IAR Bits and Bytes

AMA Pans MSN Ad

The American Medical Association is at odds with Microsoft and its MSN portal over what the physicians’ group says is a “dangerous” promotion.

The AMA’s complaint arises from MSN’s “Back to School” shopping area, featured prominently on the portal’s home page.

Like many e-tailers, MSN is aiming to capitalize on the rush for supplies for the students returning to classes in the fall. But among the computers, clothes, and Harry Potter school books, MSN featured a “care package” suite of recommended products, including a microbrew kit and a book entitled “Beer Drinking Games” — products that led to the AMA’s chairman-elect, J. Edward Hill, to fire off missives to MSN officials.

In Hill’s letters to MSN operations vice president Rex Smith and e-services vice president Lindsay Sparks, he described the ads as “dangerous” and “objectionable,” and the effort as “extremely misguided.”

“Drinking on college campuses is a major issue facing young people, physicians, parents and college administrators. For that reason, I was stunned earlier this week to see a ‘microbrew kit’ and the book Beer Drinking Games advertised under the banner ‘CARE packages: what to send your homesick student.”

Added Hill in the letter, “the AMA recognizes that alcohol is a legal product for adults, but marketing alcohol for a ‘care package’ in the same cyber-breath as Harry Potter notebooks and makeup demonstrates a lack of judgment and failure to appreciate the seriousness of the underage-drinking problem.”

Microsoft said the items were pulled in favor of less controversial wares, and that as a matter of policy it takes great caution to market products to the appropriate audiences.

“We appreciated the AMA calling those items to our attention … it appears an error was made,” said an MSN spokesperson, who added that the site apologizes to any consumers offended by the promotion.

AdSociety, AdLINK Ally

Pacific Century Cyberwork’s Asian ad network AdSociety will gain additional exposure to the European market through a reciprocal sales deal with AdLINK Internet Media AG.

Montabaur, Germany-based AdLINK, which reps about 550 sites in Europe, gains access to AdSociety’s network of 1,300 sites through the arrangement — giving the German firm the ability to offer advertisers greater reach and new demographic segments.

Meanwhile, Hong Kong-based AdSociety said the agreement should help it move closer to becoming a truly global ad network. The company has similar deals in North America with L90 and B2BWorks, while in Australiasia it has agreements with online media subsidiaries of Dentsu, Korea Telecom and IconMediaLab.

YellowPages.com Taps MyWay

Online directory YellowPages.com is using MyWay.com’s technology in a bid to make its offerings more appealing to advertisers and consumers.

San Francisco-based MyWay, which is majority owned by Internet holding company CMGI, provides outsourced technology for business directories.

YellowPages said its site, now using the technology, should make its advertisers more appealing to consumers, and easier to find. Using MyWay’s software, the site said it has implemented better search capabilities — in addition to integrating MyWay’s own national listings, which add more phone numbers and maps to YellowPage’s offerings.

Aptimus Announces Buyback

Seattle-based online marketer Aptimus is offering $0.48 per share to buy back its stock, in a bid to stave off delisting from NASDAQ.

The company said that it’s aiming to purchase up to 10.75 million shares through the transaction — or 85 percent of its outstanding shares. The company said it would fund the share purchase, which could ultimately total $5.1 million, with its existing cash reserves and short-term investments. (The company had about $15.6 million in cash and marketable securities as of March.)

The offer represents a premium over the stock’s $0.24 per share average during the ten prior days of trading.

Commencement of the tender offer is expected to occur in early September, following completion of the required regulatory arrangements.

Aptimus management said the decision to make a tender offer came following “many months of consideration” by executives, board members and advisors.

“The past year has been extremely challenging,” said Aptimus chairman and chief executive Tim Choate. “We continue to believe in the power and efficiency of the Internet solution we provide to our direct marketing clients … yet, we anticipate that some of our shareholders may feel differently. We thus believe that the best course of action for our shareholders is to offer them their own choice for the future. Shareholders can choose to either sell their shares now at a substantial premium or keep them and share in a future that we continue to believe will be successful.”

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