Dave Morgan

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"We want to prove there is value" in assembling "unique local content and passionate audiences."

Dave Morgan

Advertising age, 06/01/98

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While many have heeded the cry of know-thy-audience during the downturn of 2001, Dave Morgan, 38, has been preaching the message since the nascent days of the Internet.

Sure, Mr. Morgan, who founded online ad services firm Real Media in 1995, misses some aspects of the good old days of the late 1990s. "I had a blast, too, spending millions of dollars on phone kiosks and ads in The New York Times and Wall Street Journal," he recalls. Now, he's more focused on being CEO of True Audience, a New York-based software company that provides aggregated user data to marketers and media firms. He founded the company in July, after leaving the PubliGroupe company in June.

From his perspective, the industry started out on the right track by courting traditional agencies and marketers, then lost its way scrounging for venture capital, and now has returned to its roots, hopefully for the long haul.

But now there are "dramatic changes going on inside [marketers'] businesses-advertising budgets aren't growing, and marketing budgets are," he says, adding, "They want more predictability and accountability. Even if sometimes it may cost a little more to acquire customers through direct marketing means, you can explain it to your [chief financial officer], and if you cannot explain it to your CFO, it's going to be pretty hard to make investments."

The key, he says, is using knowledge about sites' audiences to deliver the most targeted message possible. He feels he's seeing progress in new ad models, citing examples such as nytimes.com's "surround sessions," in which consecutive impressions are delivered to individual users, regardless of how they navigate the site. Another favorite is the beer ad that Anheuser-Busch Cos.' Budweiser runs on Friday afternoons on Viacom-backed CBS MarketWatch.

"It's taking advantage of the daypart, understanding that it can be a very powerful medium," Mr. Morgan says. "I don't think there's any question it can be a very powerful branding medium, but you can't just stick two or five words in a banner and say, `We're branding.' Players that are not progressive are dead."

And direct marketing will require just as much innovation to be successful, he says. "I think that the direct marketing opportunities of the medium will require very substantial data collection and data management, and I think that the branding mechanism will require very creative methods."

But he's sure about the payoff: "I'm betting my future on audience knowledge and audience management being the key."

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