Spot Runner Buys Weblistic, Pumps Up Local Sales Effort

spotrunner-image.jpg Spot Runner has gone into the local reseller channel in a major way by acquiring Weblistic, a company headed by Ketan Shah (and whose president is Yellow Pages Commando Dick Larkin). The company has 50 employees and is headquartered in Fremont, near San Jose, with additional offices in Carlsbad, CA, near San Diego and Chicago. It also has sales staff in the New York metro area and Denver. Its employees will be combined with Spot Runner’s 300 employees.

No price was disclosed but it’s an all-stock transaction. Going forward, Weblistic will be marketed under the “Spot Runner” brand.

Most of Spot Runner’s prior emphasis has been on providing largely prepackaged video production and media planning to national organizations as a way to offer localized video to franchisees and other national advertisers, including Realogy, Century 21, Steak & Ale, Diamond Jewelers and Warner Independent Pictures.

More recently, however, the company has been steadily building up its local capabilities, first by acquiring a videographer network a couple of months back — a step that put it in competition against companies such as TurnHere and Denver Multimedia, both of which are being resold by city guides, Yellow Pages and other local resellers.

Spot Runner also has opened 30 local sales offices in different parts of the country, all of which will now use the Weblistic software platform. The platform had its origins in the old Yellowpages.com platform, pre-AT&T (Shah had been Yellowpages.com’s CTO).

Spot Runner cofounder David Waxman says the company is now going to focus on providing a true multimedia capability. “TV is the best option for some. For others, some search is a better option.” Advertisers are “increasingly asking for other media” including radio, outdoor, print, he adds. “They are clamoring for a full-service offering.”

It doesn’t appear likely that Spot Runner will underestimate the considerable challenges of local advertising. One of its top sales executive is local sales vet Tim Lambert, who previously worked with Yahoo!, HotJobs, Knight Ridder Digital and Pac Bell Yellow Pages (although he is currently more focused on national sales efforts). But it will still need to get good interactive sales pros. They’re in very short supply.

Another challenge will be to differentiate itself among the glut of resellers, which include ReachLocal (valuation = $300 million), WebVisible, Yodle and Orange Soda. Each claims various advantages in software, algorithms and systems, but to a layman, the differences are slight.

The final challenge will be to truly leverage its existing relationships. Spot Runner investors include CBS and ad agency giant WPP. Moreover, former AOL President Bob Pittman sits on its board.

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