Sizing up Small Networks

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Buying and selling ads is a tricky business, and often enough the field of network options can feel limited to just a few major players. With all of the DoubleClicks and Advertising.coms out there hogging the network pie, sometimes the little guys seem to get lost in the mix. But that doesn’t mean they can’t give you what you need—or does it? I wondered: when it comes to choosing a network, does size really matter?

To answer this question, I started talking to folks at a few of these smaller networks, to get their take on what smaller networks might have to offer your average client. My first stop was to speak with Mark Morison in the Advertising Relations department at RealTechNetwork.

RealTech has only been around for about a year and a half, but already they are sustaining their purported 720 million impressions per month (342 million of them unique) with the help of a twelve person staff. The company offers standard (468 x 60) banners, Skyscrapers (120 x 600) and Leaderboards (728 x 90), along with all the other customary IAB mediums. And as of the beginning of this year, RealTech switched its platform to the Adjuggler Ad Serving Platform software solution—an attempt to employ software that can keep pace with what Morison described as the company’s recent “tremendous” growth.

On the question of what advantages small networks might offer, Morison praised the little guys for their ability to work closely with clients in a way that is difficult for larger networks to manage. “We can have a one on one relationship with the publisher as well as the advertiser,” Morison told me. “We’re the middle men, so we try to get both parties to be satisfied in the results, on the advertisers end and on the publishers end.”

RealTech’s not alone in using the personal approach to build business. Another pint-size network trying to clamor up the industry ladder is BUDS, Inc. The company currently represents about 500 publishers and registers about 15-20 million impressions a day. Their publisher programs include Active X pops, Banners, Skyscrapers and Raw pops, and their ad prices vary on an ad hoc basis for those of you who are game for a bit of negotiating.

And if the numbers the company’s CEO, Mike Seiman, shared with me are accurate, this more personal approach seems to be working. “We definitely grow, revenue-wise, a good 10-20% each quarter at least,” Seiman disclosed. “Publisher-wise, our inventory grows a good 5-10% monthly. We probably add a good 5 to 10 sites every week.”

As far as who makes up their advertiser base, BUDS is currently running a number of zip code offers—many from TheUser.com, Screensavers.com, and SmileyCentral. And though I wasn’t given the specific metrics on these deals, I think it’s fair to say these types of products are, at most, a starting point for a new company.

Seiman admits that BUDS does have a few plans in the works to ease the transition into big-network pants. “We have a few other projects underway, kind of incentivized websites, sort of along the lines of what TheUseful and companies like that do, but with a totally different spin on it,” Seiman explained. (He wouldn’t go into any further detail about what BUDS has in store, but I would keep an eye out for an announcement in about a month.)

Yet another little-dog with big-dog bite is “tween” focused Track Media Network, a niche company that views it as their imperative to get ahead of youth trends. Ethan Ross, VP of Media of Track Entertainment (the parent company of Track Media) was quick to defend the honor of their tiny ranks.

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