B2BWorks Selling Online Ads For GE Portal

By Ken Liebeskind

B2BWorks got its start selling online advertising for trade magazine websites, but it is moving to a new frontier now. The Chicago firm announced this week that it signed an agreement with GE Services Network to sell third-party advertising on a GE corporate portal.

GE Services Network (Geservicesnetwork.com) is the division of General Electric that conducts online transactions and marketing programs for different divisions of the company. It hired B2BWorks to sell advertising for its three sites that serve the plastics industry: geplastics.com, www.gepolymerland.com and gesilicones.com. The sites operate as portals and an emarketplace for the plastics industry, providing technical assistance for industry professionals while selling plastic resins and silicons. "We sell and distribute our own products and those of 30 other suppliers. In some cases theyre competitors, but its a neutrally operated independent portal," says Vince Cole, general manager of GE Services Network, which is located in Pittsfield, MA.



Gepolymerland.com, which sells resins, generated $1.5 billion in online business last year, Cole says.

GE Services Network has sold its own advertising on the sites, "but were opening inventory and contracting with third parties to sell excess space," Cole says. He notes that B2BWorks isn't the only company selling space for GE Services Network, but "the vast majority if not all excess inventory will go to B2B."

He notes that the company has sold sponsorships as well as banners in the past but that B2BWorks will sell only banners. "Its the way we start all our sites," says Bill Furlong, B2B Work's president. "You start with the core product." He says B2BWorks sells email and sponsorships for other clients, but will start with only banners for GE Services Network.

Although the announcement about the deal between B2BWorks and GE Services Network was made this week, the companies have been working together all year, with sales "going very well so far," Cole says. Neither Cole nor Furlong would say how much advertising has been sold to date. Furlong was willing to divulge the names of two advertisers: Sumitomo Plastics Machinery, which sells injection molding systems and Brabender Technologies, which manufacturers feeders.

The deal is representative of a new trend in online advertising. "Corporate portals are becoming a very legitimate venue for marketers to issue their messages," Furlong says. "Many companies realize they have many visitors to their sites. They need to retain and build relationships with them. On the portals, they issue news and information and sell products. Its becoming a new business platform. Its not just a marketplace, its a medium."

Daniel OBrien, a senior analyst at Forrester Research, calls the deal "a natural extension of what B2BWorks has been doing," since the GE Services Network portal "is not unlike a trade publication. It has third party content and editorial material," he says. But he notes the major difference is that portals conduct transactions, making them a potentially more lucrative client for B2B.

This is the one of first portals B2BWorks has worked with, but Furlong says there are other deals in the works he cant announce yet. He notes that other portals are beginning to sell advertising, including Covisint.com, the consortium of the top automakers that sells auto parts and products.

Cole confirms Furlongs point about portals wanting to grow, noting, "We want to be the largest in the industry. If were not, well get out. Otherwise, well do whatever we can to get to that position." Like hire B2BWorks to sell their ads.

He says the companies signed a one year agreement.

- Ken Liebeskind may be reached at kenrunz@aol.com

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