Softbank bids to conquer Europe

Softbank, which claims to be the world’s leading Internet and online ad sales agency, has established a London office in an attempt to become the front-line player in Europe in handling interactive advertising sales.

The US-based organisation, owned by a Japanese new media investment company, claims to handle a quarter of all global advertising on the Net, and acts for leading US-based Websites including Netscape, Yahoo!, AT&T Business Network, NBC.com, ZD Net and Playboy.

Gordon Simpson, the British-based former consultant who has been appointed director of European operations for Softbank, says the European divisions of Yahoo! and ZD Net will continue to operate their own sales arms despite being clients of Softbank in the US.

Observers have expressed surprise at the timing of Softbank’s UK move, but say an expansion by the sales house had been expected at some point this year.

Neil Morgan, chief executive of New Media Marketing & Sales, set up last autumn to act as ad sales house for UK Web publishers, says his company held inconclusive discussions last year about setting up some kind of “co-operative venture”.

“We have been waiting for the US push. In the meantime, we have been busy working to establish our UK credentials,” says Morgan.

According to Simpson, Softbank will sign up a select number of Websites which attract the biggest volume of traffic and he believes there is room for a number of other major ad sales operations in the market.

“In two or three years’, we would expect there to be no more than six of the biggest European sites with whom we could work,” he says. “Many European companies have Websites on the Internet but are not making the most of their investment.

“We aim to maximise the potential of those sites by generating revenue, while offering advertisers some of the best Internet sites and ad opportunities around.”

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