Learning (reluctantly) from Overture

I can’t help it. To me, Overture will always be GoTo.com. It will take more than a pretentious name to dress up a lame and venal search engine.
However, despite their deceptive business practices and silly patent on paid searches, Overture points the way to one future for online advertising, particularly as it has been refined by Google.
Users hate and ignore banners, and the industry has been trying to go “beyond the banner” since the beginnings of online advertising. The usual formula is to make the banner bigger, add animation, add sound, and add interactivity. The result is a product ill-suited to even the kind of branding ads that will never work on the Web.
Ecommerce has always been the engine that drives online advertising. With the death of the dot-com economy, ecommerce sites are now split into the very biggest sites (Amazon.com, Dell, Expedia, etc.) and millions of smaller businesses
Sites like CNET’s shopper.com serve big ecommerce sites by providing opportunities to buy when consumers are ready to pull the trigger.
Small (and large) sellers are served well by Google and Overture’s text ads because they:

  • reach people who are looking for something.
  • are cheap to create, so you don’t need an ad agency to create them or manage your “compaigns”.
  • are fast and unanimated, so they don’t annoy the pickiest netizen.
  • can be sold on a web page directly and cheaply, so they meet the needs of millions of individuals and small businesses who are doing business on the net.
  • are so cheap, they can be sold on a cost-per-click basis.
  • work for big companies as well as small. Dell, Gateway and HP show up on an Overture search for “digital cameras”.

A significant part of the future of online advertising belongs to text advertising that is designed to be cheap, fast, and contextually correct. However, it’s unclear that Overture can defend its patent and maintain its lead by providing a service that it’s customers can create for themselves.
Furthermore, advertising-supported sites must follow Google’s example in this (as in other things) and be honest about who’s paying for what.