ADOTAS EXCLUSIVE — There is a stigma associated with online lead generation that has made audiences wary of this industry sector. Pontiflex CEO Zephrin Lasker took some time to speak with Adotas about lead generation and Pontiflex’s history and future.
ADOTAS: How did Pontiflex get its start?
ZEPHRIN LASKER: Pontiflex started off two years ago as a technology company. At that time, you could think of us as the Paypal for online lead generation. Just like Paypal allows people to send and receive money securely in any way they like, Pontiflex allows publishers and advertisers to exchange lead data easily in an automated way.
In April 2008, we secured $2.5 million dollars in Series A funding. The first thing we did was to add a business layer on top of the existing technology layer. And what we came up with was Pontiflex AdLeads”!
With Pontiflex AdLeads, advertisers can select publishers in a transparent way, run display and direct response creative, view reporting and optimize individual placements. It is very much like running a search campaign – the only difference is that as an advertiser, you would pay only for qualified leads and not clicks or impressions.
ADOTAS: Are you in the sales leads business?
ZEPHRIN LASKER: No, we are not in the sales leads business. Now, many of us have heard of sales leads, which are really generic leads generated on the basis of demographic criteria. Sales leads contain detailed information like FICO Score, Age, Household Income etc. In the sales leads industry, one lead is sold to multiple advertisers – think of the Lending Tree model.
With Pontiflex, advertisers can get marketing leads – leads that are unique to the advertiser offer, and leads that are never resold. Marketing leads have basic information such as First Name, Last name and Email, which allow the advertiser to engage consumers through vehicles like newsletters, community sites, loyalty programs, etc.
ADOTAS: So are you saying that even brand marketers can use online lead generation?
ZEPHRIN LASKER: Yes, most definitely. Brand marketers can use our Pontiflex AdUnit X banners to run display advertising on a CPL basis. Our AdUnit X banners allow users to submit information to the advertiser from within the banner without having to click through to a landing page.
They can also use CPL advertising to build a responsive pipeline of consumers that have opted in to their newsletter, community site or loyalty program. By doing so, they can then engage consumers through a two-way conversation – a great way to deploy and relevant branding campaign.
ADOTAS: How does Pontiflex differentiate itself from its competitors? Who would you consider your competitors?
ZEPHRIN LASKER: Our competition is the status quo. If you think about it, a large portion of online advertising is deployed for the purpose of lead generation. Many advertisers use banners or search advertisements to drive users to a landing page, where they try to capture user information. But they go about it in a roundabout way by paying for impressions or clicks, and working out what it costs to get a lead. On the other hand, we enable advertisers to pay only for qualified leads. This way, advertisers know their marketing returns going into the campaign. This is why we are telling advertisers – you can run display and search advertising on CPM and CPC pricing models, but devote a portion of your budget to CPL advertising.
Another point of differentiation is that the centerpiece of our company’s strategy is making the entire lead generation process transparent to advertisers. By making lead generation transparent, Pontiflex has removed a long standing pain point in the lead generation market.
ADOTAS: Can you explain how Pontiflex AdLeads works and what benefits it gives an advertiser?
ZEPHRIN LASKER: Pontiflex AdLeads provides a single point of connection to the entire lead generation market. Because Pontiflex AdLeads is open, an advertiser can work with any and all qualified publishers. They can log onto one system and manage every step of their online campaigns (even non-Pontiflex ones).
And as I mentioned before since we are transparent advertisers know exactly where their leads are coming from. They can easily increase investment against the better performing publishers.
Of course, all leads are validated and de-duped before being sent to advertisers. Advertisers don’t have to pay for invalid leads, or for leads that are already a part of their database. So advertisers will find ROI with Pontiflex AdLeads at every step of the value chain.
ADOTAS: What is your opinion on incentivized lead generation and the privacy issues that have risen alongside this controversial topic?
ZEPHRIN LASKER: These issues have given online lead generation a bad name. They primarily have to do with a lack of transparency in the way the lead was generated – consumers were often tricked into signing up for offers, and once they did so, their data was resold to multiple parties.
The problem is not with CPL advertising, it’s with the lack of transparency, which is why we believe Pontiflex is a game changer for the industry. We make online lead generation transparent. This way, advertisers can have the best of both worlds: the transparency of CPM/CPC advertising and the high ROI of CPL advertising.
ADOTAS: Who are your advertisers?
ZEPHRIN LASKER: We work with a number of clients of different company sizes and across many industry sectors. Our clients include Reynolds Handi-Vac, Designer Linen Outlet, Travel Nevada, New Egg, iGuard and the critically acclaimed documentary IO USA. We also work with advertising agencies such as True North, Mullen and RUF. We did a lot of work for the one of the candidates during the recent Presidential campaign.
ADOTAS: Who are your publishers?
ZEPHRIN LASKER: We have a wide family of publishers that have already signed up for Pontiflex AdLeads, including Monster.com, Orbitz.com, Returnpath and Snagajob.com and QualityHealth.com.
I really want to stress that we do not limit our advertisers in any way. For example if an advertiser wanted to work with a site that was not a part of Pontiflex AdLeads, she or he could import that publisher into the system easily for no charge.
ADOTAS: Have you seen a major shift in online ad spending since the turn in the economy?
ZEPHRIN LASKER: IDC reported earlier in the year that while the spend on overall advertising would decline in 2008; spend on Internet advertising would actually increase. Increased return on investment was the primary factor driving this shift.
We are definitely seeing advertisers spend more on CPL advertising because of the high ROI, especially in the tough economy. At Pontiflex, we have seen over a 300% increase in leads generated by clients using CPL advertising to get more returns.
ADOTAS: What is the company working on next?
ZEPHRIN LASKER: In the immediate future, we are helping advertisers to even further increase ROI by providing tools that enable advertisers to tie in business results to marketing metrics more clearly.
We will also continue to roll out AdUnit X banners across an even greater number of publishers, so that they can easily rotate in high-demand CPL banners along with existing inventory, and monetize their inventory better.
ADOTAS: Finally, can you give some background on the team at Pontiflex and what their experience contributes to the success of the firm?
ZEPHRIN LASKER: Our team consists of industry veterans with extensive experience in all forms of online advertising. Our marketing and sales teams have seen up close the evolution of the online industry working at companies like Orbitz, Ogilvy & Mather, IBM and MyPoints. Our technical team has played leadership roles in setting up secure, scalable and reliable infrastructures at companies like HSBC and Amazon.com.
So all in all, we have the experience to deliver solutions that help advertisers and publishers increase returns, especially in these tough economic times. The one thing I like best about our team? They are really willing to listen to the market and invest their efforts in delivering innovation that matters.
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