Like so many empires, MySpace came, conquered and collapsed into a wasteland. And Ted Dhanik was there, from the company’s launch in 2003 to its quick descent when confronted with new-kid-on-the-block Facebook. In 2005, Dhanik became the social network’s vice president of strategic marketing, charged with driving traffic to the site by obtaining exclusive content and developing promotion strategies.
Dhanik now fronts as president and chief executive of engage:BDR, a West Hollywood ad network that builds direct relationships with publishers and advertisers. The 38-year-old said L.A.’s tech scene has seen a boom in mobile marketing and offered advice for startups looking to monetize their products.
What do you see as the most exciting thing happening in online advertising right now in Los Angeles?
The advertisers that we’re used to working with are now requesting mobile traffic mostly. The engagement is stronger and immersion rates are higher. Mobile is about 80 percent of our business now. I think it’s going to continue to be closer to all of our demand mostly, probably by the end of this year.
What makes L.A.’s tech scene different from others?
I think L.A. tech has always been pretty good with monetizing pretty quickly. I think that’s what different from Silicon Valley. You really have entrepreneurs who know how to make money quickly or monetize fast.
What do startups needs to focus on when looking to monetize their products?
What they need to focus on is delivering a great product. Retention is key because you can make a lot more money with one user than you can with 10 if you do it right because that one user can potentially stay and be engaged for a long time.
You were there when MySpace began and when it all fell apart. What happened?
MySpace never had a marketing strategy for traffic on the Web. Once you lost the user, you really lost them. We tried to build programs to keep them on, but if it had a media strategy, it would have been more controllable.
So taking what you learned from MySpace, what do you recommend startups do to sustain their brand once they’ve established themselves?
Invest in media. It’s really just about buying traffic and having a strategy to buy nonorganic traffic. Organic traffic only takes you so far, and once that ships turns, you can’t turn it around.