Companies in the ad tech sphere have had more than their share of challenges in recent years. Last fall, a number of the industry’s stocks took a plunge in response to growing concerns over the potential effectiveness of digital advertising. But that isn’t stopping new players from trying to find better—and often less intrusive—ways of marketing products.
“The next big wave of mobile ad tech companies will be bigger than we’ve ever seen because they’re going to be forced to deal with a supply of new inventory,” Nihal Mehta, entrepreneur and founder of the $55 million mobile ad tech fund Eniac Ventures, told AdAge. “It doesn’t live anymore in banner ads; it lives in messaging, communications, interstitials, natively.”
“The next big wave of mobile ad tech companies will be bigger than we’ve ever seen because they’re going to be forced to deal with a supply of new inventory.”
Technology is undoubtedly playing a prominent role in shaping that ever-changing ad landscape. As such, those companies that are ahead of the curve may not only have a chance to survive the innate challenges the industry presents—but to flourish—down the road.
Here are six that are showing us what the future of ad tech looks like.
There’s a personalization issue in mobile advertising: The limitations of user identification can prevent agencies, brands and media buyers from understanding the consumer behind the device. And as such, it’s difficult to have meaningful interactions with potential customers on-the-go. That’s where Adelphic Mobile’s technology comes in. Its platform assigns an identifier—known as an “a-tag”—which appends dozens of targeting factors to each ad opportunity in real-time. Then, Adelphic’s targeting technology is able to merge mobile, contextual and demographic data with behavioral signals. The end result: Brands are enabled to connect to the ideal consumers, at the right time and place.
Adelphic’s platform has gotten some significant interest in the past year. In November, Apple announced that it was tapping a number of ad tech companies to help build out its much-anticipated iAd—one of them being Adelphic Mobile, which can supply valuable ad-targeting data from Apple devices. And in December, the Waltham-based company raised a $11 million Series B round, bringing its total raised since being founded in 2010 to $23 million. That new funding will allow Adelphic to expand to Europe, the Middle East, Asia and the Pacific region.
According to a comScore study, social networking on mobile accounted for 31 percent of all growth in Internet engagement over the previous year. Still, consumer interaction with content from brands continues to drop even in spite of the overall growth in usage. Mavrck’s platform aims to provide a solution: Its “influencer activation engine” helps brands identify and engage with their most influential customers across various channels. The objective is to help branded content to outperform paid social media in terms of customer conversions. In short: Mavrck is a tool that enables brands to better leverage the power of word-of-mouth. When customers create branded content, companies leveraging Mavrck can engage with it in real-time, either by responding to it directly or capturing those photos or videos and bringing them into their campaigns.
Customers using Mavrck’s technology include Sears, New Balance and Unilever as well as ad agencies like GroupM and Mullen.
In December, the company—a Techstars Boston grad, formerly known as Splashscore—announced a $2.5 million Series A round from GrandBanks Capital. That funding will allow Mavrck to double its relatively small team and facilitate product development. Additionally, Mavrck aims to roll out its algorithm to all social networks that enable consumer-created content by the end of next year.
Not everyone is giving up on banner ads, though. This New York-based company, which has its development headquarters in Maynard, Mass., is on a mission to get increasingly improved results from display ads—and in fact claims to be even more effective than paid search. Clients so far include publishers Meredith Corporation, BlogHer and Rodale.
The technology that Yieldbot has devised aims to capture and organize the intentions of consumers in real-time, through tracking and analyzing clickstream and search data. Using that approach, consumers are exposed to ads for things they actually might want to buy—which, of course, makes publishers happier too.
“While we’ve continued to innovate this past year in areas like creatives and automated optimization, we also have created a growing list of things that we want to do to build on the valuable data that we have across our publisher marketplace,” CTO Richard Shea recently told BostInno.
Video marketing has caught on in a big way among brands, but the question is how they can ensure their videos are actually being watched and shared by their target audiences.
Boston’s ViralGains has developed software that aims to help address that issue by giving a viral boost to marketing videos. It works by helping advertisers to serve video to the consumers most likely to socially engage with them. Its also the first viral marketing platform to make programmatic—i.e., automated and targeted—media buying decisions at the optimal price and and with the most potential word-of-mouth spread.
Since its founding in 2012, ViralGains, a MassChallenge 2013 alum, has served more than a quarter of a billion video advertising impressions (a measure of the number of times an ad is seen) for agencies and brands. Additionally, a number of high-profile companies like Nestlé, Sony, Exxon, Showtime and Lexus, are using ViralGains to ensure their videos are watched and shared by their target audiences.
Last summer, the startup raised $2.3 million and is using some of the money to move into three new markets—New York City, Chicago and Southern California. A number of local angels and VCs have invested in ViralGains, while rapper Nasir “Nas” Jones has also written the startup a check.
Also, this month, ViralGains named former iRobot President Tod Loofbourrow as its new CEO.
Maybe even without thinking about it, consumers share about their favorite brands, products and experiences with each other. Until now, there hasn’t been a convenient way to do so directly within messaging apps. Enter Inmoji, which offers clickable icons that allow individuals to access content without ever leaving the message.
Inmoji was founded less than a year ago—last May—but has already been piquing interest in the ad-tech space with its technology, which offers a way for companies to get more of their content shared by consumers and build more authentic relationships with those in their target audience. Meanwhile, Inmoji’s software development kit also opens up new revenue opportunities for messaging applications.
So far, Inmoji has added Walmart, DraftKings and Fandango, among other brands, to its customer portfolio.
At CES earlier this month, Inmoji came out of stealth mode and also announced it has raised $250,000 in its initial round of funding. The company, which is based out of Boston’s PayPal Start Tank, has also lined up an undisclosed amount of funding from David Chang (COO at PayPal Media Network) as well as from Atlas Venture’s Boston Syndicates seed-investing program. Chang has said that Inmoji “revolutionizes how apps monetize their audiences.”
What’s unique about this digital marketing platform, started in 2011 by then-Boston College students Tom Coburn and Jonathan Lacoste, is that it hones in on the interactions between consumers and brands after the user has clicked through an ad (as opposed to just the actual clicks and impression).
Jebbit’s technology works by creating an interactive question-and-answer ad experience over a brand’s landing page, and in a way where employees with even minimal tech savvy can create post-click experiences that integrate with any digital marketing channel. The goal, after enticing consumers to spend more time engaging with a brand’s ad, social post or email message, is to arm advertisers with the proper data to help them reach the ideal customer after the click.
To date, Jebbit has raised roughly $2.3 million, and the company says it has increased customer conversions while simultaneously decreasing wasted ad spend for more than 100 brands—including Zipcar, Microsoft, Dell and Bose.
In response to recent client growth, Jebbit moved into a new office in the Faneuil Hall area in December. The startup also has said it has plans for aggressive hiring into the early part of this year.
Image of road to the future via Shutterstock.