When I spent a day at the New York corporate headquarters of international digital marketing agency 24/7 Real Media Inc. last month, the mood was celebratory and with good reason.
The company had recently announced fourth-quarter revenue for 2006 of $60 million – an increase of 44 percent over the $41.7 million reported in 2005. Total revenue for last year was reported at $200.2 million.
“I want you all to stop and soak in the greatness of this quarter,” Jonathan K. Hsu, chief operating officer and chief financial officer of 24/7.
He spoke at an all-hands meeting to New York staff as well as the European and North American offices via video broadcast.
But it was soon business as usual. The 10-year-old company, which has about 400 employees in 12 countries, has several ongoing initiatives including a Web site redesign, internal employee education and recruiting programs and international expansion projects.
Based on the success of 24/7’s search engine marketing partnership with Japanese advertising agency Dentsu, which is called K.K. 24-7 Search, the company recently announced plans to deepen its alliance. This new venture will now service advertising markets in China, India, South Korea, Thailand and Taiwan. The additional partnerships are set to launch this year.
“When you launch a Web site, your audience is the world,” said David J. Moore, chairman/CEO of 24/7.
Mr. Moore said one of his biggest challenges is communication across a global company.
“We’ve described [the company] as a family in the past,” Mr. Moore said. “It gets tougher to do that when the environment gets bigger and bigger.”
At the morning meeting, which was repeated live for the offices in the Asia-Pacific market later that evening, he told the staff that the “biggest problem with communication was the illusion that it’s been accomplished.”
He encouraged the staff to overcommunicate. Mr. Moore set forth five core values for the company: integrity, passion, service, excellence and innovation. Today, a framed list of the values hangs in each of the twenty 24/7 offices.
New Web site
Also introduced at the meeting was the recent redesign of 24/7’s corporate Web site at www.247realmedia.com. Created with interactive agency Lippincott Mercer, the site is set to launch April 3 in the United States. Rollout in other countries will be gradual, but is expected to be completed by May 29.
Brian Lesser, director of product marketing, said that it was a difficult task to represent all the different ways that 24/7’s business was done to have a unified look.
“Our attempt was to offer many doorways of entry to the content we have,” he said. “Our site serves advertisers, publishers, investors, employee prospects and the media.”
The copy on each page was written based on the varying levels of technical background a visitor might have. The site is also considered a lead-generation vehicle and has a relevant call to action on each page. The look is lighter than 24/7’s previous design and features grey boxes with yellow and orange text. The home page displays a reel of factoids that humorously relate to the company’s various services.
In addition to the corporate site, 24/7 has recently improved its intranet. Its digital learning center is up and running and features videos and tutorials that include training on product, internal systems, sales, human resources and general market information. It also features media feeds and photos from company events.
One upcoming feature is a test function that will allow people to be certified on various topics. In-person training sessions also are being taught across the company’s offices by three in-house trainers.
Previously, there was no digital training. Face-to-face training happened in an ad hoc way. The company has a course book on the various sessions available to each employee. The book is also available on the intranet site.
At one of the day’s meetings, a new integrated platform was discussed. It records relationships and work done for clients across global markets, by brand and any agency that has bought ads on behalf of that brand. The software, which comes from Salesforce.com, has been integrated and modified by internal 24/7 staff, including Jon Greenwood, product manager of internal systems and global training.
Although not yet implemented throughout the company, once ready, the platform will be used to cross-sell services to brands in various countries by understanding what might have already worked or not worked for a similar client or the same brand in a different market.
In the afternoon there was a conference call with an entertainment client who requested anonymity. However, Paul Thau, senior vice president at Singer Direct, a division of Omnicom Media Group, the client’s purchasing agency executive, was on the call.
Mr. Thau prices services for the client on a cost-per-acquisition (CPA) basis. However, 24/7 charges on a cost-per-thousand (CPM) basis, optimizing its buys in order to meet or beat the client’s CPA.
“Most often, we’re coming in below the [CPA] goal,” Mr. Thau said. “This is good for my client and it allows for testing.”
On this status report call were Andre Catarino, account manager, and Ji Kim, vice president of sales. The purpose of the call was to review campaign objectives. At the time, the client had been working on this particular campaign for three months.
Singer Direct has noticed an increase in their client’s campaign efficiency since 24/7 Real Media officially took over the project.
This was partly because the most effective ads were displayed on the
most efficient sites due to 24/7’s process of embedding an optimization
pixel within the ads, which allows the client to monitor conversion
results. At the time, this client was running ads on about six
different publisher sites and using 12 different creatives on 24/7’s ad
The client’s campaign also was benefiting from retargeting. Mr. Thau said that rather than purchase inventory from one publisher site, the client’s ad creative was able to reach the same viewer a second or third time to encourage conversation after initial exposure.
This client interaction was in line with what Mr. Moore said about 24/7’s approach to the market. He described display as the ‘push’ and search as the ‘pull’ in Internet marketing.
“You don’t know what to search on unless you’ve been made aware of it,” Mr. Moore said.
Internet marketing was increasingly becoming both a brand and direct advertising opportunity, he said.
“If you’re not taking advantage of both, you are missing out on opportunities…we charge our advertisers for both,” Mr. Moore said, referring to 24/7’s rate policy.
Some advertisers only do CPA,” Mr. Moore said. “We don’t work with them. We don’t think that’s a fair way to value our partners’ inventory.”
In addition to having offices throughout the world, the New York office maintains a schedule of ongoing executive leadership trips in order to maintain a presence and establish working relationships with everyone throughout the company.
Mr. Hsu had travel advice for all staffers who had upcoming overseas trips. In one meeting he advised Noah Schankler, vice president of corporate development and investor relations, and Nicolle Pangis, director of global development and business integration, who were headed to the Asia-Pacific offices to help establish search engine marketing operations in China, India, South Korea, Thailand and Taiwan.
During the trip, they were to have met with investors and toured facilities bearing gifts, due to the important gift-giving culture in Asia. Mr. Hsu noted that China presents a challenge to travel in because of its infrastructure.
Organizing meetings and solidifying schedules with such a significant time difference was also a challenge for 24/7. This is one reason for the clocks that display the time in several markets on the company’s corporate office walls.
Some of the company’s goals for 2007 are to combine its analytics and ad serving services into one platform and make that technology available to all its customers.
Oleg Vishnepolsky, the agency’s chief technology officer, said the company also aims to take a market leadership position based on its established offerings in IPTV and mobile video.
Another technology goal was to launch a Korean development center. The South Korean market is agency dominated. The cost of developing technology there is approximately one-third of the cost of developing a similar offering in the United States, according to Mr. Hsu.
Mr. Hsu said that the South Korean market was a good model or “crystal ball” for what was happening in the overall Asian market.
Having met with a number of 24/7’s staff throughout the day, I saw the company’s emphasis on teamwork and cross-market insight.
Interestingly, Mr. Moore noted a similar trend in an ad network’s structure. He said that the ad network’s strength was in aggregation and focus.
“How do you maintain an audience in a world that’s increasingly fragmenting?” he said. “The real key to the future of advertising is targetability. The right ad at the right time for maximum impact.”