MSN To Pitch Motif

Thirteen months after its official launch, a major portal -- MSN -- has signed on to use DART Motif, DoubleClick's rich media advertising product. According to the MSN Web site, Motif has been added to the list of available third-party, rich media advertising products. The move means MSN's advertisers will be able to choose from in-page, expandable banners, and floating flash ad formats.

Motif has been on the market since July 2003, but has struggled to gain acceptance from online's Big 3: America Online, Yahoo!, and MSN. It gained what analysts have referred to as "partial" acceptance from AOL, meaning AOL accepts non-expanding banners and nothing else, but struggled to penetrate the major ISP market, which is dominated by smaller third-party, rich media providers like Eyeblaster, Unicast, and PointRoll.

According to Jupiter Research analyst Nate Elliott, who broke the news on his analyst Web log this week, the move marks a major step forward for DoubleClick. "This starts to give Motif some credibility," Elliott said. "Without portal acceptance, a rich media tool is essentially unusable," and the reason, he said, is very simple. According to Jupiter Research, the top four online sites claim 38 percent of all usage minutes and 49 percent of all ad spending. "Most advertisers can't afford to skip half the market."

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Sarah Fay, president of interactive shop Carat Interactive, and a DoubleClick client, echoed Elliots sentiments. "Motif has to get the support of the bigger portals in order to make it a viable product," she said, adding that Carat has been partnering with DoubleClick in the development of Motif, in addition to using it.

Fay noted that the new partnership doesn't give DoubleClick an advantage, either. "Not that it isn't a win; we see it as more of a requirement," she said. "In the long run, we have a global deal with DoubleClick, and obviously, we're betting on the DoubleClick horse," with the hope, she said, that "eventually [all of their offerings] will be rolled into one."

"From the start," Jupiter's Elliot noted, "DoubleClick's biggest issue has been site acceptance, and getting a couple of the portals on board should do wonders for this product."

However, he pointed out that Motif has yet to gain "full" acceptance from AOL. To do this, Elliott said DoubleClick needs get Motif's expandable banners and floaters approved, but AOL's partial acceptance shows that the company is committed to finding a solution to that problem.

So why does portal acceptance take so long? According to Elliott, "[Portals] have a million different pages coded in a million different ways, they've got lots of producers who need to approve the formats, and they have to do all that testing," he said.

MSN's acceptance of Motif has come at a good time for DoubleClick, which may face stiff competition once aQuantive unit Atlas DMT unveils its rich media platform later this year. Elliott noted that Atlas may have already sidestepped the ISP acceptance problem by scooping up Ad4ever, a small rich media company, earlier this year.

"Ad4ever still has current acceptance on the big three," Elliott said, "which is a good sign for Atlas." He noted that while this does not guarantee them acceptance, it could help facilitate the process.

According to MSN Director of Advertising and Marketing Eric Hadley, "DoubleClick's DART Motif is an innovative and efficient solution for executing rich media and we're pleased to certify our key properties for DART Motif campaigns."

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