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Calling All Marketers

Think a web site is a necessity when running an online advertising campaign? Think again. Pay Per Call, a take on pay-per-click search engine advertising (or “paid search”) in which marketers pay for calls to a toll-free number instead of clicks, is quickly changing the Internet marketing rules.
When San-Francisco-based “Ingenio”: pioneered this ad model in September of 2004, it couldn’t have known how fast its brainchild would grow. Just a year later, “a report from the Kelsey Group”: has found that Pay Per Call advertising could generate as much as $4 billion in revenue by 2009.

The benefits of the model are palpable: Attract local customers, reduce the number of steps it takes to connect with them. There are hidden dividends as well. If a consumer is making the effort to call you instead of just clicking on your ad, it’s very likely he’s ready to make a transaction. Instead of paying for what could be unqualified clicks (not to mention fraudulent ones), you’re paying for a guaranteed conversation.
I’m sure some online marketers are wondering if Pay Per Call could bastardize our industry. It is, after all, an online ad model that doesn’t require an online presence and that drives Internet users off the Web. When I interviewed Ingenio in the spring (for “the Globe and Mail”:, the company said it didn’t view Pay Per Call as a replacement for models like pay-per-click. “If you’re an efficient online transactor, or don’t have people who can take calls, then pay-per-click is for you. If you don’t have a site or can’t support online transactions, the Pay Per Call product is ideal. It’s just a new product within the realm of pay for performance advertising choices,” the company’s chief marketing officer Marc Barach said.
As long as search remains one of the largest online advertising categories (expected to “increase by an additional 40 percent”: in the U.S. this year), I’m guessing many marketers will be exploring this option, whether they have a Web site or not. As for bastardizing online advertising, isn’t our ultimate objective to make a sale, online or off? Any ad model that helps marketers achieve this without alienating or annoying consumers is okay by me.