Advertising Technology

Undertone’s Michael Cassidy on Breakthrough Video Ads

michael_cassidy_260Michael Cassidy is founder and CEO of Undertone, a provider of quality display, high impact and video solutions. The Makegood recently spoke with Michael about Undertone’s products in display, mobile, and video.

The Makegood: Michael, you have led the company’s growth from a start-up advertising network to an industry-leading provider of quality display, high impact and video solutions. How do you stay ahead of trends and ensure top performance?

We remain focused on our mission, which is helping brands stand out online. This focus dictates where we invest, and equally importantly, where we do not. At Undertone we are in a unique position, sitting at the intersection of marketers, agencies, publishers and vendors. This allows us to stay ahead of trends and gives us a solid basis for creating solutions that benefit all of our customers and partners. As we all know, this is a very noisy market with a lot of hype and trends that are short term. We move fast when appropriate and ignore when not.

The Makegood: Can you provide examples of projects including breakthrough video, high impact and display ad units you are especially proud of?

There are many. In fact, we have a creative gallery at to highlight them. One project to highlight is our proprietary page takeover format, PageGrabber®. We recognized early on that all the elements involved—site selection, creative development, and technology—can make scaling custom units like this difficult. Undertone created the technology infrastructure to deploy PageGrabber easily and simply across hundreds of sites. It has been a massive success; since its launch, more than 300 campaigns have used a PageGrabber.

The Makegood: In December, Undertone revealed the white paper that focused on understanding the key drivers of effective online video advertising. What are the key findings of your study?

The study, which was done in partnership with IPG Media Lab and is available for download on, looked at specific video elements and how they affect consumer reaction to online video ads. Our findings show that the quality of the site that the ad appears is the primary driver of a host of brand metrics. We also found that user-initiated video ads elicit nearly four times more positive emotions than auto-play ads, and that video player size is key for driving brand awareness. We estimate that nearly half of our ads (encompassing not only in-stream, but also rich media display and high impact) are video-enabled. Everything is better with sight, sound and motion, so it is important to educate clients and the market on how to leverage video advertising to its fullest potential.

The Makegood: You are “confident that no other publisher, network, exchange or trading desk can match our combination of scale, quality, value, creativity and speed to market in delivering digital brand engagement and Standout Brand Experiences™.” How do you keep your promise and how do you prove your worth to clients?

Undertone realized a long time ago that while there is a lot of noise, clutter, and competition in the space, brands really just want solutions. They want a partner to drive business results and make them smarter in the process. We earn their business and trust every day through our award-winning sales and service teams, stand behind our promise through guarantees (Undertone guarantees quality, brand lift, viewability, and user-initiated video), and leverage both client-facing technology and people to deliver campaign results and insights. We are transparent in our business practices.  It’s a small industry, mistakes and praises are easily shared. We prefer the latter.

The Makegood: In November, you appointed Robert Schwartz as SVP, Corporate Strategy and Business Development to help the company to reach its next phase of growth and maturity. What will your next phase look like?

Brands are migrating significant budgets online. Few partners can deliver what brands are looking for as a total solution, and we are one of them. 2013 will be a big year for internal investment: R&D will double and headcount will increase by 30%. Rob helps plan for both organic and inorganic growth. We are building a much larger company.  Our next phase will be characterized by the discipline to stay focused on our mission, the dedication to create innovative solutions for our clients, and the flexibility to adapt to changing market conditions. These qualities are ingrained in Undertone’s DNA, and Rob’s appointment further reinforces this commitment. We will continue to bring breakthrough products to market in high impact, display, mobile, and video across screens. Our expanding customer base will become increasingly diversified and our client relationships increasingly sophisticated. It’s a really exciting time for Undertone.

The Makegood: Thanks, Michael.