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respond-logoIncreasingly, digital marketers are looking to combat banner-blindness, the instant turn-off that users experience when confronted by obvious advertising online. 

One company looking at new ways to combat this is Respond, We spoke to co-founder Guy Cookson about the product, designed to let customers engage with advertising without the hassle of clicking on intrusive banners or pop-ups

In one sentence, what is Respond?

Respond is an innovative advertising platform that helps publishers earn more revenue, and advertisers acquire new customers.

What problem does Respond solve?

Respond helps solve the problem of falling ad click-through rates by making it possible for people to engage with advertisers without leaving the page they are visiting.
We deliver campaigns in the form of contextual 'call to action' buttons placed under relevant content across a network of publishers.

When people use the Respond button an ad is displayed as an overlay on the page, so consumers can send a sales enquiry, register for a service, or even buy a product, without leaving the page.

Who is your target audience?

We have three target audiences. The first are publishers. We are talking to some really large publishing groups, and we also give smaller publishers and bloggers the option to sign-up online. We’ve made it really simple to add the Respond button to sites, it’s just two lines of code, and it works with almost any platform.

The second are advertisers. We have several large brands and agencies in the process of starting campaigns with us. We plan to make it really easy for smaller companies to run ads with us too, even at a local level.

The third of course are consumers. We’ve worked hard to make Respond really useful and convenient for website visitors. One of the best things is you don’t have to click-through to another page; you just do an action - such as making a donation - and then keep browsing.

When and why did you launch it?

We developed Respond during 2010, and initially launched in stealth mode to gather data and get customer feedback. We’re now starting to really reach out to clients and the response we are getting is very positive.

The reason we launched Respond is we’ve seen click-through rates falling year on year. We’ve seen ‘banner blindness’ become a huge issue - Jakob Nielsen's eye-tracking studies show most people ignore anything that looks like a standard text or image ad. Advertisers have tried to stem the tide with more interruptive ads, and consumers have responded by adding ad blocker software in their millions (it’s the most popular add-on for both Firefox and Chrome).

We thought we could fix this problem by taking a different approach. Advertisers get to acquire customers without spoiling their enjoyment of the page; publishers get a new income and get to keep their visitors; and consumers have a convenient way to engage with advertisers. It’s just a better experience for everyone.

What were the biggest challenges involved in building Respond?

There are always technical challenges in building an innovative product like this, but they are pretty interesting to work through.

Probably the greatest challenge is building awareness. At first we focused on blogging, social media, email, but then we realised the best thing to do was just to pick the phone up and pound the pavement. We’ve opened a lot of doors doing that, literally. The reception we’ve had is fantastic, people are genuinely excited by what Respond can do.

How will the company make money?

We have a really simple approach to this. We take a percentage of what advertisers pay to run the campaigns. We give 70% of that to the publishers that have the button on their sites. The business model is similar to Google AdSense in that way.

What is your pricing model?

It’s a Cost Per Acquisition (CPA) model, so we work with the advertiser to set a defined action. For a premium lead generation campaign it might be payment for leads that meet a certain criteria. The value of those leads depends on the advertiser and the product category.

Who is in the team and what does it look like?

We’ve got a pretty solid core team, with technical, sales, marketing, PR and finance expertise between us.

The management team is Andrew Dobson, Director, who has worked in software engineering and web development for 15 years with companies including Reebok and Jobsite; John Lyon, Director, a qualified accountant who has held senior board positions over the past 20 years at a number of multi-million pound turnover companies; Paul Billington, Non-Executive Director, who has extensive experience in management, strategy and sales within the digital sector; and I’ve [Guy Cookson, Director], worked in marketing, PR and publishing for the last decade with companies including Microsoft, Experian, Braun and Jobsite.

We’ll also be recruiting for new staff soon on our site.

Where would you like to be in one, three and five year's time?

In one year we want the Respond button across a range of top tier publisher sites with well known brand campaigns. In two years we want to see smaller advertisers and brands coming on board, even at a local level, as we reach deeper into vertical and niche sectors. We should also be looking at opportunities outside the UK.

In five years? Well, we are a technology company at heart, so innovation in Respond will no doubt have created opportunities we can’t yet predict. But I’m sure that our goal will be the same, which is to help publishers earn more revenue, and advertisers acquire new customers.

Matt Owen

Published 28 January, 2011 by Matt Owen

Matt Owen was formerly Head of Social at Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or hook up on LinkedIn.

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