Rolling Over Rich Media: Pointroll CEO Chris Saridakis Takes a Click at the Competition

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The name Pointroll is as synonymous with rich media as a bottle of Jack Daniel’s is with Motley Crue. In just five years’ time, the company has helped spearhead innovation and improved performance within banner ad units through its growing, peculiarly-titled product offering including Fat Boy, Towel Boy and Bad Boy.

But between all the Eyeblasters and Unicasts of the online world, Pointroll has steadily veered from its competition and made a name for itself, thanks much in part to CEO Chris Saridakis. Since first joining Pointroll as COO in 2003, the former DoubleClick exec has led technology, sales and marketing initiatives, harvesting an impressive clientele of agencies and brands along the way–Mercedes-Benz, Absolut, and Grey Interactive to name a few.

But as the banner landscape has gravitated towards video and Flash-enabled creative, Saridakis–a technology lover at heart–sees potholes in his rivals’ ad strategies, including the negligence in encouraging user engagement.

ADOTAS recently sat down for an enlightening conversation with Chief Exec, getting his background, his gauge on banner ad best practices, why he left DoubleClick, what his competitors lack, and why Pointroll will lead the way in the next wave of rich media.

How did you get involved in the interactive space?

I started at DoubleClick in ’97, basically myself and David Rosenblatt—who’s the current president of DoubleClick now. We were basically the two people who started their technology business, DART. Then, over the five years I had worked there, I basically built the business up from no clients to well over a thousand plus clients. The revenue went from a big zero in ’98 to at the peak, around $280-300 million in revenue. We went from 2 employees—David and myself—and at the peak, in the tech division, had about 1200 employees.

We did a bunch of acquisitions along the way, NetGravity Flow Networks, a whole bunch of random acquisitions. The whole idea was I was joining DoubleClick was that I really believed in online advertising even as early as 1996, 97. It was the next hot medium that people are going to spend their money on. Most of those companies were fueled by venture-backed firms, they all started, went up really high and then fell apart.

We were benefactors of those companies because most of those online companies would immediately spend money advertising their solutions using our technology.

Tell me when and why you left DoubleClick.

I had left DoubleClick at the end of 2002, as they basically announced that the market was going to hell in a hand basket so to speak.

When I had left, the market wasn’t great, but the opportunity with online advertising was huge. The reality was DoubleClick wasn’t innovative anymore. It started out as a company that innovated, but it stopped innovating and it managed most of its bottom line—it was just cutting cost.

And then little companies like Pointroll and Eyeblaster, and all these rich media companies were forming in the 2000 period. When those companies started to form, we looked at them at DoubleClick, but we never took them seriously. But I kept my eye on Pointroll, Eyeblaster, Unicast, the usual suspects that were out there at the time. They were all really brand new, but no one was really gaining traction because no advertiser really wanted to spend the money in online advertising.

So how did your employment with Pointroll come about? What attracted you to the company?

So when I had left [DoubleClick], I had worked with one of DoubleClick’s investors for a little bit, and eventually linked up with Pointroll. I was really linking up with them not to run the company, but to invest my own money in them. Pointroll was unlike any other rich media company out there, because it was bootstrapped from the very beginning—it never raised a dime.

Every single rich media company went out, raised money, and used that money to hire people and grow their technology. Pointroll started with a dollar, and they’ve become one of the most successful companies. So when I joined, I was looking to put money into it, and help them fuel their growth a lot faster. But they said, ‘we don’t need your money, we just need your background and expertise, and we need to hire a team.’

So it was a real attractive idea, and since, I’ve hired a bunch of people who used to work with me at DoubleClick. There are about 9 people who worked with me and helped me build the business. It was the usual story of how it goes. These guys were all hired, they wanted to build something big, and they also wanted to slay the dragon that was DoubleClick.

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