March 13, 2003 7:48 AM PST

Yahoo ad campaign seeks lonely hearts

Web portal Yahoo said Thursday that it would launch a promotional blitz for its online personals that will run on television, radio, billboards and the Net.

Yahoo will kick off its advertising campaign when it airs its first series of commercials during the Academy Awards on March 23. The commercial spot, dubbed "Big Night," will profile Yahoo Personals users prepping for their dates, such as a cowboy dusting off his hat and a septuagenarian doing a jig in a leisure suit.

The campaign's radio spots will run in Boston, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco and Washington, D.C., and will focus on the site's features. The billboards will pop up along highways throughout Boston, Chicago, New York and San Francisco. The online ads will run throughout Yahoo's network of sites.

The company refused to disclose its budget for the ads.

Still, the campaign highlights Yahoo's heightened investment in its personals business. Yahoo executives have praised the unit for its rapid increases in consumer popularity and revenue. Because the service charges $19.95 a month for membership, the business has been touted as a model for Yahoo's crusade to diversify its revenue away from advertising and toward subscriptions.

But the financial performance of Yahoo Personals remains a mystery. Despite their plaudits, Yahoo executives have offered only a murky overview of the business--saying that personals, e-mail storage, e-mail forwarding and Internet access combined accounted for 70 percent of premium services revenue last quarter.

Yahoo's biggest competitor for personals is market leader Match.com. A division of USA Interactive, Match.com reported $37.1 million in revenue last quarter and saw a 90 percent rise in subscribers during the same period the previous year.

Online personals have become a growing business on the Web mainly because people will pay for it. This has sparked competition among major players such as Match.com, Yahoo, Date.com, Matchmaker, Kiss.com and Lavalife. Given the success of many of these businesses, some smaller-scale ideas have also attempted to ride the wave.

 

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