Even at this late stage, advertisers are still asking Xaxis CEO Brian Lesser if there is any way they can piggyback on the Olympics.The games, of course, have famously strict rules. Companies breaking them face the wrath of London’s brand police—and fines.
But clients still want to know, “How can I take advantage of the Olympics without being an Olympic sponsor?” Lesser says. “We’ve been selling packages for the last three months which we’re not allowed to call Olympic packages.”
Here’s how it works. Xaxis buys data from third parties and publishers on users who have shown some interest in Olympics content. Xaxis then uses the tracking cookies that get deposited on users’ devices from the sites they’ve visited to target them with offers when they go elsewhere, say to an electronics blog.
None of the advertising carries any Olympic branding, of course. But basically, Xaxis’ “audience buying” plan allows it to locate, bundle and target web audiences who are into the Olympics, and sell those users to advertisers who want that audience, all without the Olympics being mentioned.
It’s particularly useful for direct-response type clients who just want to sell vacations or cell phones. Those are the type of companies for whom expensive, Procter & Gamble-style corporate image branding isn’t appropriate (or out of reach).
“P&G has a sponsorship with the Olympics and they’re probably getting huge ROI,” Lesser told us. “We do it more efficiently.”
(He declined to name a client enrolled in such a program in part because they don’t want to tout too loudly that they’re doing an end-run around the Olympics, and also because tracking via cookies is controversial, even though the data is anonymous and used only in aggregate.)
Xaxis, a digital ad buying unit of WPP, handles about $300 million in billing for this type of audience-buying campaign annually. The company is in 13 countries currently, and plans to be in 27 by the end of the year. Lesser says he has 130 employees in new York, London and Singapore, and expects that to rise to 170 by year’s end.
- 10 Utterly Absurd Olympics Marketing Restrictions
NOW WATCH: Briefing videos
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.