Claria Shakes Up Management

NEW YORK Claria has named a new management team, as the adware company continues to try to morph into a personalization and behavioral advertising firm.

The Redwood City, Calif., firm said former Catalina Marketing sales executive Scott VanDeVelde has replaced Jeff McFadden as its president and CEO. VanDeVelde has been with Claria since 2000, most recently as senior vice president of global sales. Claria also promoted Scott Eagle, its chief marketing officer, to executive vice president.

With McFadden’s departure, Claria hopes to continue to shift its business from its roots as a controversial adware company that displayed pop-up ads on users’ computers based on their Web behavior. McFadden, who was named CEO in 1999 and co-founded the company that was then called Gator, led the company through a spate of lawsuits over its business practices and complaints from privacy advocates that it tricked users into downloading its ad-serving software by bundling it with free software programs.

“My personal goal is to not only see Claria continue to help lead the development on industry best practices around the adware model, but to evolve out of the pop-up business and begin using our personalization technology to deliver a truly personalized Web experience for consumers,” VanDeVelde said in a statement.

In addition to McFadden’s departure, Claria said senior vice president Mitchell Weisman has left the company. Weisman was in charge of Claria’s adware distribution partnerships, including its key relationship with file-sharing service Kazaa. The two companies parted ways in July.

Jason Fairchild, a former sales executive at Yahoo’s Overture Services, was named vice president of business development. Fairchild’s focus will be expanding Claria’s relationships with Web publishers for its new products, which include a personalization and behavioral ad-targeting services.

Claria believes its software can be used as a powerful personalization platform. Microsoft considered buying Claria for these capabilities earlier this summer, but decided against the deal following negative publicity tied to Claria’s controversial past.

While still operating its pop-up adware business, Claria has begun shifting its business. Claria has launched BehaviorLink, an advertising broker network that buys remnant inventory from publishers and resells it as targeted inventory based on the Web-browsing behavior of 50 million users with Claria’s software.

Next month, Claria plans to complement BehaviorLink with PersonalWeb, in which Internet publishers offer users personalized Web content in exchange for downloading Claria’s tracking software. The tracking software would collect information on users’ Internet habits to compile customized Web content, including news feeds and editorial content. Claria would also use the data to target advertising to them through its newly formed BehaviorLink ad network.

The PersonalWeb service is similar to Google’s new desktop search sidebar product, which shows Web feeds and news headlines based on users’ Internet surfing habits. Google Sidebar, which is still in test phase, does not include advertising.