SAN FRANCISCO (05/16/2000) - The days of including a "www" Internet address at the bottom of advertisements may already be coming to an end, if a deal announced today by Panasonic Consumer Electronics Co. is anything to go by.
Panasonic has signed an extensive agreement to use RealNames Corp.'s Internet Keyword system in its advertising and marketing campaigns, a move designed to make it easier for consumers to find information about Panasonic products on the Web, the companies announced today.
Internet Keywords allow users to type a single word, such as a product or brand name, in the URL field of their Web browser, instead of the sometimes lengthy Internet addresses beginning "www."
The consumer electronics company has bought 10,000 keywords from RealNames, which it plans to use in television, print and other advertising campaigns to steer customers toward its products.
Panasonic isn't the first company to use the RealNames system, but today's agreement marks one of the most extensive to date by a major vendor, and the first by a consumer electronics manufacturer, the companies said. Panasonic, which also offers the Quasar and Technics brands, had North American revenue of $8.1 billion for the fiscal year ended March 1999.
"We believe this will lead to innovative marketing opportunities for us and increased sales for our retailers," Fred Towns, vice president of Panasonic sales and marketing, said in a statement.
The deal is a boon for RealNames, which is trying to establish its keywords system as a de facto way to search for products and services on the Internet.
Its system has been integrated into Microsoft Corp.'s Internet Explorer browser and MSN network, as well as search services from AltaVista Co., Google Inc. and others.
RealNames' system competes with a similar service from America Online Inc., although AOL's keyword system works only from within its own network of Web sites, according to Keith Teare, RealNames' chief executive officer.
"This relationship (with Panasonic) is obviously very big for us," Teare said in a phone interview today.
Today's deal means that a user can now type "Panasonic DVD" in the URL bar of Internet Explorer and be taken to the relevant page on Panasonic's Web site.
The actual URL for the page is the more unwieldy http://www.panasonic.com/consumer_electronics/dvd/index.htm/.
Panasonic will continue to include traditional Internet addresses alongside its Internet Keywords while it monitors the effectiveness of the program. Initial response to an Internet Keyword that the company began using last week has very encouraging, said Bill Pritchard, an assistant general manager with Panasonic, in a phone interview today.
The electronics vendor has started using 300 of the keywords it bought from RealNames, and will roll out others in the near future. Their use won't be limited to promotional materials, Pritchard said. The company expects to employ them in user manuals, for example, to help customers locate technical support information on the Web.
"In the future, you'll open the box and inside the manual, every single accessory will have an Internet Keyword," Pritchard said.
RealNames encourages its customers to use both URLs and Internet Keywords for the time being. But the company hopes that use of its system will become so widespread that users eventually will instinctively use Keywords when they search for Web sites.
Both Panasonic and RealNames refused to discuss specific financial terms of the deal announced today.
In general, customers pay RealNames an up-front fee for the use of its network, a fee for each Keyword, and a "bonus payment" if the system delivers a pre-agreed upon amount of traffic to the customers site, Teare said.
A big-brand company could typically expect to pay "hundreds of thousands of dollars" for use of the Internet Keyword system, although RealNames has many smaller customers which pay far less, RealNames CEO Teare said.
RealNames recently withdrew its filing for an IPO (initial public offering) with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Teare said. The company plans to wait until the stock market -- which recently sent many high-technology stocks into a nose dive -- has more fully recovered, he added.
Panasonic is a division of Matsushita Electric Corporation of America, which can be contacted in Secaucus, New Jersey at +1-201-348-7000. RealNames, in San Carlos, California, can be reached at +1-650-298-8080, or via the Web at http://www.realnames.com/.