Interview: Jeff Weitzman, CMO Buysight, On The Resurgence of Display Advertising

In light of recent trends indicating a resurgence of online display advertising, industry veteran Jeff Weitzman gave us some valuable insights.

Otilia Otlacan: Your company, Buysight (, has recently announced the launch of an ad platform that can bring display ads closer to the paid search model of effectiveness. Why do you think there was a need to push display ads in that direction, what was the main driver?

Jeff Weitzman: Display has failed to meet the needs of a very large segment of online advertisers, specifically transaction-driven advertisers that traditionally use direct-response marketing methods. Most of them use paid search extensively, but display has not been able to deliver the return on investment they need. Even recent advancements in “audience” targeting have not met their goals. Audience buys work well when you’re trying to create awareness of your brand within a target group. If you are measuring success by incremental sales driven, however, you need to be even more specific in your advertising. Search has been successful because it receives a clear intent signal from the consumer and delivers a real-time ad in response to that intent. That’s what we’re doing with display ads: intent and response. In our case, the intent signals need to be collected and interpreted. It’s harder to do that paid search, but the opportunity is huge.

Otilia Otlacan: There’s talk of a resurgence of display ads for quite some time, yet no breakthru ad products have surfaced out of it (save for a few new ad formats). How would a RTB intention-based ad product fall into the new landscape of display ads?

Jeff Weitzman: Display ad revenues are growing, but not as fast as they should be. I think as an industry we’ve focused on how online display can be more like TV. People see the dollars going into television and they want to tap into that revenue stream. There’s certainly nothing wrong with that, but they are very different media, and it’s not clear those dollars will shift easily. We’re taking a somewhat different approach. We’re trying to expand the pool of advertisers using online display, and make it possible for them to spend far more money online than they are at present. They spend on paid search, but the inventory for the keyword pool they need is ultimately limited. If we can proactively reach and out find the right users for them as opposed to waiting for them to search, these advertisers will spend a lot more money.

Otilia Otlacan: Branding vs direct response: in the light of the recent Forbes and Coremetrics survery, would you say that branding is slowly becoming obsolete?

Jeff Weitzman: I think you’re referring to the study that showed marketers are focused on customer retention and acquisition. (“Bringing 20/20 Foresight to Marketing”) Keep in mind that that survey was conducted among companies who are heavy spenders on Internet advertising, and the industries they covered are heavy direct-response marketers. So perhaps the Forbes survey isn’t the right one to look at with regard to brand advertising. I don’t think branding is becoming obsolete at all. That said, branding and direct response are two very different approaches to marketing and accomplish different things. Generally speaking, branding is focused on generating awareness and consideration of the brand in the consumer’s mind—so-called “top of funnel” goals. While direct response can generate those responses as well, DR campaigns generally focus on conversion to sale and tend toward highly measurable media. The Forbes study showed the heavy online marketers see customer acquisition and retention as a top priority, nd the stats show they are heavy buyers of search marketing. We know we can meet those marketer’s need for retention and acquisition in the display space using our Buyer Targeting.

Otilia Otlacan: New advertising models and new targeting solutions usually come with their own set of metrics, or with a re-interpretation of traditional ones. What metrics should media buyers look for in a real-time user-intent targeting campaign?

Jeff Weitzman: In this case I think our clients’ existing metrics are going to be the most relevant. They need to drive transactions and they know how much they are willing to spend to see a given return in orders and revenue. So our clients usually look at return on ad spend, or cost of marketing. The biggest challenge in our space is attribution. Most are still using a “last click” attribution model, meaning their are giving credit for the entire sale to the last touchpoint they had with the customer before a purchase. This model has obvious flaws; common sense tells us that a consumer may be influenced by repeated touchpoints with the advertiser and ultimately decides to purchase based on their total experience with the advertiser. Display ads may cause a consumer to make a decision to purchase, but they may choose to run a search or click on an email they are reminded about that had an offer in it. We’re starting to see more attention being paid to attribution. From our perspective, we need to optimize to the client’s metrics, not convince them to use different metrics.

Otilia Otlacan: Buysight’s Buyer Targeting platform has just been launched: could you share some of the early feedback you have received and plans for the near future?

Jeff Weitzman: The response from our “early adopters” has been very positive. They’ve seen a significant bump in customer traffic, all of which is from new customers that have not been to their site recently, and that seeing is converting to sale at a significantly higher rate than their store average. Those incremental sales are very valuable to them, and they now have the potential to turn them into long-term loyal customers. We still have a lot of upside in the platform as we refine our targeting algorithms, and as the number of merchants participating grows.

About Jeff Weitzman, CMO Buysight
Jeff Weitzman is a veteran of over twenty years in online advertising, marketing, and publishing. Before joining Buysight he was Chief Marketing Officer of Common Sense Media, a non-profit organization and the leading online and educational resource for parents and teachers involved in their children’s media and technology lives. For over six years in executive roles at, including President & COO, he helped lead the company through rapid growth to its industry-leading position.
Prior to Coupons he led Client Services at Yahoo! and was SVP of Operations at Seth Godin’s Yoyodyne, Inc. He helped pioneer business-to-business internet communities as Chief Operating Officer of Counsel Connect in the early 90’s. Weitzman was an attorney at Shearman & Sterling and graduated from Cardozo School of Law and Dartmouth College.