eBay, Google Align, Extend Reach To Another Traditional Form Of Marketing: Talking

At a time when both companies have been moving aggressively to extend their reach to offline advertising media, search engine Google and auction site eBay Monday announced an advertising alliance that would create a new means for online advertisers to communicate directly with consumers: by talking to them. The centerpiece of the alliance calls for the development of a new "click-to-call" advertising system that would exploit Google's Google Talk service and eBay's Skype to enable consumers to click on Web ads to speak directly to marketers.

The plan marks a new twist in the Internet's expanding role in the direct response marketing world, and moves it to a new front - telemarketing - at a time when the traditional telemarketing industry is still reeling from the effects of the Do-Not-Call Implementation Act in 2003, which enabled consumers to put themselves on lists to avoid telemarketers. By leveraging their online voice technologies, eBay and Google may have found a way around the problem, while at the same time creating an entirely new marketing platform that combines text-based advertising with telemarketing.

"The click-to-call capability will allow a user to click on a link or icon within a product or service advertisement to initiate an Internet voice call to participating eBay merchants or Google advertisers directly from either company's respective sites," the companies said in a statement issued early Monday morning. They described the approach as an "emerging e-commerce model" that would bring buyers and sellers together via the Web, and added that plan already are afoot to integrate Skype into Google's toolbar and its Google Talk system.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but a second part of it will make Google the sales representative for all of eBay's text-based advertising outside the U.S. eBay previously struck a similar sales agreement for its U.S.-based text ads with Yahoo.

The eBay/Google alliance occurs just as the two companies begin muscling into traditional media. Google has recently expanded its reach into print media and radio, including a deal to represent advertising sales for XM Satellite Radio. eBay is poised to serve as the infrastructure for an ad industry test for buying media online utilizing eBay's auction technology. Google had also pitched the task force organizing that test, which will see whether buying media online is more efficient than traditional offline haggling methods. That test has been met by resistance by some big media sellers, especially the major TV networks, but at least one major player - Discovery Networks - plans to participate in a two-day planning session for the so-called e-Media Exchange in September.

Organizers of the exchange tell MediaDailyNews that they are continuing to lobby the major broadcast networks to be more open-minded about the test, but that they are also broadening the focus of the test to see whether it could be a more effective system for trading the torrent of new media avails being spawned by new digital media platforms such as digital television and radio channels.

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