AltaVista Stages $50-60 Mil. Review

Unit of Compaq Has New Product,, It Wants to Push
SAN FRANCISCO-Internet search engine AltaVista, a subsidiary of Compaq Computer Corp., is contacting agencies nationwide about its estimated $50-60 million advertising account, which includes some global duties, sources said last week.
AltaVista, Palo Alto, Calif., has been contacting midsize and large shops, and has already had chemistry meetings with a handful of agencies, said sources.
Butler, Shine & Stern, Sausalito, Calif., and Ogilvy & Mather, New York, were among those contacted, sources said. Also in the running for the business is Compaq’s lead agency, DDB in New York, which has done work on a project basis for the search engine in the past.
“We are conducting a review, but it’s a closed review,” said Charles Rashall, AltaVista’s new vice president of sales and marketing. “We are working aggressively to identify an agency to work with us.”
He added, “We plan on spending a significant amount of money [on advertising]. We are committed to building the AltaVista brand, which has always been a top Internet property [and] a leading Web site.”
Rashall said now is the time for AltaVista to let all “Internet users know what we have to offer with our features and functionality.”
Rashall emphasized one new product under the AltaVista umbrella that is ripe for promotion is the e-commerce service, which was acquired earlier this year by Compaq. Users can use to buy everything from books to baby toys and exercise equipment.
“We have completed development of our management team, and now we can get down to business,” said Rashall, who was hired last month along with AltaVista vice president and general manager of new media Ross Levinshon and Mark Delfino, vice president of information management and operations.
Rashall would not provide further details about the agency review, or when a decision can be expected.
But sources said they anticipate that the client will move quickly, as AltaVista executives want to see an image campaign in the U.S. and select overseas markets sometime this year. The effort will likely include TV, radio, print, outdoor and interactive ads.
Executives with Houston-based Compaq announced in January that they want to spin off AltaVista, which was acquired earlier this year with its purchase of Digital Equipment Co. When that happens, AltaVista is expected to pursue its own public offering. -with Justin Din