Affluent and Premium Are Allied at RGM

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networkADOTAS – Yahoo!’s Right Media ad exchange kicked a slew of small and medium publishers to the curb when it decided to ditch the Direct Media Exchange and rebrand as a premium exchange.

Interesting enough, the same kind of thought process is working on the other side of the spectrum — although expansion instead of contraction is at the heart of affluent ad network InterLuxe Media’s rechristening as RGM Alliance. As the network has rapidly grown, the name change is partially to play down the luxury connotation and appear more as a premium ad network.

It’s not just aimed at Richie Rich anymore, said Kamran Razavi — founder and CEO of RGM Group, of which the network is a division — hence why the network is forgoing the word luxury (or InterLuxe) in favor of affluent.

“We’re so big and we do so much that we’re not just luxury,” he said. “We do focus on the affluent, but we also can serve brands that are looking for a premium audience and premium channel — not necessarily the ultra-wealthy.”

According Razavi, RGM Alliance has quickly metamorphosed from a small idea — InterLuxe was brought into being a year and a half ago to meet the demands of advertisers wanting to expand the reach of their campaigns to more premium targeted individuals.

In May 2009, the network that would become RGM Alliance had 66 pubs and internal reports of around 20 million uniques a month. Today the publisher count has jumped to 159 pubs with 240 specific urls. The network witnessed a 235% increase in unique U.S. visitors since September 2009, making for 46 million monthly U.S. users and 67 million globally, according to comScore.

RGM Alliance defines premium publishers through a rigid combination of brand integrity, site content, ad placements and audience. Publishers are grouped into nine verticals including travel, lifestyle and automotive. Beyond that, advertisers can arrange custom channels that focus on more affluent groups or gender-specific subjects.

A feature introduced with the new moniker is the ability for advertisers to buy sections of the network and roadblock them for specific time periods, which Razavi cited as a boon to entertainment and automotive clients when they launch new products. Acura was the first to take advantage of this offering in early February with the launch of the ZDX model.

RGM Alliance will also be launching campaigns for Porsche and Maserati; not brands you expect to see on whatever podunk blog you frequent — and you still won’t see them there, rather on more high-class and niche publishers like Elle, Frommers, NY Observer and Car & Driver. Razavi has noticed an expansion of the breadth of clientele RGM works, with faces new to RGM or the web in general — in particular, the upscale automotive sector — Porsche and Maserati.

Many of these are clients that were once glued to print but have been shifting ad dollars into the online space mainly for the ROI, which has become a significant driver. As wallets tighten in the recessionary environment, advertisers are demanding more substantive evidence that their marketing is reaching the target audience. Online takes it to a level that print can’t match.

“Brand clients are tying in some kind of online metric as well,” Razavi added. “In the past they might not have cared as much, tracked as much or watched as much on the ROI side are making that more of a focus.”

While a few luxury ad networks have sprung up in the past few years, Ravazi believes RGM distinguishes itself by selling the affluent market since 2004. RGM is privately owned and never sought funding. Ravazi views his product as more genuine than competitors.

“Anyone can create a network,” he mentioned. “Anyone these days can have a pitch to sign up publishers and put them within a channel. In 2007-2008 there were vertical networks for everyone; puppies, moms, kids, people that love the color purple… Anything and everything had a vertical network.”

But then the market was hot and there was a great deal of money flowing in. With a weaker economy,  several vertical networks departed the space over the last year as smaller numbers of premium publishers were willing to work with networks. Ravazi sees this trend continuing.

“Things have sifted a bit, and they will continue to sift,” he said. “You get all the gold at the end of the day from the murk and muck that comes out of the stream.”

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