labels: advertising/branding
To ad or not to ad is the answernews
Anita Sharan
30 December 1999

"The Internet is extremely accountable. Gut and instinct cannot work with it." Meet S. Ramakrishnan, the wannabeS. Ramakrishnan Internet advertising expert who quit a secure job with Procter & Gamble (India) to start up his own agency. Along with him came V. Krishnaraj, also earlier with P&G, fired by the idea of starting out on a new, highly promising medium.

The duo seem to have adapted to the Net environment pretty quickly -- their names and designations on their visiting cards carry no upper cases. And the name of their agency, called 'intercept consulting' also has no upper case (however, we're using the capitals here to avoid confusion). Their designations read the same strange words: ‘client understanding’. "You can call us directors of the company," says Ramakrishnan.

Mixed bag
Starting out in December 1998, intercept consulting has managed gross billings of "around Rs 60-70 lakh", according to Krishnaraj. Ramakrishnan adds that the billings came from part consulting, including design, media campaign planning, and web designing and development. Intercept Consulting has also expanded into Bangalore and Delhi, and plans to open an office in Mumbai shortly.

"We were perceived as web designers when we started out," says Ramakrishnan. But they wanted to be something bigger and far more relevant. "Know thy Web" would perhaps best describe the area of their targeted consulting, and they’ve got their own products and propositions to support it. The first product (service actually) launched by them is called WebSight, a tracking and analysis system that could be relevant to content publishers as well as advertisers.

"We offer a lot of analysis of page views; we have a database to help track IP numbers. We can tell you which country the visitor hit your website from, how many views happened on a particular property. We can track references -- from where (not geography, but direct references or other websites) did people come to your site," says Krishnaraj.

Intercept consulting has been offering this service for free so far "because we want content owners to really understand their business," says Ramakrishnan. The interest here is certainly not altruistic. In fact, the duo is considering putting a price tag on the service, after a client uses it for six months for free. There may not be much that's unique about the service that WebSight offers, but it gains importance for Intercept when it is linked to AdCept, the other branded service that the agency offers.

Dishing out ads
AdCept, a centralised advertising management solution, has just been launched. It involves websites becoming members with Intercept, whose server will download focused ads to a visitor to any page(s) on member websites, even as he/she clicks for the page. The ads will be directed depending on specific information on the visitor (which is where WebSight comes in). This means that different visitors to the same page may see different ads, even if they visit the page at the same time.

Sounds good, and Intercept says this would be attractive for both advertisers and website owners. The advertisers will have the advantage of focused messaging, while the member website will be able to get advertising depending on its visitor profile(s).

"The AdCept server analyses a page request and serves the right ad in real time, using POINT technology," says Ramakrishnan. "The network is called the AdCept Zone and to be on it, you have to have our code (a cgi component) on your page. AdCept has already been tested on a server in the US and has worked very well. We will continue to have a server there and add one on in India."

Asked whether the ad display can be timed simultaneously with the opening of the requested page, Ramakrishnan says confidently, "AdCept can execute 12 requests a second on an average HTML format. We will cater to 70-80 million impressions at a time."

He, however, does not totally shrug off the query that given current glitches in Internet connectivity in India, will AdCept in reality manage the same efficiency in delivery as it has shown during its US server test?

But he strikes a positive note: "We have 12 sites already signed on for the service and 25 more are willing to sign up."

Not bad for starters, that. Side by side, in an attempt to consolidate its importance as an Internet consulting organisation, intercept conducted an online survey between September and November ’99 on the value of the Net. The survey, called NetValue, had Mode in for research across six metros. Twenty-five websites participated in the survey; the report should be out anytime now. Krishnaraj says the industry norm for such surveys is six months and intercept may also follow the same time frame. "Clients will get our reports for free."


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To ad or not to ad is the answer