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Telstra's Net Bid for $1BN in Ads
Jane Schulze, The Australian

Telstra has made an unprecedented pitch for the nation's advertising dollars through mobiles and the internet, as it seeks to lift its advertising revenue five-fold to $1 billion.

In the first briefing of its kind, Telstra chief Sol Trujillo, Sensis chief Bruce Akhurst, BigPond chief Justin Milne and Sensis digital marketing chief Anthony Saines assembled 20 of Australia's top media buyers in Sydney this week for a 2 1/2-hour presentation.

"In terms of our media assets we have had a relatively low profile in the past and we want to change that," Mr Saines said. "And as the audience is bleeding out of traditional media we think we have a lot of assets which will write an appreciable amount of revenue into the future."

Telstra argues it has the largest network of internet sites, exclusive BigPond content, unique ad-serving technology and cross-platform opportunities from ad sales on the internet and mobile phones.

Paul Leeds, chief executive of the Starcom Mediavest media buying group, said it was the first time Telstra had strongly promoted its media credentials.

"It was a briefing positioning themselves as a major player in the media field. They wanted to make sure we were aware of the future direction of their business," he said.

But Mitchell & Partners chairman Harold Mitchell believed Telstra still faced a large challenge. "They have given the rest of the market a very big start," he said.

Mr Saines would not reveal revenue targets, but as Telstra has total revenue of about $20 billion "for it (advertising) to be material to Telstra you have to talk sizable numbers".

Asked if they intended advertising to be material (or equal to at least 5 per cent) to revenue, he said: "We do over time."

That would equate to advertising revenue of $1 billion, or five times more than the $200 million the sites now generate.

Mr Saines argued the combined sites of Telstra, Sensis and those represented by Sensis' sales group MediaSmart reached 56 per cent of Australia's online audience.

(The third party sites represented by MediaSmart include and coastal

"When you add those to the core assets we already have you suddenly have the largest online network in Australia," he said.

"So it makes us bigger than ninemsn and considerably bigger than other sites like Fairfax and News."

And in July Telstra will launch new behavioural marketing technology which it says will be a unique service to advertisers. The technology will detect when someone has searched a Telstra or Sensis site - such as yellow - for a product or service, then send them advertising related to that product as they trawl the Telstra-Sensis internet network.

Mr Saines argued the service was unique as they had the only three sites (yellow and white and tradingpost. where people went to read ads. And they recorded 5 million visits each month.

"You don't usually go to for fun, but for a reason and that's almost certainly because you are looking for a product or service ... so we can take that and start generating better advertising ROI (return on investment) for our clients."

Telstra also wants to add advertising to mobile phones to its revenue mix.

"We think we are the major game in town in mobile phone advertising, and while it's still in its infancy it will become a major part of the advertising arsenal," Mr Saines said.

Telstra has just begun a trial to learn what sort of ads on phones will be acceptable to consumers.

And Mr Saines said people underestimated Telstra's ability to create cross-platform ad deals.

"We don't own a TV network but we do have these key assets in online and mobile phones and they will be in time our cross-media opportunity," he said.