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Next Wave: The top startups in data, analytics, and performance

Kyle Montero
Next Wave: The top startups in data, analytics, and performance Kyle Montero

The iMedia Next Wave Showcase, in partnership with the Digital Media Review (DMR), shines a spotlight on up-and-coming companies that are providing the most value in the marketing and digital media space. The third annual showcase culminated at iMedia's Breakthrough Summit in Austin, Texas, where four innovative startups in the field of data, analytics, and performance pitched to a crowd of top digital marketers. Hailing from similar spaces within the industry, these companies share the underlying goal to bring more transparency, clarity, and accountability to digital marketing, delivering the tools advertisers need to demonstrate ROI and justify marketing spend.

Next Wave: The top startups in data, analytics, and performance

At the summit, each company was given five minutes to pitch to the audience, detailing their unique platforms and explaining how advertisers can partner with them for marketing success. During the Next Wave Award Ceremony and Dinner, one company came out on top. Check out which company reigned supreme and get a look at three others that are helping advertisers take their marketing efforts to the next level.

And the winner is...Sticky

(Sticky president and chief change agent Jeff Bander speaking at the iMedia Breakthrough Summit) 

A recent comScore study revealed that 46 percent of online display ads are never seen. This is an alarming statistic for marketers, who are spending billions of dollars each year on ads that consumers fail to see. And viewability is important -- very important. As Aaron Fetters, director of Kellog's Insights and Analytics Solutions Center, told Ad Age "a 40 percent improvement in ad viewability produced a 75 percent increase in sales life from digital advertising." The whole point of advertising is to get noticed. Without viewability guaranteed, display advertising can be a scary proposition.

Media technology company Sticky counteracts this notion by providing a platform that lets brands and agencies know which ads in a campaign are really seen, and which ones consumers overlook. This has the potential to be a revolutionary platform considering the widespread lack of viewability online. As Jeff Bander, the company's president and chief change agent, told iMedia, "On average, only 30 to 14 percent of all ads online are seen. At the same time, more and more time is spent online and on mobile devices. Somebody has to fix this problem."

The company provides the solution by going beyond determining whether ads were served and rendered on the screen to identify the ads that were actually seen by user's eyes. To do so, Sticky employs eye tracking technology that monitors consumers' eye movements to prove what ads were viewed. With regards to any privacy concerns, Bander explained that Sticky "does not track people that don't want to be tracked. Everything is on opt-in basis. We have a double opt in."

Furthermore, the technology tracks the number of ad impressions seen per thousand, determining the real price tag of seen ad placements. As a result, marketers can finally move away from the click-through rate and optimize their branding campaigns with reliable data. According to Bander, "Brand advertisers should care more about what people see and if their message is reached by their audience rather than clicking on a banner. No one buys a Coke or Mercedes online, but major brands need to be sure their branding campaigns are seen."

Moving forward, Sticky is pushing to be the company that "knows the most about what visually attracts people," Bander said. To do so, the company plans to scale up to "analyze big data in real time about what users see" and build "database/information/knowledge about all the top performing campaigns and placements on all major sites."


To say the least, establishing the link between social media efforts and real results has been a challenge. Sure, social engagement with consumers inevitably influences action, but it's difficult to measure the exact worth of anything that isn't directly tied to a click. With social media marketing, the connection between engagement and click is most unclear, which has led to a lack of accountability in the space -- until now. Social media analytics company awe.sm claims to finally bring accountability to social media marketing.

How? The company's technology measures how social engagement connects not just to traffic, but ultimately to true dollars-and-cents conversions on a per-post basis. In other words, marketers can stop bumbling through awkward presentations on social media's "value" because awe.sm provides the tool to determine the exact value of each tweet or Facebook post -- or the effectiveness of a cross-channel campaign -- in real business terms. As Fred McIntyre, the company's CEO, told iMedia, "Marketers came to awe.sm with the desire to use our technology to better measure and optimize the performance of their social marketing efforts." He continued, "The power of our technology -- for example, being able to accurately identify that this purchase, or signup, or download, came from this specific tweet -- clearly stands apart from other approaches in the market."

Clearly, marketers needed a tool that harnessed the power of awe.sm's technology, which was previously geared toward developers. As a result, awe.sm launched "awe.sm for marketers" to deal with a number of industry pain points. Most notably, as McIntyre explained, the social measurement tools typically pitched to marketers "had to do with vanity metrics (how many people 'liked' it? How many followers did I get?). Or they had been more focused on social listening and qualitative measures like buzz and sentiment." Although this information can be useful, he explained, "It leaves companies on their own to translate that context into something more tangible that marketers can justify to the CFO.

"Now that there are real dollars on the table," McIntyre continued, "demonstrating social ROI is imperative." And this is exactly what the company hopes to do.


It's clear: Consumers don't want their privacy invaded by ads, and the most personal possession of modern consumers is the mobile phone. This makes the device both an ideal place to build meaningful relationships with individuals and a possible deathtrap for marketing efforts that push the wrong buttons. To ensure consumers engage with mobile ads rather than ignore them altogether, marketers have strived for real-time relevancy. But reaching consumers with relevant ads continues to be a serious challenge for advertisers.

Mobile ad company Qriously alleviates this challenge by increasing the relevancy of mobile ads by serving in-app questions to smartphone users. Then, Qriously displays ads to them based on the answers. According to Joe Zahtila, the company's GM of North America, Qriously saw the need to "improve mobile advertising from the consumer's perspective. Since most mobile advertising is irrelevant to the consumer, we believed that consumers would prefer to see ads based on their stated interests, and advertisers would prefer to communicate with interested people." And, after analyzing the data, the company has found that "the interests of both marketers and consumers can be aligned" when users volunteer information, as Zahtila told iMedia.

So, why are users willing to answer in-app questions that provide information to marketers? As Zahtila explained, "There is a great deal of research that uncovers the psychology of why people like to answer questions." More specifically, he continued, "It's in our nature to answer questions, particularly when the questions are not interruptive or annoying -- and especially when the topic is something that we care about." When consumers have a voice in the in-app ads, it's "ultimately a good thing for consumers, and our data supports this notion," according to Zahtila.

With the company's AdVox vision for mobile marketing, it has pioneered a new channel of targeting, aptly named "Opinion Targeting." When users offer their opinions in the form of answers, Qriously discovers intent. Once the connection between intent and relevant ad is made, AdVox retargets consumers. And the future is looking up for the company. According to Zahtila, "We see the future of Opinion Targeting growing, and growing quickly. It makes sense from both the consumer's and the advertiser's perspective." For example, he continued, "Advertising pays for the mobile content that people consume. Relevant ads make the experience that much better... Marketers are already getting consumers involved in marketing through social media. Opinion Targeting is another way to do this."

SET Media

Here are some powerful numbers: According to eMarketer, "U.S. digital video ad spending will nearly double in only four years, climbing from $4.14 billion this year to $8.04 billion in 2016." As the amount of money allocated to online video buys increases, so does the complexity of the video buying process, with more websites, exchanges, and ad networks than ever before. In addition, marketers face a number of tough questions when buying online video: "On what kinds of videos will the campaign run? Are the videos appropriate for the brand? Is the content safe?" As such, marketers need technology that brings clarity and reliability to buying digital video.

This is where video technology company SET Media comes in -- a startup that allows marketers to buy digital video with the same clarity and ease of TV buying, where advertisers know exactly what they will get. As Scott Young, the company's VP of sales, told iMedia, "SET has focused efforts on solving the problem of contextual alignment and transparency within digital video." To do so, Young continued, the company "provides advertisers the ability to target and filter digital video based on context, while empowering advertisers to analyze each video that ran by displaying detailed video-level performance and player-verification analytics."

More specifically, the company uses computer vision to "watch" every online video to accurately determine the video's content, which enables marketers to run ads on videos that are most relevant to their brand. For example, if advertisers need to run ads on soccer videos featuring a certain player, SET identifies and delivers those videos at scale. In addition, the company provides reporting that gives insight into campaign metrics and real-time performance with full video level transparency.

The future is very bright for the company. According to Young, "SET is excited about the prospect of diving deeper into the concept of analyzing how content is a proxy for audience." This is a very important movement in the marketing space: understanding exactly what types of content target consumers choose to view will lead to greater levels of engagement. "SET has been working closely with Nielsen to get to a point where advertisers can have a deeper understanding of what types of video programming are driving the highest composition of their target audience," Young continued. "In the near future, SET will be able to forecast GRPs at the video level, helping advertisers align their messages with the most relevant content."

Kyle Montero is associate editor of iMedia Connection.

On Twitter? Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.

Kyle Montero


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