Zebus Enters Rich Media Ads Fray

A startup Tuesday said it aims to make its solution for streaming video banners and insertion spots the standard on the Web, but faces stiff competition from entrenched players and potentially slow acceptance.

Woodbridge, N.J.-based Zebus said its offering, unveiled this week, will simultaneously help boost flagging Web site ad revenues and encourage traditional advertisers to move online. A tall order, perhaps, but the company believes it has an ace up its sleeve.

The trick: Zebus says it can deliver high-quality streaming to any user, regardless of browser or connection speed. For low-bandwidth users, the company asks users to download a small application that background downloads and caches ads for display when they return to the site.

“We have an immediate solution for streaming advertising and the other players in the space are relying on users’ [having broadband] or they’re serving them things like Flash or animated gifs … which is more effective than a banner ad, but not as effective as the branding you can communicate in a TV ad online,” said Tricia Beninghof, vice president, business development and marketing.

The idea is aimed at letting advertisers place repurposed advertising creative on Web sites. This includes ads embedded in a Web page, delivered via a pop-up window or inserted into a video stream.

Beninghof said the technology allows Web publishers to attract traditional advertisers to the Web at a time when sites, feeling the ad spending crunch, are “really being faced with a situation when they really need to attract offline advertisers … “at a higher CPM rate than what they would be able to charge for a banner ad.”

“If they are narrowband, we ask that they download a small utility that caches the ads, so a 56k user gets the same experience that a broadband user would,” Beninghof said. “Instead of waiting for mass penetration of broadband, this allows advertiser and Web site publishers to stream ads today, and reach virtually all users.”

Beninghof said the company has shopped the product around and gotten “very positive” reception to it. But the question is whether Zebus can gain traction in an industry dominated by much larger companies.

The streaming ad insertion space already has entrenched players like DoubleClick, Engage, and ACTV, while streaming rich media banners have yet to really win a following, due largely to the lag in broadband’s rollout.

But Zebus aims to fix that, and is confident about its competitive prospects.

“Nobody offers a streaming solution that reaches virtually all users,” Beninghof said.

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