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Direct Response Marketing

Field Reports

1 Dec, 2009 By: Thomas Haire, Jacqueline Renfrow Response


Mike CassidyRESPONSE Q&A

Cassidy Pushes the Envelope for Quality Ad Network
By Thomas Haire (thaire@questex.com)

Undertone Networks is a New York-based interactive services organization working heavily in the online ad network space for brand awareness and direct response. The company specializes in buying space from the top 500 traveled Web sites, purchases its inventory up front directly from publishers, and only buys media space from Web sites that offer users quality and valuable content. Recently, Response caught up with Mike Cassidy, the company’s founder and CEO, to talk about Undertone and its services.

Q: How did Undertone Networks start and what keeps it so strong?
A: I started the company as a media buying agency in 2001. Shortly after the company’s inception, we partnered with Orbitz to assist in planning and executing its online media strategy. Our work helped Orbitz quickly emerge as a leading online travel company and become known as one of the most successful and efficient online advertisers. We were buying a lot of media directly from publishers and from ad networks for Orbitz, and I saw an opportunity to do it differently — to focus exclusively on providing highquality inventory and solutions. I founded Undertone Networks to address this need in the marketplace. We continue to grow because we are a reliable and trusted media partner. There are more and more headlines about click and impression fraud, advertisers who discover that their ads are being served completely out of view — or sometimes even worse, next to objectionable content. Undertone is the only ad network to offer a cash-back guarantee that protects advertisers from this uncertainty and risk.

Q: What does Undertone do for its clients in the DR space that sets it apart from the competition?
A: Because we hand-acquire all our media, Undertone is the only network to guarantee quality. This resonates with marketers because DR campaigns are all about reaching the right audience at the right time and with the right message. With Undertone, campaigns are running only on high-quality Web sites, with the scale, reach and highimpact solutions direct marketers need to drive high-performance results they are looking for — whether that’s measured in clicks, acquisitions, requests, downloads, etc. There is a rising tide of research that demonstrates that the click is no longer a viable measure for online advertising, which is obviously a challenge for direct marketers, who now look to measure campaign performance by engagement. Undertone outperforms other networks in key metrics such as interaction time and interaction rate.

Q: Can you speak about the most successful campaigns you’ve worked on?
A: We recently ran a very successful campaign with Long John Silver’s, which earned an OMMA Members’ Choice Award for integrated online campaigns. While Long John Silver’s had employed other advertising media in the past, this was its first online initiative. The goal was to increase sales of two new products — Baja Fish Taco and IceFlow Frozen Lemonade — among 18- to 34-year-olds in test markets in Virginia, Iowa and Tennessee. Undertone tailored the ads in an exclusive campaign to drive consumer engagement, giving consumers the opportunity to locate a nearby restaurant and download a coupon for the two new products. The information and the coupon were then sent to the consumer’s mobile phone for immediate access and/or redemption. This was accomplished within the ad and did not interrupt the consumer’s browsing experience by prompting them to open a separate browser to access the desired information. More than 35 percent of consumers who expressed interest in the Long John Silver’s offer also opted to receive additional communication from the brand. Long John Silver’s realized a completion rate of 2.27 percent, ensuring consumers not only engaged with the ad, but also took action by requesting the coupon or locating a restaurant. Based on the success of this campaign, Long John Silver’s incorporated online advertising into its overall marketing strategy and continues to execute subsequent initiatives.

Q: Where do you see Undertone Networks in five years?
A: Undertone will continue to focus on delivering digital media solutions with quality distribution, tools and products along with insights to produce results for agencies and marketers. We will also continue to build out offerings that drive publisher revenue. Five years from now, we expect the ad network space to look very different as PC-based, mobile and set-top screens merge into one central system for ad delivery and reporting. Finally, with the significant opportunity in emerging markets, we expect Undertone to have a global presence.

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