Accountable Advertising

Accountable Advertising

Mahesh Murthy founded Pinstorm in 2004 to address a glaring gap in the advertising world. Pinstorm was among the world’s first few digital marketing agencies that charged their clients based on the performance they brought to the table.

Mahesh Murthy, Founder of PinstormMahesh Murthy founded Pinstorm in 2004 to address a glaring gap in the advertising world. Pinstorm was among the world’s first few digital marketing agencies that charged their clients based on the performance they brought to the table.

Irrespective of whether you use Twitter or Facebook or just the good old Gmail, the Internet sure is changing our lives. You follow those funky status updates on Twitter, crash yourself into the walls of your friends on Facebook, upload photos from last week’s birthday party onto Flikr, or just plain and simple look for that office address on Google Maps. Whatever it is that you do on this space, the fact remains that it has become an integral part of one’s routine.

Realising this potential, the advertising world is capitalising on this user trend of spending more time on the Internet, whatever be the reason. And hence digital media (Internet as a media platform) became popular. Several brands started launching their digital campaigns. The biggest advantage that this medium offers is that we can measure the number of unique users visiting the page. And hence measurement parameters, cost-per-click (CPC) and cost-per-million impressions (CPM), were commonly used.

Making a difference in this space is Mahesh Murthy. While several advertising agencies still charge their clients based on a retainership fee or a share of the overall media budget, he came up with the idea of performance-based charges.

Pinstorm was born with Mahesh Murthy as the founder and CEO, with the aim of offering pay-for-performance digital advertising. “We started off with search engine marketing and then gradually extended into display banners on websites, social media marketing and applications on mobile phones,” says Murthy. They took efforts to build tools to measure the ‘impact’ made by these online campaigns. If it was just measuring clicks it was easy to do. If it was an awareness building campaign, they had to conduct post-campaign awareness surveys to estimate the cost per impact on each unique visitor.

Pay-for-performance also meant Pinstrom had to make the overall process of advertising in the digital medium more efficient and cost-effective. They built several technology-driven tools to support their strategy. Broadwords was built to help brands identify keywords (search engine marketing involves identifying keywords that connect with a brand) that had lesser demand, thus reducing their bidding rates. They spent time analyzing and building many other tools; Live Banner (display banners that carried live information) and Bidwise (a tool aiding in intelligent bidding for keywords) were built among several other tools.

Today, Pinstorm serves several marquee clients across the globe and across sectors including financial services, media, education, consumer durables among many other sectors. They serve around 35 clients through six offices in four countries. Murthy shares, “We believe in working with a few clients but in great depth. Some of our clients have been with us for more than 5 years.”

Pinstorm is now looking at expanding into newer geographies. Murthy adds, “There’s really no future in being a local agency. You either build a local agency and sell to a multinational or you take the route lesser travelled and become a multinational yourself. We decided to do the latter.” Pinstorm, with their unique offering is on track to becoming one of the first few multinational agencies that came out of India.

Murthy has the following tips he’d like to share with young entrepreneurs.

The uniqueness of your product is critical. “The uniqueness of your offering is extremely important. If you say I have yet another job portal, the only way you can make it work is by spending a lot of money. But if you say, I have a job portal only for NGOs or job portal for drivers, now that’s something unique. People are going to start talking about it. Word of mouth marketing will work for you. What you offer has to be something special. That’s exactly what worked for a Google or an eBay. These companies did little or no marketing early on. They pretty much spread by word of mouth.”

Your approach to starting up. “The first thing to understand is there is enormous learning in running a startup. Working with dedication is the first step. A customer doesn’t pay for an offering if he doesn’t see value. So your biggest challenge is to ensure he sees value in your product.”