Zagat Embraces Mobile With Ad-Supported Zagat.mobi

Zagat Survey has launched its first ad-supported Web site for mobile devices, a platform it believes will be a primary way to serve, and advertise to, “affluent and engaged” customers.

The site, Zagat.mobi, is sponsored at launch by the entertainment- and dining-themed Visa Signature credit card, which appears in clickable banner ads on the new mobile presence. Visa Signature will be the exclusive advertiser on Zagat.mobi for the first two months.

Zagat spokesman Michael Mahle said the ads for Visa Signature, consisting of just a logo, appear on every page viewed by those directing their mobile devices to Zagat.mobi. “If they decide to do secondary search, there will be a banner ad there as well,” said Mahle.

The sale and management of advertising on the new site is being handled by Interep Interactive’s Winstar Interactive Media, which landed the Visa deal, said Zagat Web and Wireless Product Manager Dan Entin. AOL subsidiary Third Screen Media is also involved in selling ads for the new site.

Entin said Zagat prefers simple and clean ads, such as the banner logo being used by Visa Signature. “We like to keep it consistent and it’s less jarring for the consumer” than animated or more complex ads would be, said Entin. However, he noted Visa has the option to change the ad “at any time.” Those who click on the Visa ads land on a “couple-page” mobile Web site set up by Visa that offers a bit more information about the Signature card.

Mobile services player Starcut helped Zagat design the new Zagat.mobi site, which features Zagat restaurant, nightlife and hotel content for all major U.S. cities, London and other select international destinations. In a statement announcing Zagat.mobi’s launch, Zagat co-founder and co-chair Nina Zagat said the company has “taken a ‘platform agnostic’ approach to helping consumers make smart decisions” by making its content available in many forms.

The mobile site differs from the company’s main Web site, ZAGAT.com and from its $30-per-year ZAGAT TO GO smartphone software, said Mahle. It is optimized for quick display on all Web-enabled mobile devices, offering free access to restaurant, nightlife and hotel information. Mobile-friendly features include links for directions, movie times, airlines and other information as well as the ability to use SMS to communicate with friends, said Zagat. Mahle said ZAGAT.com subscribers will be able to view Zagat ratings and reviews of businesses.

In announcing Zagat.mobi, Zagat said it believes mobile sites and content will be among the fastest growing media segments during the next five years. “We are seeing, in the last year or so, a slew of major publishers and content providers like ourselves launching similar sites,” said Entin. “We are seeing more and more consumers using … their phones to browse the Web. The business model for those Web sites is going to be advertising.”

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