Yesterday I was able to speak to Advance Internet President Peter Weinberger about the just announced ads deal Microsoft. The company operates 37 newspaper sites and the deal concerns only Advance Internet and those newspaper sites, not its Conde Nast Digital division or its other publications and media properties.
As part of the deal Microsoft will provide the contextual ads (and replace Google’s AdSense) for the Advance newspaper sites. But it’s a holistic arrangement: Advance reps will be selling search marketing and display ads across Microsoft’s network. Weinberger said the company was especially excited about retargeting (behavioral targeting) and reach into the broad network of Microsoft sites. He said the deal had been in process well before the Microsoft-Yahoo! search deal was announced and that didn’t factor into Advance’s decision in any way.
My principal reason for speaking with Advance was to gain insight into the rationale behind the decision; why did the company go with Microsoft rather than Yahoo!? Weinberger said that the company wanted to keep its own platform. He added that from his point of view there’s a good deal of uncertainty in the ad serving market and the company didn’t want to commit to moving onto the Yahoo! APT platform at this point, as newspaper consortium members have had to do.
We then got into a discussion of Advance’s sales efforts at the local level. I asked who the target advertisers were: SMBs rather than traditional newspaper advertisers (e.g., retailers). I assumed they were using telephone sales, but I was told the company has feet on the street reps who sell search and display ads, now to include Microsoft’s reach. Advance said that it was working with “several vendors” to fulfill ad/search campaigns.
I raised the issue of SEM churn in the local space and Weinberger said that Advance was not seeing the same problem. He explained that the sales process for Advance focuses on building a relationship and on retaining the customer and drew a contrast with what he described as the “YP approach.” “It’s very high touch,” said Weinberger. The sales process is highly consultative he explained. The reps aren’t only selling SEM; they sell display as well both on and off the newspaper sites. All the creative is handled by Advance.
I didn’t challenge any of these statements and accepted them as accurate. Assuming so, Advance would seem to succeeding where others are struggling in the local space. Weinberger said that these ad products and the company’s consultative sales approach were helping it expand beyond its traditional advertiser base.