24/7 Real Media to Drop Connect

24/7 Real Media plans to drop its Connect ad serving product from its lineup of offerings, focusing instead on technology developed by recently acquired rival Real Media.

As a result, Open AdStream will become the company’s chief offering, available in hosted and in-house software versions. Additionally, OAS will power 24/7 Media’s network of Web sites.

The transition, which began Thursday and will continue through March, will shave about $4 million to $6 million from the company’s annual expenses — in addition to the $10 million originally announced by management at the time of the 24/7 Media-Real Media merger in October.

“We did recognize that having a single platform made a lot of sense for us going forward from a business standpoint, and an engineering standpoint,” said Larry Allen, vice president for product management at the New York-based firm.

Allen added that publishers also stand to benefit from the change, which they’ll be forced to make to continue receiving support.

One aspect that 24/7 Real Media is aiming to turn into a selling point for the product is the fact that Open AdStream can serve in both hosted and in-house roles. As a result, sites wouldn’t need to be retagged — oftentimes a costly and time-consuming process — if a publisher, say, wants to bring their ad operations inside.

“Those customers will be able to move freely within our products, from our central product to our local product, with ease,” Allen said. “There’s essentially no cost aside from a license change.”

Added Mark Naples, vice president of marketing at 24/7 Real Media, “If you’re thinking in terms of the site’s growth and scalability, retagging was a major impediment. We’ve removed that impediment.”

The move officially retires Connect, a product that a four-month-old 24/7 Media — then largely a rep firm — picked up in 1998 through the acquisition of technology developer Intelligent Interactions. The company relaunched the product in late 1999, and began transitioning its domestic ad network clients from competing technology, such as that of CMGI-owned AdForce.

But the Connect brand suffered a series of setbacks throughout its short history, while industry leader DoubleClick’s DART product took off to become the market leader in revenue. For one thing, a worldwide rollout of Connect took longer than most industry-watchers anticipated, with 24/7 Media working as late as this July to transition its European ad network to the service. That effort was hastened by the impending collapse of AdForce, which would have stranded 24/7 Media’s publishers in the region.

At the same time, plans announced in May of last year to integrate Connect with acquired ad serving technology from Sabela Media — which provided an advertiser and publisher product, complementing network-focused Connect — fell by the wayside. Exactly one year after the announcement, a cash-strapped 24/7 Media sold the division to DoubleClick, which meanwhile had turned DART for Advertisers and DART for Publishers (which competed with Sabela) into respected brands in their own rights.

It was only in October that 24/7 Media finally produced a hosted, advertiser and publisher version of Connect — just three weeks before the company signed a deal to acquire Real Media, signaling the product’s ultimate demise.

In spite of the product’s troubled history and its ironic finale, spokespeople for the company said several elements of Connect would live on inside Open AdStream.

Specifically, OAS will incorporate Connect’s tools for rich media ad trafficking. Previously used only internally for trafficking rich media creative across the 24/7 Network, Connect’s Rich Media Builder will ultimately be rolled into the next version of OAS for use by ad traffickers on the agency/advertiser or publisher side. The product is slated to make its debut in first quarter.

“Since we merged, our engineers have been intensively studying the best attributes of each product to determine which platform to build on moving forward,” said 24/7 Real Media chief operating officer Tony Plesner. “We have determined that we can bring together the best attributes of each central ad serving product into a single platform.”

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