Marketfish Rolls Out New Web Platform, Resembles aQuantive, Says Clark Kokich

9/8/09Follow @gthuang

Last month, we broke the story of Marketfish, the Seattle-based online marketing startup that has raised an undisclosed sum of money from prominent local investors, including the Alliance of Angels. Today, Marketfish launched a beta version of its new online platform, which helps marketing agencies and businesses find and rent direct mail and e-mail lists of potential customers.

Here’s how the platform works. Marketfish helps media buyers at agencies and marketing departments shop for marketing lists from list owners, using a secure Web interface. The plan is to allow marketers to track the performance of their campaigns as well. Meanwhile, marketing list owners can use Marketfish to put their lists in front of more businesses and marketing agencies, and boost their own profits.

What Marketfish is doing is worth a closer look. For that, I spoke with Clark Kokich, the chairman and former CEO of Seattle-based Razorfish, the online advertising firm bought by Publicis for $530 million last month. Razorfish was formerly part of Microsoft and, before that, aQuantive (which Microsoft acquired for some $6 billion in 2007).

Kokich says he met Marketfish founder Dave Scott about four months ago and signed on as an advisor to the startup soon after. “I have a lot of respect for David. He’s been in the business a long time, and he knows what the challenges are,” Kokich says. “The more time I spent with him, the more I became convinced it was a significant opportunity. So I invested and joined the board.”

I asked Kokich for more details on what makes Marketfish special compared to what’s available now. “The thing that’s appealing to me is this looks a lot like the business we established at aQuantive,” Kokich says. “It’s an opportunity to use sophisticated technology to dramatically improve the ability to source and [rent] direct mail and e-mail lists. It appealed to me because I’ve been a purchaser, and I know it’s not working for customers.”

In the case of aQuantive—or more specifically, Avenue A/Razorfish, which Kokich joined back in 1999—the key innovation was an online ad-serving system that connected advertisers to actual sales on their websites, so they could accurately calculate return on investment and optimize their media campaigns, Kokich says. That kind of tool did not really exist before.

Similarly, Marketfish is about “creating an efficient market where one doesn’t exist,” Kokich says. “Right now, if you want to buy a list, there’s no place to go where you can search, source, and execute a campaign. It’s a lot of time and hassle, a lot of expense. This is making a marketplace for the list.”

We’ll be watching to see how much of a splash Marketfish makes, and whether the marketplace it is creating takes off with marketing agencies and list owners. As for Kokich, I asked whether he’s staying with Razorfish through the integration with Publicis. “I plan to stay on, absolutely,” he says. “Strategically, it’s a great thing for Razorfish. It will accelerate our international expansion, and allow us to provide greater integration between online and offline.”

Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and the Editor of Xconomy Boston. You can e-mail him at gthuang@xconomy.com or call him at 617-252-7323. Follow @gthuang

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  • http://www.NextMark.com Joe Pych / NextMark

    Marketfish is right that the list business is historically not very efficient. However, a lot of innovation has happened in the last 10 years.

    For example, contrary to the comments in the article above, a marketplace for lists already exists at NextMark. A free version is available on the web here: http://lists.nextmark.com/.

    Finding good lists is now as easy as using Google or Amazon. You now know which lists are the most relevant, most popular, most related, etc.

    These new technologies are available and direct marketing is not as much of a hassle as it used to be. It’s getting easier every day!