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Online advertising rounds the bend

FOR a man who was head of Excite.com’s European sales operations during the dot.com crash last year, Carlo Bertozzi’s unwavering enthusiasm for online advertising is surprising.

Mr Bertozzi, the new sales director for the Pretzel Logic-developed and managed Supplybase VRS operation, maintains that banner ads had a bright future. But he acknowledged the online world banner ads would return to would be a leaner and more efficient one since the tech wreck in April 2000.

“I don’t think there is anything wrong with advertising online. I definitely think banner ads have got a future, as have other forms of advertising online,” Mr Bertozzi said.

“Perhaps the industry shake-up will see us go back to cost per click or cost per acquisition rates, but with a more realistic expectation of pricing. And the market will be ready for it this time. I think clients weren’t ready for online advertising before.”

Mr Bertozzi left Excite.com earlier this year to relocate the family from the UK to Perth. After taking several months off work, the first break “since I left college”, Mr Bertozzi’s brief at Pretzel is to build the Supplybase subscriber base and expand licensing opportunities.

During his career he has been involved in media sales for European organisations, including the International Hearst Group and Express Newspapers, before joining the UK Excite.com office just ahead of the dotcom crash.

“Excite has had a really rough time, along with all the other dot.coms. And the slowdown of the US economy has a had an effect on those left standing, such as Yahoo,” he said.

“But Excite UK, on the other hand, has actually fared pretty well. It is still generating substantial advertising revenue and it has the benefit of a joint venture partner in British Telecom.”

Mr Bertozzi said Supplybase VRS’s strong subscription-based business model was what attracted him to the position of sales director at Pretzel. It didn’t mean there was no advertising revenue to be made in the future, rather that he would concentrate on building the subscription base, he said.

“One of things that attracted me to Supplybase is that it is very focused, it is a vertical portal. And having seen how much trouble the very horizontal portals have got themselves into, especially in the B2C field, that was very attractive,” Mr Bertozzi said.

The Supplybase vendor registration system is an Australian Competitive Energy initiative designed to reduce the paperwork and time required to meet prequalification standards to become a vendor in the oil and gas industry. Pretzel Logic won the tender to develop the website and market and expand the service.

Mr Bertozzi believed his role was as much about brand building and educating customers on the benefits of B2B operations as selling subscriptions to the service.

“I’m spending an inordinate amount of time sitting down with the vendors, compared to the $500 cost of a subscription, talking to them, working out what their issues are and what will work for them. Because it’s much better to deliver a simple proposition and deliver it competently and reliably, than to deliver a complex one and not deliver it,” he said.

“That’s one lesson I took out of Europe. There are a lot of people trying to deliver some pretty complex value propositions and they were failing. The fact they were falling down in one area was damaging their brand in a lot of other areas.”

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