Get to Know Our Team: Michelle

Michelle Frandsen, our Director of Email Operations, hails from Troy, Michigan. She lives in Chicago with her husband and their two daughters. Not just an email expert, Michelle loves to travel to wine country and spend time with her family.

How did you end up at Den Aviary?
I moved to Chicago for a job after college and was there for awhile (6 years). Part of my job there was running the B2B email program and I really enjoyed it. If I had extra time that’s what i would do, tinkering around with emails. I applied for a job at Groupon to work with and learn from other leading email marketers. Brent [Hartings] hired me and taught me everything I know–after he left Groupon and joined forces with Jason at Den Aviary, they reached out and wanted me to come join the team. It’s been two years!

We hear you’re a wine connoisseur.
My husband introduced me to wine. I can't say that I'm a connoisseur but I definitely enjoy learning about the regions, process, and of course, tasting. It's something we enjoy doing together.

And you’ve traveled to a lot of great wine regions?
A lot of our trips are wine-related! Doug and I went to Argentina–flew into Buenos Aires and then went to Mendoza, which is the Malbec region. We honeymooned in Italy, and we’ve visited Santa Barbara. Doug’s been to Napa but I’ve never been! It’s on our list, along with Willamette Valley in Oregon, for Pinots. I’d love to go to France too!

Any favorites among the places you’ve been?
Italy was pretty great. There’s a town south of Florence called Sienna which was one of my favorites. A very cute town!

What are some other things you like to do?
I like to crochet. It’s my inner grandma! The latest thing I made was a baby blanket for a friend. I’ve gotten into gardening–mostly flowers and house plants. One of my daughters picked out a little plant to take care of herself, but as expected I'm doing most of the work. Hopefully as they get older we can do more of that together.

What’s your favorite food?
Definitely pizza.

Pineapple as a pizza topping: yes or no?
Yes, absolutely. No shade on pineapple. We ate a lot of Hawaiian pizza growing up.

List your pocket contents:
Nothing! They’re stitched shut! But usually with me is my phone, keys, chapstick...

Guilty pleasure song:
Here I Go Again” by Whitesnake.

Best advice you’ve ever received:
“No risk, no reward.” I used to be too cautious not pushing myself enough but now I know you have to take chances. And so far that’s been successful!

GIF: how do you say it?
“Guh” - it’s pronounced Gif.

Get to Know Our Team: Jason

Our fearless founder Jason Sisley spends his time traveling the globe and riding horses–when he’s not plugging away at the office, of course!

Originally hailing from Orlando, Florida, this former skater kid lives in Chicago with his wife, and started Den Aviary 5 years ago.

You’re a well-traveled guy, where’s your favorite place to go?
Denmark! I have Danish roots on my mother's side and have always wanted to go, but I’d never been until our honeymoon. I just fell in love with it from an aesthetic perspective, and the people are really friendly. There’s this tiny little island in the south that's just beautiful, called Ærø. I specifically remember beautiful rolling mustard fields and riding bikes across the island for hours. It was gorgeous. That’s what what I think of when I think of Denmark.

Riding horses is a big hobby of yours. How did you get into that?
My wife! I actually had two “first” experiences. We went to Hawaii after we started dating, and she wanted to ride horses on the beach. But that morning, my pants and boots had been stolen from the trunk of our car, so I was in board shorts and reef shoes, galloping on the beach... it was very uncomfortable and I knew I looked like a complete dork. It did not stick. The real first time is when we went on a dude ranch vacation in Wyoming for her birthday. We met amazing people, the horses were awesome, and the surroundings made it a great experience so I got really into it. That’s when I decided I wanted to be a cowboy for the rest of my life. We're starting to get into competing now, which is another passion of mine.

Oh, cool! What kind of competition?
It’s called Eventing: there’s Dressage (which I'm terrible at), Show Jumping (which means I get to wear fancy clothes), and Cross Country (which I love more than anything on earth). You do all three events with the same horse over 3 days.

If you could get a beer with anyone (alive or dead), who would it be?
David Bowie, no doubt. He’d probably have a lager. I imagine he wouldn’t want a lot of fruity flavor in his beer.

List your pocket contents:
Pocket knife, folding comb, keys, chapstick, receipt, Kleenex

Guilty pleasure song:
Pet Shop Boys - “You Were Always on my Mind” (Willie Nelson cover) If other people were around I’d turn it off, but if other people weren’t around I’d turn it up.

Best advice you’ve ever received?
I'm terrible at following advice. I forget it all the time.

GIF: how do you say it?
I say GIF, my wife says JIF. We have had real arguments about this.

Get to Know Our Team: Brent

Hailing from Coldwater, Ohio (“the only place you can take a hot shower in cold water”), Brent Hartings now lives in Baltimore with his wife and two children. As our VP of Email Operations, he wears a lot of hats, and always brings a sense of humor to the table.

Tell us how you wound up at Den Aviary.
I’ve been mercilessly following Jason [Sisley, our founder] around for years. I started my email operations career in Chicago at Rewards Network and followed Jason from there to CareerBuilder to run the B2B email program. Then I joined Groupon pre-IPO to manage lifecycle and channel email operations. After that, I ventured south of the Mason-Dixon to join the Havas Baltimore agency, managing email operations for Liberty Mutual Insurance and Sonic Drive-In, among others. I parlayed that agency experience into a return to Jason’s side and have been heading up email operations for Den Aviary for the last 4 years.

That’s a lot of email! If you could have the personal email address of anyone, who would it be?
Bruce Springsteen.

Any hobbies?
I have a 4 year old and a 1 year old.

Yup, that’s a handful! Ever get out of the house?
My wife and I went to Barcelona with friends a few years ago. We ate our way through the city, filling up on all of the paella, croquettes and charcuterie we could handle. We toured the city’s architecture and relaxed on the beaches of the Balearic.


Mmm, Spanish food. Do you cook a lot?
I’m not sure that anything I cook gets more than 3 stars, but I do make a mean Old Fashioned.

List your pocket contents:
Keys, wallet, chapstick, 30 cents and a House of Kabob receipt.

Guilty pleasure song:
Alexa has been playing a lot of “Hand Clap” by Fitz and The Tantrums the last couple weeks.

Best advice you’ve ever received:
Peel the banana from the opposite end.

GIF: how do you say it?
Choosey moms choose jif.

News: Google Launches Data GIF Maker

Data visualizations are a great way to add interesting content to your email campaign. And with motion involved, even better!

Google recently launched their Data Gif Maker, a tool that allows you to set two different values, assign parameters, and create customizable GIFs that compare your data.

You can show whatever you want to! Poll results, product popularity, search results... whatever you'd like to compare, it's there.

Ah, the constant debate that rages in our office: how do you pronounce it? (Image via Google)

Ah, the constant debate that rages in our office: how do you pronounce it? (Image via Google)

If you need more inspiration for things to compare with this tool, visit Google Trends.

Happy GIFing!

Get to Know Our Team: Jerome

Jerome Stontz is more than our Email Operations Manager–he’s also a certified brewer with his own line of beers. This jack-of-all-trades talks brewing, food, and how he invited a celebrity to his wedding.

How did you get into brewing?
I started as a homebrewer about 4 years ago. I did it for a little while, entered some competitions, got some good feedback... Shari (my fiancée) and I were supposed to move to Oregon, but it fell through. In a panic to find a place to live, we stopped at this burger joint, and were talking to the owner. We mentioned that I was a homebrewer, and she asked if she could have some samples of my beer. A few days later emailed me about brewing exclusively for their restaurant! Unfortunately, she wasn’t ready to invest in the equipment yet. So we went through a couple rounds of investors, and finally got funding to buy our first fermentation tank. We work with another brewery, where we pay them to use their equipment and space, but the tanks and barrels are ours. In 2016 we got our final state approval to brew and distribute. That’s what allowed us to start actually selling!

There’s a bulldog on your can!
It’s called Bold Dog Beer Co. In the 12-1300s, English bulldogs were known as “bold dogs.” I designed all our branding based on our old dog, Beefy. We’ve got two now named Charlie and Vinnie.


So clearly you’re a visionary in the beverage department, what about food?
I’m a pretty good baker actually, but what I’m best at making is ribeyes, or this recipe I stole from my mom: giant pasta shells filled with taco meat and topped with crushed tortilla chips and melted cheese. My claim to fame dessert treat is a pan with chocolate chip cookie, frosted (cream cheese + powdered sugar + peanut butter) and topped with crushed peanut butter cups and chocolate shell.

How did you end up at Den Aviary?
My background is traditionally in graphic design. Originally I wanted to be an animator - old school, Disney, hand-drawn cartoons. But my art teacher in high school nudged me into graphic design. I was good with computers–my 7th grade science project was building a computer from scratch. I took web design as an elective my senior year of college. I was mostly doing production design, but then I was offered a job in Naperville doing some website updates. Their email guy left and I volunteered to take his spot. From there, I was good at it, and every job since then has been email development. I was on Oracle’s team for awhile, and then I came here!

If you could have the email address of any famous person, who would it be?
Trey Parker and Matt Stone.

What would you email them about?
I’d ask if I could hang out with them.

Anything else we should know about you?
My hometown, Kewanee, was formerly know as the “Hog Capital Of The World.”
I’ve been into music for a long time - I play guitar (electric & bass), I have two drum kits (live & electronic)... I always loved to draw, and still draw when I can. Soon, Shari and I are going to Europe - Dublin, Brussels, Brughes, Munich, etc. We’re going to check out so many breweries!

List your pocket contents:
Cell phone, brewery keys, building badge, wallet

Guilty pleasure song:
Barry White “Never Give You Up” or Tom Jones “She’s A Lady”

Words to live by:
WWAWKD - What Would Andrew W.K. Do? (He would party.) If i’m in a bad mood, I will turn on “Party Hard” and it puts me in a better mood. I invited him to our wedding since he’ll be in town playing Riot Fest that weekend. I’m not sure if he’ll come but that would be awesome. We sent him a Save-the-date.

GIF: how do you say it?
It is GIF. Brent and I have kind of gotten into an argument about this. It’s not “jraphics”

Get to Know Our Team: Kent

Kent Henderson, Creative Director

Meet our creative director, Kent Henderson.

When he’s not bringing his massive design skills to Den Aviary, this Illinois native is up to his elbows in art projects at his letterpress studio.

What’s up with letterpress?
I’m a printmaker - I do letterpress and silkscreen. I like to transform my design skills into inky art projects. Plus, I look good in an apron!

You grew up in Illinois. What’s the farthest you’ve ever been from here?
I went to Amsterdam over a Christmas holiday once.

Cool! Is that your favorite place?
I love the Wisconsin Dells. Any Wisconsin destination - we went all the time as kids. I don’t think I have a specific “place,” I just remember walking around doing a lot of putt-putt golf.

List your pocket contents:
Keys, chapstick, loose dollar bills, Sony camera, phone, doggie bag

Guilty pleasure song:
Prince, “I Would Die 4 U

Best advice you’ve ever received:
Stop trying so hard.

GIF: how do you say it?
Hard G. Gif.

Your email subscription process: it’s just as important

Jason Sisley, President & Chief Strategist

Jason Sisley, President & Chief Strategist

It’s about this time of year, every year, that I jam up my inbox with new email subscriptions in search of holiday deals. I don’t often pay that much attention to the subscription process (I also rarely actually make purchases), but this is the first year that I’ve really noticed a lot of marketers paying way more attention to what goes into the emails and the lack of attention put into the actual subscription process.

Not lying, I spent 15 minutes on a well known retail website, after registering for an email, trying to figure out how to change my preferences and profile information. Even worse, I couldn’t, because the email I registered for wasn’t part of the subscription center.

Another example is another well known retailer that has a “special” email for the holidays. First off, it was assumed I was interested in getting the new email because I subscribe to a particular email of theirs, but when I went to unsubscribe the only option was to be removed from everything, not just the new email. I emailed their customer service department about this and was told that I’d need to go back and resubscribe after Christmas, when the promotion ends. It’s unlikely I’ll remember, or want, to do this. I doubt I’m alone.

Now, I don’t think either of these scenarios are because the retailers are trying to trick me, or dissuade me from unsubscribing. I do think they just put way more thought into the email, without considering the registration process, or subscription center an integral part of the holistic program.

iStock-481685900 - Subscription Center 2a.jpg

When working with clients the first thing I do is get familiar with their subscription process, the profile/subscription center and the unsubscribe process. This is such an important piece of the program and is often viewed as necessary, but less important. It’s likely the first (sign-up) and last (opt-out) interaction they’re going to have with you. You should be making each just as simple. Whatever you do, don’t hide the subscription center as a means for making someone search long enough that they just decide to keep receiving emails because they gave up. Instead, work on giving them a reason for not unsubscribing, or for customizing their subscription. I like a good challenge and surprising someone with the options for keeping their emails, but customizing when they come too often, or on an inconvenient day or time, can easily persuade a frustrated customer into giving it another shot.

With the host of daily deal sites that are out there now, best practices are out the window when it comes to frequency. While that might be fine when a customer first registers, they’re bound to get tired and overwhelmed as more and more emails flood their inbox. Not giving the ability to customize the frequency is basically giving them an all or nothing option. When an unsubscribe is legitimate, meaning they intend to not do business with you anymore, it’s a good thing. I’d consider it an amicable break-up. When it’s done because they just can’t keep up or are losing interest, it’s your chance to win them back by saying you’re committed to changing.

In summary:

  1. Make the subscription, modify and opt-out process simple
  2. Give options for opting down (decreased frequency, different time of the day) and honor it
  3. Include subscription options for every email that has a theme (normal marketing vs. special promotion)
  4. Make the subscription center link easy to find on every page on your site
  5. Most important, when developing new emails, consider the subscription process as an important part of the program
  6. Also, don’t assume someone wants to receive everything that you have the ability to send. Ask if they’re interested. If they aren’t then you’re not wasting effort (and money) on less engaged customers.

These may sound simple, but it’s increasingly rare to find this combination.

Back to cleaning up my inbox.

Happy Holidays!

What's in a Name?

Jason Sisley, President & Chief Strategist

In case you’re wondering why the name Den Aviary (or even if you’re not), here’s the story.

Way back in the early 90’s a friend had introduced me to the band Jawbox. J. Robbins, singer / guitarist / producer, became a huge influence on my love for music and went on to form the band Burning Airlines (Brian Eno reference).

With their release, Identikit, in 2001 the first track was called Outside The Aviary. This was my first introduction to Burning Airlines and I just couldn’t get the song out of my head.

Aside from the amazing musicians and powerful vocals behind Burning Airlines, I was drawn to the passion behind their lyrics. Plus, the name sounded pretty cool.

In recent years, I’ve taken an active interest in finding out more about my family heritage. My mother’s side of the family is Danish. I’ve since taken multiple trips to Denmark (one being my honeymoon) and have fallen in love with the culture. The word “the” in Danish is “den”. Therefore, Den Aviary is simply a mashup into “The Aviary”.

It’s unique, has personal meaning and I like it.

How to create a successful digital campaign

Esosa Ogbomo, Lead Consultant Performance Media

Esosa Ogbomo, Lead Consultant Performance Media


Strategy is defined as ‘a plan of action or policy designed to achieve a major or overall aim.’ Whenever I work with a client I think about this definition. I do this because it is strategy that will define whether or not a campaign will be successful. The tools are important for executing your strategy but do not make it successful. As agencies/people we have access to the same tools and software. How we use those tools is what differentiates successful campaigns from failed ones.

My three keys to a successful digital campaign:

1. Understand what the client needs.
The foundation of every great digital strategy comes from understanding that what the client wants might be very different from what they need. This may sound obvious, but it is an issue I constantly see in the industry. Agencies create these elaborate and quite frankly stunning decks that wow the clients. They tell the client how they plan to utilize search retargeting and dynamic keyword insertion to increase revenue, without understanding what the client actually needs. They don’t challenge their clients, so they become a production-based service agency rather than a partner. When you are a partner you can share in honesty with your client and vice versa; both people in the relationship trust each other because a successful relationship benefits both parties. This, in turn, allows for an open and honest dialogue about what they need instead of what they want.

2. Data is your ally.
Embrace data. Let data guide your opinions and not the other way around. There are so many tools that give insight into consumer behavior. Spend time setting up your preferred analytics tool and dashboards. I personally love Google Analytics because it is easy to use, has a relatively simple UI and it’s FREE. Even if your platform is Core Metrics or Webtrends, the process is the same. Create documentation around your data set-up, so that when you look back there is complete transparency.

3. Test and learn.
Testing and learning may not technically be part of the initial strategy, but it is vital to success on any campaign. For example: When we roll out ad copy for search, it is always with the intent to optimize toward better performing ads. So we roll out two to four variations of headlines and body text. Yes, there are details that you need to understand and work through to have a successful test but I think it can be generally summarized by these three questions.

  1. Why do we want to test? Knowing why you want to run a test can save you time and resources, even if the answer is no test is needed. This means resources can be spent adding value to a campaign.
  2. How are we going to test? Is this a simple A/B test, what platform should the test be performed on and how long should the test run for. Asking these questions before hand we result in actionable insights. With that, it is important to understand that actionable insights can mean taking no action.
  3. What do we expect the results to be? This is your hypothesis, “Dynamic ad copies have higher click through rates but the users are less likely to convert”.

To recap:

Listen to your client and become a partner, they brought you in to help them grow not co-sign what they already know. Lean on data and shy away from recommending opinions. Start by making sure the data is ‘clean’ through robust documentation process. Finally, test and optimize. Digital campaigns are delicate, various things impact their performance and testing allows us to understand what levers to adjust to truly optimize. So here is the recipe for a successful campaign:

(Understanding & Research) + Data + (Testing & Optimizations) = SUCCESSFUL CAMPAIGN

Top Tip:

My Den Aviary Top Tip: When setting up Google Analytics account, be sure to use the second view as your primary data source as this will reduce the amount of ghost referrals/bot traffic in your data. EX: UA-xxxxxxx-2

Lee Rosenthal Joins Den Aviary as SVP of Client Success

Lee Rosenthal, SVP Client Success

Lee Rosenthal, SVP Client Success

Den Aviary is proud to announce the addition of Lee Rosenthal as SVP of Client Success. He will work with new and current clients to support and grow the relationship with Den Aviary, as well as run the agency’s newly opened New York office.

Lee comes to Den Aviary with more than 25 years of marketing and business development leadership experience in small and large organizations across both B2B and B2C functions. He brings a strategic approach to customer-centric marketing, with an ability to roll up his sleeves and deliver needed work with and for our clients.

Rosenthal will be charged with ensuring client growth and success by proactively working with clients to develop broader strategies and programs that support key business initiatives.

“Having worked with Lee in the past, I knew his leadership qualities and work ethic would be a tremendous fit for us, said Den Aviary President and Head of Strategy Jason Sisley. “With our growth over the past five years, maintaining executive-level relationships and ensuring success with all of our clients is a major part of our continued growth. Lee fills this need perfectly and simultaneously accelerated our expansion into New York City."

Lee is a graduate of Northwestern’s IMC program and worked at Classified Ventures/, Rewards Network, Bally Total Fitness, Experian and most recently, at Return Path.