RealTime IT News

Unicast, Bluesteak Set Aside Differences

In another victory for Unicast and its patent portfolio, the rich media ad firm has exchanged its rivalry with Bluestreak for a new distribution deal.

Through the agreement with the New York-based firm, Bluestreak will offer Unicast's Superstitial ad format as the exclusive interstitial format available on its ION ad server -- in lieu of its own formats. Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

The companies also said they are looking into expanding the Superstitial format to e-mail, by way of Bluestreak's recent acquisition of e-mail marketer e2 Communications. Additionally, the firms said they planned to work together to spread online advertising standards, long an avowed mission of Unicast's.

Ironically, it was Unicast's effort to foster industry-wide standards -- by forcing competing offerings out of the market -- that brought the rivalry with Bluestreak to a head. In December, Unicast received two U.S. patents that protect pre-cached rich media ad delivery and dynamic ad downloading. Shortly thereafter, Unicast sent "cease and desist" letters to Bluestreak and a number of other sellers of competing ad formats, including Enliven, eyeblaster, and VIPcast.

"Both of us believe that simplification and standardization are critical for the online advertising industry's continued development," said Allie Savarino, Unicast's senior vice president of global marketing and partner services. "Unicast's patents are an important tool for helping this process, as is the development of these kinds of long-term partnerships with leaders like Bluestreak who share the belief that it is in everyone's interest to simplify the choices advertisers have."

Unicast has said that it believes that by simplifying the number of ad formats available on the market, online media buying would become easier and would command a greater share of the marketing dollar.

"As a pioneer in online advertising, Bluestreak has developed and evaluated many rich media technologies," said Anurag Ahuja, Bluestreak's vice president of product marketing. "We applaud and join Unicast's effort to drive for standardization and to simplify choices among interstitial marketing formats, and we are pleased to make Unicast's Superstitial Format Suite available to our customers."

For Unicast, the news removes yet another rival interstitial offering from the market. Of the original firms included in Unicast's "cease and desist" effort, VIPcast since has gone out of business, while Unicast last month abruptly acquired Enliven, ending that dispute. Spokespeople from eyeblaster told internetnews.com last week that they believed their products fell outside the scope of Unicast's patents.

While it's another competitive victory for Unicast, the agreement also highlights how far Bluestreak has come from its origins as a rich media ad player. Though its first product was a rich media banner, the company soon expanded into pop-ups, integrated e-commerce, and, last month, e-mail.

But during the past year, Bluestreak also began aggressively marketing its ION ad server, such that the company now refers to itself as a full-service online marketing company -- and that it can afford to promote the formats of a firm once considered a rival.