Mass Transit to Enter Affiliate Business

Online media buyer Mass Transit said it plans to take the wraps off an affiliate marketing division that it’s been planning for “several months,” according to chief executive Jason Heller.

Online affiliate programs basically publish links offering clients’ products or services, with publishing affiliates being compensated with a piece of the revenue from sales or acquisitions. Though larger firms dominate the space — like Aptimus (formerly FreeShop.com), BeFree and LinkShare — New York-based Mass Transit said it thinks it can fill a void.

The firm, which has handled buying for DoubleClick, AltaVista, and MarthaStewart.com, said it aims to fill a “logical extension” of its media buying capabilities with performance-based affiliate services.

“We’ve noticed, over the past year and a half or so, increased demand for performance-based deals, particularly from direct marketers, particularly e-commerce customers selling products rather than services,” Heller said. Mass Transit’s clients will benefit from “the complement of a purely performance-based online initiative,” he said.

Also, Heller said he sees room for improvement in the industry despite the entrenched competition.

“What we’ve found is that there are not a lot of companies that are proficient in the recruitment and management of affiliate partners,” he said. “Unlike some of our competitors … we’re not into taking every project that comes our way, only projects that we can assess as being high-value to consumers. If we’re not keeping our affiliate partners happy, obviously we won’t be making any money.”

“Most companies are looking to accumulate the longest client list, they have any account managers working on scores of projects at one time,” he said. “We take an approach where we’d rather work on [fewer] projects … that are larger and more successful.”

Heller said Mass Transit had tapped Peter Figueredo, formerly of Agency.com’s i-Traffic media buying unit, to head the division. Figueredo was not available for comment.

“Our selection of Peter really came down to what he had done for i-Traffic … he and his team have done large-scale affiliate marketing programs for a number of clients,” Heller said. “We were tired of telling people, ‘No, we don’t offer affiliate marketing services.'”

Heller said affiliate marketing is “the natural choice of direction for our company to move in,” because the process of selecting, placing and managing CPM ads on publishing sites differs little, in theory, than placing CPC/CPA offers on affiliates.

“There’s a need for affiliate marketing as a natural compliment to our media services,” Heller said.

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