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NetRatings Expands into European Online Ad Market

NetRatings spread its interests into Europe with the acquisition of NetCrawling S.A., which has developed LemonAd, a European online advertising monitoring service.

"We are continuing to build out our product portfolio on a global basis. Advertising and publishers are interested in understanding who's advertising, where they are advertising and the expenditures of online advertisers. LemonAd's data provides that intelligence," said Susan Hickey, head of investor relations for NetRatings.

Hickey said NetRatings may disclose further details on the acquisition during an earnings conference call, scheduled for July 31, after the market's close.

"LemonAd is leading online advertising measurement tool in Europe, there are a few smaller players, but in our view it will help our current audience measurement offering in Europe," said Hickey, adding it made better strategic sense to make an acquisition in Europe, than to expand its AdRelevance product, the company's U.S.-based online advertising tool and application.

Hickey said AdRelevance and LemonAd have had "different development paths, but now that they are under the same roof, whether that means the product is integrated in the future will be evaluated."

Online advertising intelligence essentially enables subscribers of the service to find out what their competition is doing.

"It allows marketers to keep an eye on their competition. These reports will tell them what sites their competition are advertising on, how many impressions they are buying and also show what the ads actually are. The marketers can then take that data and it is one of the factors used when that company decides on its own media buys," said Jim Nail, senior analyst for Forrester Research.

While market researchers prognosticate the growth of the global online usage market, NetRatings scaled back its NetView Internet measurement service in several markets in recent years. The company operates online panels in 13 countries, back in 2000-2001 it surveyed usage in 29 countries.

"As online usage globally expands, we believe our opportunity to serve clients in the online ad space expands as well," said Hickey. She explained building a panel in a given country is a much more expensive proposition, than to sell an "online advertising intelligence service."

"To be branded Nielsen//NetRatings LemonAd, the service provides online advertising intelligence for eleven European markets including the U.K., Germany, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Belgium, Austria, Sweden, Norway and Denmark. LemonAd delivers indispensable information to advertisers, advertising agencies and publishers, including a monthly overview of the online advertising market, insight into the latest trends, in-depth analysis of campaign activity and information for the top advertisers on more than 3,600 websites," said NetRatings in a press release.

The company goes onto say "Nielsen//NetRatings LemonAd complements Nielsen//NetRatings' NetView Internet Audience Measurement service that is currently available in eight European and 13 global markets."

Nail speculated that Taylor Nelson Sofres, a U.K.-based company that owns Competitive Media Reporting (CMR), the provider of offline, conventional media and advertising intelligence, is likely to make a move in the online advertising and media intelligence business.

"CMR is beefing up its online advertising tracking service and it's really a two horse race between VNU and CMR," Nail said. VNU is the Dutch publishing giant that is the parent of both Nielsen Media Research and ACNielsen.

"The market for online advertising intelligence is just starting to develop and the big users of this data are the big traditional advertising companies for whom online ad spending is still a small share of their total ad budget," said Nail.