Tampa-based Triad Retail Media has struck a deal to manage all on-site display ads for eBay.com and eBay Motors, catapulting an agency little known outside the marketing world to a new level of global advertising.
The pact announced Thursday represents a significant shift in eBay's advertising strategy. Until now, the online giant had stayed out of direct involvement in display ads, relying instead on third-party ad networks to create banner ads for its marketplace pages.
For Triad, the deal is not only its most important since landing Wal-Mart Stores in 2005, but it will also help grow the company by about a third this year, with annual sales expected to top $120 million, founder and CEO Greg Murtagh said in an interview. The company plans to hire up to 50 people by this summer solely devoted to eBay and open an office near eBay's headquarters in San Jose, Calif.
Murtagh deemed it a coup for a relatively small, 255-employee agency to land such a big contract with the world's largest online marketplace.
Triad's size masks its growing influence. With its portfolio of retail brands, it reaches more than 150 million shoppers a month. Among recent lineup additions: BarnesandNoble.com, ToysRUs.com, 800Flowers.com, BabiesRUs.com and RiteAid.com.
"We are a national player now and really have been the last couple of years, but the addition of eBay … makes us a global player," Murtagh said.
EBay, which posted $9 billion in sales last year, gets more than 54 million unique visitors and roughly 6 billion page views a month. The eBay auto site alone has 14 million unique visitors.
Under Murtagh, a longtime ad exec whose roots stretch into Procter & Gamble Co. and Dial Corp., the Tampa agency has been on a tear. It grew more than sixfold in a three-year span and has worked for more than 1,000 brands. The company recently doubled its headquarters space to 30,000 square feet.
Triad's business model goes far beyond traditional banner ads. The company crafts online ad campaigns to drive traffic to major retail sites such as Walmart.com, CompUSA,com and CVS.com. One example: In a program for PepsiCo, it asked consumers to design their own NASCAR car online.
Murtagh said eBay decided independently that it wanted to have greater control of ad content on its site, creating everything from sponsored articles to seasonal displays to video. Triad was on its short list of companies that could handle the job.
Christopher Payne, vice president of eBay North America, said the agreement with Triad "puts our customers front and center as we deliver more relevant, customized advertising content to them."
The Tampa company recently rebranded itself, changing its name from Triad Digital Media to Triad Retail Media. The firm increasingly handles more than just digital media with some customers if, for instance, they have an in-store display that ties in with a multimedia promotion.
For eBay, Triad will often be a middleman, putting ads and promotions for retail brands on specific eBay channels. In eBay's fashion section, browsers might encounter a pitch for Revlon lipstick; on eBay Motors, content from brands such as Firestone, Geico or major automakers.
Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Murtagh said Triad is in talks with three other major national retailers that he hopes to add as clients in the second quarter. The trick is managing growth wisely.
"No matter how big we get, I'm striving to keep our entrepreneurial DNA intact," he said, "because that's what makes this company special and keeps us winning like we're winning now."
Jeff Harrington can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/ jeffmharrington.