Insider: Direct Zealot

The gospel according to Andy Pakula, founder of the two-year-old interactive marketing company Orb Digital Direct, isn’t exactly popular with the media buying masses. The former agency executive preaches that clients should expect a return on investment in a medium in which the old-style cost-per-thousand has become the ordained metric. “It’s not about brand awareness,” insists the 39-year-old president and CEO. “It’s about accountability.”
With that in mind, Pakula left the new media department of Bozell, Jacobs, Kenyon & Eckhardt in 1995, and, after a brief stop at Interactive Marketing, Inc., started New York-based Orb the next year. Even then, he believed there was too much advertising waste on the Net. He was also convinced the medium, in spite of its potential to be exceedingly accountable, had somehow fallen prey to the old media measurement standards of reach and frequency.
Pakula lays the blame on old-fashioned advertising thinking. “Marketers always wanted this medium as an accountable medium,” he says.
Thus, Orb’s mission was born: turn excess ad space into revenue–not by having publishers collect ad revenue, but by having them profit on leads delivered to advertisers seeking sales or subscribers from the Web. Orb receives a cut of the resulting leads and sales.
For clients such as Disney, Orb has placed transactional ads for such products as Disney’s Daily Blast. The eight-person shop has also performed some of the creative tasks of an interactive ad agency like building ad banners that link consumers to a mini-site shopping outpost. “We get the user to the transaction a lot faster,” he says.
If that sounds like a proclamation from a direct marketing zealot, it’s worth noting that roughly half of Pakula’s career was spent on the traditional side of the business. After graduating from the University of Hartford, he started his career in media at defunct Wells Rich Greene.
But then he got the target marketing bug, and started his own company, Advanced Marketing Technologies, in the mid-’80s, which ran interactive airport kiosks. He then jumped back into the agency business in 1987 after his Hamptons summertime roommate, Donny Deutsch, convinced him to join the shop as new business director. That stint was followed by time pitching new clients at New York shop Slater Hanft Martin before finally landing at Bozell.
Now, it looks unlikely that Pakula will return to that world. He’s found religion convincing advertising skeptics that the Web should be used for ROI rather than CPM, no matter what the product. “We believe that retailers, food chains, they should all be doing this,” he says.