OMG Digital CEO Departs for Vibrant

NEW YORK Sean Finnegan, Omnicom’s most senior digital media executive, is leaving the holding company for a top position at an online advertising network.

Finnegan is joining Vibrant Media, a New York-based company that provides so-called in-text advertising, as chief media officer.
 
Vibrant publishes insert code on their pages that turns the hyperlinks of certain words into links to advertiser Web sites or videos. The ads are user initiated. Vibrant has 3,000 publishers in its network. The company had 39 percent reach in the U.S. in December 2007, per comScore.

“I love the fact that it goes deeper and engages,” Finnegan said. “I’m not a fan of translating the traditional model onto the Web.”

Finnegan will lead the company’s business development, marketing and product innovation.

Finnegan is departing just six months after he was named CEO of Omnicom Media Group Digital, an umbrella organization the holding company formed for its two major buying units, OMD and PHD. Finnegan had served as U.S. director of OMD Digital.

Finnegan joined OMD Digital as its Midwest director when it was formed in 2002 as the combination of the Internet media practices AtmosphereBBDO, TBWA\Chiat\Day and Rapp Media and Tribal DDB.

He was named U.S. director in October 2004. His previous agency stops include JWT Digital, APL Digital and Darwin Digital. He began his career at BBDO, where he worked on traditional media planning and buying.

Vibrant’s ad model has come under fire in the past, with some claiming it blurs the line between editorial content and advertising. Its 1,200 publishers include sites like FoxNews.com, IGN and Hoovers.com. Vibrant’s in-text ads are indicated by double green underlines. A Web page about cars, for example, might have the term “SUV” double underlined, with users seeing a Jeep video ad when hovering on the hyperlink. Advertisers pay on a pay-per-click model. Vibrant claims its network reaches over 30 percent of the Internet audience. Its advertisers include Microsoft, Chrysler and Intel.

The company has expanded over the last few years, taking in an estimated $100 million in revenue last year, according to sources.

“The advertising isn’t intrusive,” said Doug Stevenson, CEO of Vibrant Media. “It’s not a dancing cowboy. The advertising doesn’t appear until the user initiates it.”

Vibrant last week announced the hire of AOL sales executive John Sendlak as svp of sales and strategic alliances. The company has an 85-person sales force. Founded in 2000, it closed a $25 million round of Series B funding in 2005. In total, the company employs about 200 people.

Finnegan is one of several high-profile digital agency executives lured by well-funded start-up companies looking to build media businesses. MRM Worldwide executive Paran Johar recently joined mobile search company JumpTap as its chief marketing officer.

Former MediaVest executive Adam Gerber left the shop recently to join Brightcove, subsequently leaving to serve as CMO of Quantcast. And Organic executive Troy Young departed that shop in July 2006 to join online video ad network VideoEgg.