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Overture opens office in Sydney, Australia

February 20, 2004

Overture pioneered the concept of charging advertisers to display links to their websites alongside relevant search results - for example, someone searching for "dog kennels" on Yahoo! would be shown links to advertisers with those wares, alongside normal web page results.

US internet search marketing company Overture has landed in Australia, but it faces a considerable battle from local and international powers.

Competing advertisers can "bid" online for the most prominent position near particular keywords. Overture's Sydney offices opened on Australia day with 15 staff, mostly in sales and marketing. Its local managing director, Mel Bohse, was former manager of one-time search engine leader Altavista in Australia - one of Overture's distribution partners, which will display Overture's advertisers with its search results.

However Overture's key distributor will be the Yahoo! Australia and New Zealand websites, which Ms Bohse said was viewed for 40 per cent of Australians who use the internet. It also has partnerships with internet service provider OzEmail and technology company Hewlett-Packard. Distribution is crucial for search marketers, as Australian-founded LookSmart discovered when the loss of a key distribution deal with Microsoft's MSN website last year caused the company to dramatically cut back.

Ms Bohse, however, said she was confident Overture would take a large slice of the market in the face of formidable competition from leading search engine Google, which opened advertising operations in Australia almost a year ago; and Telstra subsidiary Sensis, which bought LookSmart's local assets last month and plans to rule online and print directories by combining its new purchase with its existing WhitePages and YellowPages businesses.

"We're a proven business model globally, and we've been asked to cme to this country by the advertisers we have here who use Overture globally," she said.

Ms Bohse said Overture was talking to all the major online publishers in Australia that it was interested in having as distribution partners, including those that already have partnerships with other search marketers.

Fairfax's f2 and News Ltd's News Interactive both use Google's marketing, and Australia's biggest website, ninemsn, still has an agreement with LookSmart although the fate of that arrangement after the Sensis purchase is finalised in June has not been revealed.

"In every market we go into, we obtain on average 80 per cent market share," she said. "I would expect us to get to that (in Australia)."

Source: Google

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