INTERNATIONAL: GCI Group wins pitch to return AltaVista to roots

SAN FRANCISCO: GCI Group has scooped the centralised business of AltaVista, after the internet firm retreated from a foray into portals to return to its search engine roots.

SAN FRANCISCO: GCI Group has scooped the centralised business of AltaVista, after the internet firm retreated from a foray into portals to return to its search engine roots.

The account had previously been divided between GCI, Applied Communications -which will still handle business-to-business for its enterprise software business - and Porter-Novelli. It is understood that the latter pair also pitched for the centralised account.

Working with a budget of almost pounds 1 million, GCI will be charged with corporate positioning and branding for the entire business, from e-commerce to the network.

The first challenge is to bring the focus back to AltaVista as a search engine after its failed attempt to compete with the likes of Yahoo! and AOL.

'It was the most renowned search engine when it launched in 1995,' said Dianne Gleason, GCI executive vice-president who will head the account.

'When portal competitors came in, it seemed like a natural add-on, but in the end it cannibalised the core competency and turned off users.'

AltaVista senior PR manager Kristi Kaspar denied that a decline in users had led to the decision. 'It was just general feedback and our own usability testing,' she said.

AltaVista, which is a majority owned company of Nasdaq-listed CMGI, is available in 25 languages and currently has over two million users in the US and Canada.



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