Overture to begin targeting Irish market

1 Oct 2003

Commercial search engine services company Overture, which is in the process of creating 250 new jobs in Dublin, has revealed that it is to launch its Irish-focused business after Christmas, targeting local businesses with its ‘pay for performance’ internet advertising service.

The company, which already employs over 100 people at its European headquarters at East Point Business Park, accounts for 50pc of the $2bn internet advertising market and was acquired by portal giant Yahoo! in July for €1.63bn. The company employs more than 1,400 people worldwide.

The managing director and president of the company’s European operations Nick Hynes, was in Dublin early this week to speak at the 5th Irish Internet Association Conference. He said that in line with the company’s plans to delve further into more localised markets, targeting cities and provinces with paid placement search engine advertising, the company was going to dedicate a team to the Irish market. “We already have the systems and processes in place so it makes sense,” he told siliconrepublic.com.

Established by IdeaLab founder Bill Gross in 1997, Overture pioneered commercial search by aligning the interests of consumers, its 88,000 active, paying advertisers and its distribution partners, including Yahoo!, MSN and CNN. The company offers a full suite of Internet search products and search-related services. In addition, the company operates the AltaVista.com and AlltheWeb.com websites. In recent months the company signed an extended agreement with Microsoft to provide advertising placement across all international MSN websites.

Effectively, Overture integrates advertisements into its searches and receives royalty payments from advertisers when a person performing a search clicks on a site.

Hynes went on to say: “We were here in Ireland and had the structures in place and can leverage existing editorial and online account management staff. The big advantage will be smaller Irish businesses. They can go online and start to actively promote products and services alongside bigger businesses. They can also target overseas markets like Germany, France or the US very simply. All they need is a €50 deposit to go online. Unlike traditional online banner advertising, our approach enables commerce to take place almost immediately.”

Hynes added: “Our big thing going forward will be content match advertising as well as developing local area-based advertising. For example, in targeting the UK market we will be developing solutions specific to cities like London, Birmingham or Manchester. If you think about the construction of locally based classified advertising, it is not unlike that of a search engine.

“The other big thing for us will be mobile-based content which we will develop over an XML-feed, making the locally focused segment of our business all the more compelling. We intend to make local relationships between businesses and users proximity-driven. For example, you may be looking to watch a good film, and alongside that depending on the time of day we can tag in other aspects to the local context such as local restaurants and clubs. We are working on a beta trial for our mobile technology,” Hynes said.

He described the present market for commercial search services as heating up considerably since rival Google’s decision to take on Overture’s share of the market in a meaningful way. “Effectively Google’s commercial model wasn’t working, so they copied ours and are trying to compete with us in a major way. We don’t operate under a brand that will compete with others and we do that for a good reason. Google effectively is a major online brand and we believe that that creates a conflict between them and anyone else who has a brand and wants to push it in the online world,” he said.

Within the rapidly growing Internet advertising market, commercial searching is the most dynamic and fastest growing segment. According to research from Piper Jaffray, the worldwide commercial search segment is estimated to grow from approximately $2bn by year-end 2003 to approximately $5bn by 2006 – a compound annual growth rate of approximately 35pc.

Looking at the progress of the expanding Overture operations in Dublin, Hynes said: “We have gone live with the UK, Germany, France, Spain, Italy and the Netherlands segments of our business. We are recruiting now for Austria and Switzerland.”

By John Kennedy