IAR Bits and Bytes

Siegelgale Trims Staff

Venerable Internet, brand and marketing consultancy Siegelgale on Tuesday laid off about 15 percent of its New York staff, or 35 employees.

Most of the positions cut were non-billable — administrative, office management and financial positions. There were some cuts among junior personnel in the firm’s Internet, design and consulting units as well.

“It was just basically based on the economy going down, and it was very heavily skewed toward non-billable people,” said company founder Alan Siegel. “It hasn’t hurt our capabilities at all — we still have our core staff. We’ve always kind of operated with a good core group, and we’ve always had high margins. We were just scaled to a higher level of revenue, and so we let the support staff go.”

The layoffs are the second for Siegelgale, which, like many in the battered online consulting space, have been forced to slim down as revenues become scarcer. In December, the company cut about 7 percent of its workforce. The firm’s chief marketing officer, Andrew Zolli, also left at the time.

However, while newer interactive shops like Organic and Razorfish are laying off, there’s still no need for concern about his company, according to Siegel, who’s also the firm’s chairman and chief executive.

“We’ve been in business for 30 years … and we have some large clients,” he said. “We’ve been growing 40 to 50 percent over the past two, two-and-a-half years, and it slowed down. And these people got caught in the downdraft, and I feel terrible about it. It’s a lousy time.”

Microsoft, HP Settle with FTC

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission agreed to a settlement with Redmond, Wash.-based software giant Microsoft this week, in the matter of what the government agency alleged were misleading ads for its PocketPC operating system.

The ads, which were launched in conjunction with Hewlett-Packard, promoted devices using the PocketPC OS. The FTC objected to Microsoft’s use of the word “anytime” to describe the devices’ wireless messaging applications — and a very fine-print disclosure that users must purchase a modem to access those features.

Through the settlement, Microsoft and HP admitted no wrongdoing but agreed in future ads for PocketPC-based PDAs to more clearly and conspicuously disclose whether any add-on products would be needed.

Beyond the settlement, HP and Microsoft also offered to disseminate consumer education materials about PDAs, designed to caution consumers that the devices don’t necessarily come with wireless access.

To that end, both companies will post “Helpful Facts About Personal Digital Assistants” on their Web sites, which disclose the need for modems to access the Internet from most PDAs. HP also will include references to the site in print ads for its Jordana PDA, and it will e-mail the site’s copy to major consumer electronics retailers and encourage them to place it on their own Web sites.

In addition to including references to the “Helpful Facts” site in its print advertising for a year, Microsoft said it would run a similarly themed essay in a quarter-page ad in eight major national dailies, including the New York Times and the Washington Post. The essay, entitled “Personal Digital Assistants are Personal,” will discuss the capabilities and limitations of PDAs — including the need for an add-on modem to provide PDAs with wireless Internet access — and will refer users to the “Helpful Facts” essay.

Forbes.com Taps Zebus for Rich Media Ads

Rich media startup Zebus has the first taker for its rich media ad technology: the online component of Forbes Magazine.

As a result of the agreement, of which terms were not disclosed, Forbes.com will offer advertisers the opportunity to use the firm’s ad format. The Woodbridge, NJ-based company’s technology allows streaming, TV-style commercials over the Web — at framerates that Zebus says remain high even on dialup connections.

Forbes.com did not disclose where on its site it would be offering ads based on Zebus’ technology, though it offers banners, “tower” ads, buttons and pop-ups to advertisers.

Through the deal, Zebus potentially gains access to Forbes.com’s roster of traditional brand advertisers — while Forbes.com could benefit from pitching a way that clients could repurpose their existing TV creatives for Web use.

In addition to rich media banners, Zebus also makes a product that allows for streaming ad insertion.

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