Chinadotcom Unit To Consolidate Marketing Services

Web portal chinadotcom is creating a special unit to oversee its online marketing offerings in an effort to tap into “vast opportunities” in the Asian Internet marketing space – and potentially to bring some centralized control over its array of marketing ventures.

According to the Hong Kong-based firm, its newly unveiled Mezzo Marketing division would provide the Asia Pacific region with online and e-mail marketing services, like those available in more mature markets. Those services will include e-mail, direct and database marketing, ad serving technology, call centers, and online and integrated media packages.

Executives lauded the group’s launch as a way to better provide regional marketers with advanced services.

“We are extremely pleased to announce the birth of Mezzo Marketing,” said Mezzo chief operating officer Stuart Spiteri. chinadotcom was “amongst the first to provide marketers with the choice of including online advertising into their marketing mix in the Asia Pacific region, and today we are the first in Asia to provide marketers with … solutions that are knowledge and intelligence-based, allowing marketers to more accurately and effectively build rewarding and lasting relationships with their customers.”

But regardless of Mezzo’s eventual impact on Asia Pacific marketers, chinadotcom itself stands to see critical benefits from the new unit’s creation – since Mezzo will help by serving as a centralized sales channel for the company’s roster of regional interactive marketing investments and ventures.

For one, Mezzo will include inventory from its parent’s main Web portal and affiliated sites in offline media plans, crafting packages involving regional publishers and chinadotcom’s own online ads.

That could prove to be a smart move. Spending on online media and marketing continues to sag – chinadotcom itself saw revenues drop 23 percent during last quarter, to $23.5 million – and large advertisers are increasingly approaching online inventory as part of an integrated media deal.

Similarly, Mezzo also will help to consolidate sales among chinadotcom’s various direct and e-mail marketing units.

Since 1998, the company has jointly operated 24/7 Asia in connection with North American ad network 24/7 Media, a unit that handled both media and e-mail marketing.

But last year, the company stepped up its direct marketing efforts. In December, chinadotcom snapped up Australian direct marketing player RNR International, a purchase that it said would boost its traditional marketing efforts, and which would increase its consumer database. Last month, the company announced another e-mail marketing deal to broker lists for smaller portal

In all, chinadotcom now has access to about 28 million addresses, 3.2 million of which it manages internally. Those lists and broker agreements now fall under Mezzo’s administration.

Such changes at chinadotcom’s had been expected for some time. Historically, the firm had shied away from discussing any such shifts in response to the harsh ad market. But in March, company executives announced a cost-reduction program that eliminated 17 percent of its 2,400 positions, and which they said would ultimately include consolidation among redundant operations.

Chief executive Peter Yip reiterated that promise to shareholders about two months later, but gave little clues as to how it would undertake its consolidation.

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