs associated with traditional tearsheets.

Using Engage’s workflow software, The Wall Street Journal also allows advertisers to submit their ads over the Internet, check on the ad’s status during publication, receive email updates as the material is processed, see a proof of the ad before it is published and — now — obtain online proof of publication.

Dow Jones said it plans to roll out the e-tearsheets to its European and Asian editions as well as The Wall Street Journal Sunday, by the end of the summer.

In other Engage news, the company also announced a new ASP service called PromoManager, whcih allows e-commerce sites to create and manage targeted promotional and discount offers.

Engage said it would begin shipping PromoManager in July.

Akamai to Handle Ad Serving Caching

I-shop Boston Media Corporation will begin using Akamai Technologies to help deliver advertising content to Web users.

By caching online media on Akamai’s Web servers — which are located throughout the Internet infrastructure — Boston Media aims to make it quicker for users to receive ads.

Boston Media serves about 300 million ads per day, according to CEO Michael Lennon.

The company said it would use Akamai’s content delivery service for distribution of ads and sponsorship content through its Shoxygen Sports Marketing division, which operates a sports-focused online ad network.

Digital:Convergence Slims Down, Looks for Funding

Dallas-based technology firm Digital:Convergence, best known for its :CueCat handheld barcode scanner, slimmed down drastically last week in an effort to save cash while it looks for financing.

A spokesperson told internetnews.com that the company cut the majority of its employees — slimming down to about 20 or 30 from close to 200.

However, the spokesperson said that about 130 employees continue to work as unpaid consultants.

“Like many companies in the current market, we found it necessary to slow our expansion plans,” she added.

Digital:Convergence makes hardware and software for advertisers to embed codes — called “Cues” — in print and TV ads, which links to related URLs. Last year, the company had planned to IPO, but with the floundering public markets and a pullback in private venture capital, it’s strapped for cash.

“What we’re hoping for is that we’ll secure funding or finalize some negotiations that we’re in, and that we’ll be able to bring back employees that were affected,” she added. Those negotiations are for permanent financing or a strategic relationship or merger.

In the meantime, the spokesperson said Digital:Convergence is focused on maintaining relationships with its current clients, which include Verizon Information Systems (the yellow-page publishing arm of the communications giant) and NBC (which recently announced a deal with Digital:Convergence to add codes to a network promotion).

“We’re not out selling,” she said. “We’re keeping payroll to keep our current level of client service. NBC will continue its NBC IQ promotion … and there are new Cues coming out in Verizon phone books. All of that will work. The technology will go on.”

“We see this as temporary, and that we’re optimistic that additional financing will be secured and the employees that were affected will be reinstated,” she added.

Earlier this year, the company cut an undisclosed number from its staff, which then numbered about 300.

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