Real Media to Launch U.K. E-mail Product

Ad rep and serving firm Real Media said it plans to take tentative steps in entering the permission marketing business with the launch of an email product out of its U.K. office.

Real Media Mail will use Real Media’s Open AdStream ad management technology to deliver targeted, rich media banners to Real Media’s publisher email network. The company already reps a number of list publishers, but the product will now allow the company to serve those ads as well.

Real Media UK’s London-based executives are hopeful for the product’s success. Having always been somewhat overlooked and underutilized as an online marketing tool, marketers are beginning to view email with renewed interest, as Web banner ads’ efficacy fall into question, with banner advertising’s predominant cost-per-thousand model also coming under scrutiny. And, to some extent, since Europe still lags behind the U.S. in email’s popularity among marketers, it could prove an easier region in which to gain a competitive foothold.

“Real Media Mail will position Real Media at the forefront of the thriving online direct marketing industry,” said Jason Keane, the company’s European media manager. “The product will provide our publishers with a robust email marketing solution that will naturally integrate with Open AdStream to deliver targeted ads on behalf of permission marketers.”

The launch of an email product means also that Real Media looks like it’s coming off the sidelines, as many competing online ad networks have within the past year launched, bought, or made moves to acquire email marketing units of their own.

So while an email product will help it tap into a hot sector in a growing market, the news means that Real Media will go head-to-head with not only competing ad networks-turned-all-in-one-shops like DoubleClick and 24/7 Media, but email marketing pure-plays like TargitMail, ClickAction and CMGI’s yesmail.com.

But Real Media chairman Dave Morgan said the company intentionally held off releasing an email product to study how the domestic market played out.

“We had been waiting to see how things shook out to get a better sense of where Web site owners will take it … and to see the kinds of products marketers want,” Morgan said. “There are a lot of questions, and we wanted to understand how they would be resolved: who are the players, whether it would be ASP or enterprise software tools, how privacy was going to matter.”

The European roll out for Real Media Mail is scheduled for early 2001, with an initial U.K. product launch in January. Morgan said that an announcement about a U.S. product could come sometime during first quarter. The company frequently tries out new products in single markets before making them available globally, he added.

Real Media said messaging solutions technology firm Frontwire will provide delivery services for Real Media Mail, through a deal also announced Thursday.

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