Begun.ru is Russia's biggest contextual advertiser. It was launched in 2002 and six years later was approached by Google with an acquisition bid of $140 million. The deal did not go through, allegedly due to a blockage by Russian anti-monopoly authorities, but the site lives on independently. Begun's active advertisers increased this year by about 10 000 putting it at almost 40 000 unique monthly visits; its ads reach almost 22 million people. The number is quite considerable for Russia, where only 30% of the total population (or around 40 million people) uses Internet. Begun has been quite busy past couple of months coming out with three new features: static and flash ad banners on videos, embedded ads on satellite and cable TV channels and a mediaplanner tool that helps estimate advertising budget for the month.
Embedding ads into videos is nothing new. Broadcasting them in real-time on TV for a targeted audience is more interesting but it's already been done for two years in US. Granted, though, Begun is the first company to bring that service into Russia and it plans to place ads as pop-up messages at the bottom of the screen during the show to avoid intrusive commercial breaks altogether.
The mediaplanner, however, is the most interesting feature of the three: it helps you budget your monthly ad spending in search engines and other Begun's partner websites (which include internet giants like Google, Yahoo, Rambler and Mail.ru among 2000 other companies). Once you indicate what website you'd like to advertise, the tool gives you a list of keywords that would be associated with it (it can be edited by the user). After you indicate your time, source and georgraphical preferences the media planner will give you an estimate of how much you'd spend on advertising with set parameters over a month. The information is based on past data from similar websites with analogous ad campaigns. Begun claims the service is revolutionary for Russia since no contextual advertiser has ever offerred any budgeting tools for their users. However, Google offers a similar service for its advertisers and Begun's ad campaigns are in other respects almost identical to Google's or Facebook's.
According to Zenith Optimedia, Russian advertising market is estimated to grow by 16-18% in the upcoming two years and internet advertising would constitute up to 13%. The majority of Internet advertising would also be in contextual ads rather than banners as they are seen as less intrusive by the user. Given Begun's numbers they got a head-start in that race so it would be interesting to see if Yandex's or Google's ads would emerge as strong contenders to the service in the Russian market.