Priming the Pump

For Chapter 6: "Spot On"

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In which we revisit, the startup that hosts consumer-generated ad contests for marketers.

BACK IN CONSHOHOCKEN, in the third week of August, the remnants of a tropical storm have rain coming down in sheets, leaving an archipelago of dreary puddles in the parking lot. This is the view outside of Neil Perry's office window, but no worries. He's growing accustomed to "dreary." It's been nearly five months that he and his sales team have been out on the hustings, enlightening marketers about the endless promise of CGA. It is in fact a month after the website's launch.

Yet still, if you log onto, all you find by way of advertising is samples, in a half dozen product categories, of non-existent brands: ChocoBana candy bars, XCell mobile phones and so on.. This is because till now no actual brands have signed on.

"That's the killer right there," Perry says. "Until we have someone up on the site, you struggle from a sales standpoint." It's a typical chicken-and-egg situation, in which interested prospects balk because no other interested prospects have acted. Perry describes the sort of exchange that plays out during sales calls:

Prospect: "What kind of ads can I expect?"

XLNT rep: "Uh...I don't know....funny ones?"

Fortunately, now that the website is up, even the fake ads for the fake brands have helped customers visualize what CGA might yield. "Up until then," he says, "we had nothing to show them."

What a difference a few really terrible fake commercials can make. Now, the cartons of copy paper by the front entrance have been replaced by two handsome leather chairs. Two previously vacant offices in the suite are buzzing with activity and, as of a month from now, the site will host at least two and as many as six honest-to-God brands. One is, an online dating service. Another is Bomba, an Italian energy drink. Four other companies – mainly in the second tier of the Leading National Advertisers but all major brands – have contracts in various stages of the approval process.

"We're getting there," Perry says.
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