Christopher Saridakis joined PointRoll in 2003 as chief operating officer. In this role, he was responsible for shaping and developing PointRoll’s product development, sales and marketing initiatives and long-term growth strategies. In June 2005, Saridakis took the position of chief executive officer.
Before PointRoll, Saridakis was the senior vice president and general manager of the Global TechSolutions division for DoubleClick Inc., the division responsible for the DART ad serving platform. He was among the first people in the technology business at DoubleClick and was instrumental in growing the business from six to over 2,000 clients and to over $250mm in annual revenues. We talked with Saridakis to get his views on the increasingly important role of online video for marketers.
iMedia: It has been nine months since you took the helm of PointRoll-- an eternity in the rich media space. What are the biggest changes you’ve seen in the market over that period of time?
Christopher Saridakis: The most exciting changes we’re seeing have to do with brand advertisers creating ad campaigns specifically for the online medium, as opposed to repurposing traditional creative for the web. The early adopters were doing that nine months ago, but now the more conservative advertisers are saying, "We want to take full advantage of the medium by engaging our consumers with interactive elements."
But it goes even further than that. Over the last nine months there has been a palpable change in the way advertisers approach rich media. Not only are they putting more money towards it, but they truly want to understand what makes the medium tick. Advertisers used to say "The web is where we need to be,” but now we’re hearing them say, “The web is where we want to be.” That’s huge.
Another major change -- and this will surprise no one -- is the significant increase in demand for online video ads. PointRoll has served more than 3.5 billion video impressions over the last nine months, a significant increase over the same period one year prior. And we fully expect to see that number grow in the coming months and years.
iMedia: It’s safe to say that video has captured the market’s attention en masse. Is “video” now synonymous with rich media?
Saridakis: Absolutely not. Video is a very exciting, engaging component of rich media campaigns, but by itself, it’s TV online. The most effective online ads take full advantage of the interactive nature of the internet. We do lots of video campaigns that layer other elements like downloads, data collection, gaming and email capabilities-- and it is those ads that consistently deliver the strongest results.
iMedia: At some of the recent iMedia Summits, we’ve heard people say that 2004 was the year of search, 2005 the year of behavioral targeting and 2006 the year of video. Do you agree with this assessment?
Saridakis: I wouldn’t disagree with that statement. Although to say that video has eclipsed search and behavioral from a usage standpoint would be a gross misrepresentation. The buzz in 2006 is about video and that’s entirely appropriate because video is letting advertisers push the boundaries of creativity. Broadband adoption, video technology advancements and bigger online ad budgets have aligned to help the format take hold. And most importantly, video is delivering outstanding results for advertisers, which you can measure by interaction rates, time-on-brand and other metrics. PointRoll has been working with online video within the rich media space for over five years, so we are happy to see the uptake on video elements within an interactive environment.
iMedia: Where do you see the greatest opportunities in the rich media space moving forward?
Saridakis: There are several areas that really excite us. We’ve talked a lot about video, but we’ve really just scratched the surface of possibilities there. We also see a tremendous opportunity in online, local market advertising. Currently, the majority of online local ad spend is on search, but we believe that will change as more advertisers rely on dynamic data to make ads instantly relevant to a web users’ location. We’ll see much more convergence between advanced targeting capabilities and rich media formats. Finally, we believe that the future of search will be focused around more rich media ad units in lieu of static text ads. The ability for an advertiser to market their product in search is amazing. Think of how much more impactful that experience becomes when you do it interactively!
iMedia: How has the Gannett acquisition, which occurred last June, affected day-to-day business at PointRoll?
Saridakis: We’re lucky to have the best of both worlds with the acquisition: strong business synergies, as well as a great deal of freedom and self sufficiency in terms of daily operations. A clear example of those synergies is our PaperBoy product, which combines PointRoll’s ability to create dynamic online circulars with Gannett’s expansive network of local-market properties. Gannett also gives us a great deal of the publisher’s perspective from a traditional sense. This helps us in developing products that relate to what advertisers are looking for while taking advantage of the interactive nature of the web.
iMedia: You got your start in this space in the late '90s at DoubleClick. What did that experience teach you?
Saridakis: When I was at DoubleClick, it was still the early days of online advertising. No one was really even sure of the business model yet, so we built inroads with anyone who would listen-- with the agencies, brand managers, creative designers and publishers. The relationships that I forged at DoubleClick are still in place today. One of the things DoubleClick did very well was to use its numbers and reporting to make general assertions about the industry. This is something that we emphasize at PointRoll. When you’re serving billions of rich media ad impressions each month, those numbers take on a life of their own. They offer valuable insight about the market. What I have learned is that no one is “double-clicking” on ads anymore they are “pointing and rolling” over them with their mice.
iMedia: What does PointRoll have on tap for 2006 and beyond?
Saridakis: 2006 will be another year of significant growth for the company. Interactive advertising is moving mainstream, and our role in the industry is evolving. Rich media used to be a fun extra for creative agencies; now, most brand managers at Fortune 500 companies have interactive ad strategies. We expect that as online advertising continues to grow, rich media (and PointRoll) will outpace overall expansion and become a bigger piece of the pie. PointRoll will release a variety of new products and services in 2006 and is currently expanding its presence beyond the United States into Europe and Asia to meet the demands of our clients and partners.
iMedia: What kinds of things keep you up at night?
Saridakis: The world of online advertising changes quickly, and we need to constantly innovate to offer advertisers a way to stand out on the web. One of the biggest challenges for PointRoll is balancing the excitement of new possibilities and creative applications with the current opportunities of deeper and broader market penetration with existing offerings.
To help achieve this balance, we’ve invested heavily in the right people and technology on both sides of the business. So most nights, I sleep quite soundly.
Dawn Anfuso is senior editor of iMedia Connection.