Travel Ad Network Nabs Tribune Vet to Lead Sales

Travel Ad Network has pulled away longtime Tribune Interactive sales exec Dana Hayes for a newly-created chief revenue officer position. The battered state of the newspaper industry aside, Hayes suggested the network’s model, management, and investor-funded status helped push him toward the young company.

“It leverages what I know,” said Hayes, who dove into his new job on March 11, just 5 days after leaving Tribune. Most recently, he led ad sales as SVP of Sales at the Chicago-based firm, where he worked for almost 10 years.

“We felt it was really important for him to come in [and] go to market as soon as possible,” said Travel Ad Network President and COO Brian Silver.

Last year, Hayes put his national ad sales knowledge to use as the first CEO of QuadrantOne, a newspaper site-centric ad network funded by Tribune, Gannett, New York Times Company, and Hearst. He filled that spot for six months, helping the news site network get off the ground before handing the reins to a permanent CEO last February.

Hayes called 2008 and particularly the last quarter “challenging for most,” including Tribune Interactive. “Performance in a tough market matters,” he said, calling 2009 “tough.” However, he continued, “It’s less about leaving Tribune. It’s more about the Travel Ad Network, the model, the management, and the money behind it.” The company was founded in 2003.

Travel is “one of the most desired audiences at LATimes and ChicagoTribune.com,” said Hayes, referring to the sites he sold while working with Tribune. He suggested Travel Ad Network stands out among networks because the company exclusively sells all display advertising on behalf of its 200 publisher partners. “It’s got to be an exclusive model,” he continued. “You’ve got to have a differentiated position.” Hayes will work from TAN’s offices in lower Manhattan.

The network sells mainly CPM-based display ads, but also offers standard-sized travel fare search widgets to advertisers. Most sites in the network represent lesser-known longtail sites, though bigger names like BBC’s Lonely Planet, Maps.com, and Rand McNally are also included.

The company currently sells primarily to endemic travel advertisers, but Hayes, with several years worth of national brand advertiser relationships, wants to expand TAN’s advertiser pool to include brands in the auto and tech categories. Though he agrees that tourism, hotel, airline, and rental car companies are the foundation of TAN’s advertiser partnerships, he explained, “They have not had much of an effort outside of travel.”

Also promising for Hayes: TAN secured $15 million in its first round of funding led by Rho Ventures in April 2008. Hayes also indicated he has particular confidence in Rho’s investment decisions.

“Each of the different key leadership positions needed to be sought after and hired for,” said Silver. In addition to Hayes, the firm recently hired a chief technology officer and is planning to hire a CFO soon. “Basically, we’re putting a bullpen together of top notch professionals,” Silver said.

Hayes said he is “analyzing and evaluating the current sales effort,” and suggested the firm will “very possibly” expand its sales team in the U.S.

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