Greg Murtagh's experience with packaged goods and digital marketing goes back to the interactive Dark Ages. The former sales rep for Richardson Vicks and American Cyanamid (Old Spice et al.) and brand manager for Dial Corp. moved on to promotion consultancy Reach Marketing in the mid 1990s, first encouraging his CPG clients to put their sales materials online in the age of the 1400-baud modem and Prodigy.
By the late 1990s, he was building brand websites, getting treated like he was crazy when he suggested oral-care marketers buy search terms such as "tooth whitening" and getting questions about why no one was visiting those websites (even though brands weren't promoting them in their ads).
By the early 2000s, Mr. Murtagh, now 49, figured a way to tag content in manufacturer databases, such as recipes and health content, and syndicate it onto retailer websites, including Walmart.com.
"That's when it occurred to me if the retailers could just act more like publishers, that they could charge brands just like any other publisher to put ads on their sites," Mr. Murtagh said. "And it occurred to me the metrics would probably be better because when somebody saw that ad, they're on the site shopping, so why wouldn't the message resonate better?"
That became the genesis of Triad Retail Media, starting with grocer H.E.B. in Texas in 2001. Ultimately, it became a business that sells and creates ads on Walmart.com, CVS.com, ToysRUs.com, Dell.com, 1800Flowers.com and eBay, among others. This year it expects to generate more than $130 million in media sales, mostly from CPG marketers.
Over the years, he spent a lot of time wearing down that resistance with examples and data. And the result, Mr. Murtagh said, is one of the first cases where retailers have been able to attract true brand media dollars, not just trade dollars, by treating their websites like the high-traffic media they were. Part of that was getting retailers to adopt industry-standard advertising practices, developing a dedicated sales force to call on marketers and agencies and not rely on retail buyers to wrest funds from sales and trade marketing teams, which would just shift funds they were already getting.
"The big breakthrough," he said, "was when we started to attract incremental dollars to the retailer."