Contact: Noah Anderson, President and CEO
Location: Costa Mesa, Calif.
Industry: Online Publishing
Annual revenue: $5,000,000
Number of employees: 10

Quick Read President and CEO Noah Anderson knew his site offered a strong value proposition for advertisers, but convincing them to advertise on his site on a cost-per-thousand (CPM) basis, without any guarantee of clicks... in this economy? Well, that was another story.

So Anderson introduced a new performance-based program: Advertisers pay only for the real leads they receive, thereby diminishing the risk of advertising on his site.

This approach allowed PlanningFamily to connect with a new advertiser base, and over the past year the company's ad revenues have doubled as a result.

Challenge is an ad-supported community website for pregnancy and parenting information. It boasts more than 500,000 monthly unique visitors and between 90,000 to 100,000 new-member registrations per month.

Those numbers should seem attractive to the right advertiser; nonetheless, with the turn of the economy, PlanningFamily was having difficulty attracting new advertisers with its offerings, which consisted primarily of CPM display banners, newsletter sponsorships, and solo email deployments.

"There are many advertisers who are skeptical of investing their marketing dollars in CPM campaigns, as there are no guarantees on the returns... no guarantees of clicks," explained Anderson.


In 2008, PlanningFamily signed on with Pontiflex, the originator of an open market for cost-per-lead (CPL) advertising that connects advertisers with publishers.

Through this platform, PlanningFamily began offering advertisers features on its on-site member-registration form, wherein users could opt in to receive information and deals from selected brands. It also offered CPL performance-based options for any of its unsold CPM banner placements. Under the arrangement, advertisers were charged only for the leads they actually received.

This setup provided with four key advantages:

  1. Introductions with targeted brands: Several premium brands, such as Huggies, were already using the Pontiflex platform, enabling PlanningFamily to readily reach advertisers that might be interested in its demographic and could add value to the site's user experience.
  2. A chance to prove its value: By taking a performance-based approach, PlanningFamily removed any potential risk for the advertiser, which stood to benefit from free brand exposure, if nothing else. Thus, more advertisers chose to test out the site, thereby giving PlanningFamily the opportunity to demonstrate its value and cultivate a relationship with the advertisers.
  3. Transparency: The Pontiflex platform—which lets advertisers know exactly which publishers they're running ads with, where their ads are running on those publishers' websites, and how each individual placement performs—made advertisers all the more comfortable in trying the PlanningFamily program and enabled them to clearly see how well it performed compared with other publishers' programs.
  4. Less stress on the company's resources: Once PlanningFamily was set up on the Pontiflex platform, no additional work or testing was required of the company's technical team, regardless of how many new advertisers signed on.


The addition of a performance-based CPL program has proven to be a tremendous win for "Offering CPL programs has helped us grow our revenues by as much as 100% in our estimation because of the ability to acquire advertising clients that we otherwise would not have been able to," Anderson said. "Performance advertising allows us to reach a larger advertiser universe ... [and] to connect with them in a meaningful way."

Furthermore, by using CPL to demonstrate its capacity for connecting advertisers with the right audiences, the company has been able to increase participation in its other advertising programs, as well.

"Once they see the value we bring to the table, they are willing to buy advertising on a CPM pricing model," Anderson said.

In fact, Anderson estimates that between 60% and 70% of advertisers that have tried the site through CPL have gone on to invest in CPM campaigns, newsletter sponsorships, and solo email deployments.

Lessons Learned

  • Get them in the door: With its healthy rates of new-member-registration, Anderson knew could deliver on advertisers' expectations. The challenge was merely convincing them to try out the site, and the introduction of a low-risk option that charged only when the site performed gave new advertisers the reassurance they needed to get started.
  • Play it straight: PlanningFamily took a straightforward approach to proving its competitive advantage. It allowed advertisers to choose precisely where they wanted to run their ads and whom they wanted to target, thereby allowing advertisers to ensure quality control for their brands and best use of their marketing dollars.

    Using the Pontiflex platform, PlanningFamily also provided advertisers with specific results for each paid placement so that there was no question as to what was working and what wasn't. This level of transparency not only embedded an extra layer of confidence for advertisers but also enabled PlanningFamily to clearly expose its site's capabilities.
  • Strive for long-term partnerships: For PlanningFamily, CPL is only the conversation starter, a chance to showcase its value. By setting up a solid program that produces highly qualified leads and positive return on investment for advertisers, the company has been able to build trust and evolve its relationship with advertisers, transitioning them to other types of advertising.

"If something's working, you generally want more of it," Anderson explained. "Using CPL, [these advertisers] are very happy with us...and this allows us to move them into other programs and get more of their advertising dollars."

But, Anderson confirmed, this is just one part of the company's strategy to retain and build ongoing relationships with advertisers. The company also takes steps to double-check lead quality and work with advertisers when ads don't perform as planned, all of which works to keep the experience, and the company's reputation as a publisher, very positive.

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Kimberly Smith is a staff writer for MarketingProfs. Reach her via