AT&T Buys Pay Per Call Search Pioneer

The purchase of Ingenio will help advertisers generate phone leads and manage their ad platforms.

AT&T agreed, Nov. 19, to acquire pay-per-call search provider Ingenio for an undisclosed sum, a move that bolsters its directory service and local search advertising offerings.

Ingenio offers Pay Per Call, a pay-for-performance advertising service that lets advertisers pay based on phone calls to their businesses rather than on Web site clicks. Like sponsored links systems, Pay Per Call allows advertisers to bid for a higher placement in paid search results. But instead of having a link that takes users to their Web sites, advertisers can display a toll free number.

Advertisers fees are based on the call volume of these leads.

Ingenio, of San Francisco, also makes earn-per-call applications, Ether and Live Advice, which allow experts to sell their services to individuals seeking real-time answers to their questions.

AT&T, which picked up Web conferencing and collaboration software maker Interwise Oct. 1, plans to use Ingenios Pay Per Call software as a platform for advertisers to purchase leads across online, mobile or print to create performance-based ads.

Ingenio customers include AOL, Microsoft, and TaxAct.


Click here to read more about AT&T buying Interwise.

The buy, which AT&T expects to close in January 2008, comes at a time when phone carriers and Internet companies are looking to boost the relevancy and targeting capabilities of ads. Better targeting, the thinking goes, means better and greater numbers of sales leads.

AT&T, of San Antonio, Texas, will tuck the Ingenio assets into its directory service and local search advertising portfolio, including the Network, AT&T Real Yellow Pages and 1-800-Yellow Pages.

Should the deal close as expected, AT&T will retain Ingenios management team and the Ingenio platform and assets will be integrated within AT&Ts property, overseen by that units President and CEO Charles Stubbs.

The Network is a significant part of AT&Ts approach to targeting advertisers; the unit recently upgraded its mobile search offerings with a new Web application for iPhone users and a local search application that is currently available on 20 AT&T phones.

AT&T vies with rival carriers Verizon and Sprint on the mobile front. However, Internet search and content providers such as Google are increasingly turning their focus to the mobile ad space, which is expected to be the next multibillion dollar online ad opportunity.


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