Will insert-offer know-how translate online?

In response to the growth of e-commerce, Stanton Direct, Elmira, NY, is launching what it calls an e-sert network – a program designed after the Internet marketing ad-server model. The program, at www.esertnetwork.com, stores and places digital ads for confirmation pages.

Rob Stanton, vice president of business development, says that while the company is not likely to take on network giants like DoubleClick or BlueLithium any time soon, it aims to provide its Web retail clients a straightforward way to monetize pages on their Web sites.

Inserts by any other name
Stanton says that e-serts have the same concept of traditional insert media. In fact, it is its industry experience with third-party offers that made Stanton Direct believe it could add value to the already teeming ad-server marketplace.

“The insert business is used to dealing with concerns of compatibility of offers, finding the right programs for a brand and tweaking the creative so that it appeals to the right customer at the right time,” says Stanton.

The e-sert ads are delivered at the end of an order. This timing benefits the marketer, not only because the prospects reached are qualified buyers, but also because they may still be shopping. The programs are similar to package-insert programs or billing statement ride-alongs. However, they are – thanks to the Web – nearly instantaneous with the end of the first sale.

“At this point [in the interaction], most Web merchants are not too concerned if the customer navigates away from their Web site,” says Stanton. “The advertiser is most interested in marketing opportunities that direct a prospective customer to their site.”

How it works
Ads are stored on a server that both the ad broker and the Web site owner have access to. The site owner then designates a zone for ad placement on the order confirmation page and adds relevant Web code, generated by the broker, to that page’s template. As the order confirmation page is generated at the end of the checkout process, the ads will be pulled from the e-sert network’s server and display in the appointed advertising zone.

The Web code used on the order confirmation page will always be consistent. Any changes in the ad line-up or order can be controlled independently from the ad server.

For Stanton Direct, the program is quite an undertaking for a company without an Internet technology division; Stanton says it may mean hiring additional staff. Expansion will depend on the success of the program.

Stanton Direct controls the scheduling, tracking and placement of online ads. It will clear advertisers with the site owner, negotiate rates (either cost-per-thousand, pay-per-click or cost-per-acquisition), procure artwork to specifications, and track impressions, clicks, and percentage of sales. It also handles the billing and payment collection.

The process mirrors that of the ad network, yet Stanton Direct believes it has something different to add to the mix – years of experience establishing marketing partnerships with catalogers, banks, and online retailers.

“Many ad-serving networks will place ads based solely on site or page content and could be very spontaneous,” says Stanton. “Though the ads are generally related to the page content, it may not always keep in step with the brand identity of the site owner.”

Something new, aside from the Web technology, for the company to tackle is page placement. Unlike an insert where the “real estate” of a piece is the realm of the advertiser, e-sert location is by the site owner.

Optimizing ad placement is a priority for Stanton Direct. Through testing and experience, it hopes to advise its clients on mutually beneficial spots based for each landing page.

Websert programs already abound
The concept of insert advertisement adding value to the online marketing world is nothing new. Last year, Millard Group Inc., a Peterborough, NH, subsidiary of database giant infoUSA Inc., launched Websert programs from its insert media division AM/Direct.

Webserts, or online package inserts, are ads that appear in the post-transaction e-mail after a customer has made a purchase. They often work to supplement package insert programs, according to Jeff Savastano, an account manager at Millard.

Webserts are sent after an online order is placed but before the product has been received, thus reaching consumers earlier in the shopping cycle than a package insert.

Like traditional inserts, a Websert comes with an implied endorsement from the program owner. Millard offers Websert programs with clothing retailers including Ashro, an African-American women’s catalog and Paul Fredrick Menstyle, a men’s business wear retailer. Other Millard Websert program owners include Blockbuster, Gadget Universe, Brookstone and drugstore.com.

Several other insert companies including Plus Media LLC and Echo Media offer advertisers Webserts.

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