Four years ago, Los Angeles-based Adly (www.adly.com) launched to much fanfare as one of the first local startups to tie into the brand-new, Twitter micro messaging platform. We caught up with CEO Walter Delph to hear how the promise of social media advertising has measured up to reality, and what that means for brands and marketers today trying to leverage the new reality of social conversations.
What is Ad.ly's business now?
Walter Delph: Social networks like Twitter and YouTube have pulled down the invisible curtain between celebrities and fans, allowing people to share content more easily than before. We're the leading social advertising platform that leverages celebrity relationships. We're really focused on driving engagement with brands, and leverages the real-time conversations that happen in social media. We really pride ourselves in the amount of buzz and interest we drive for brands, which hopefully drives back directly to their sales. How we do that, is we have a platform that combines brand data with celebrity intelligence data, and we're turning that data into valuable, targeted audience segments.
When you say social media, what does that encompass for you now--Twitter, or beyond just Twitter?
Walter Delph: We started primarily on Twitter, but we now work on Twitter, Facebook, and others. We did our first Instagram campaign at the end of last year. We're trying to be a broad service offering, not just based on one platform. It depends on what a brand is trying to achieve, which helps us focus on efforts and the right platforms.
Why would a brand or advertiser want to work with Adly?
Walter Delph: As I mentioned, the company is four years old now. We have had 30,000 branded conversations with over 200 brands. It's a combination of leveraging our data to provide activation of users, by sending out the posts, and really providing brands with the metrics of before, during, and after a campaign. That's how we take the business to the next level. We really want to help brands actually sell stuff. By providing audience targeting, ROI, and metrics, that's enabled us to scale, and provide those toolsets to enable brands to realize that this is something they should do as a consistent part of their business.
How much of this is automated software, versus services and people?
Walter Delph: It requires people. It's not completely self-serve. But what we've been focused on is getting the right toolset into the hands of the media buyer, and allow them to make planning decisions, understand the power of celebrities, in order to achieve brand engagement through social media. We provide them with a front-end dashboard, which enables them to log in, and see what audience they've reached--moms? Millenials? That enables us to scale, and get in front of every single media buyer, whether that's at Target, Microsoft, Honda, or Walmart. Finding out how to get in front of those buyers here is the goal.
Have those brands and advertisers figured out social media yet, or are they still figuring this out?
Walter Delph: Marketers are still figuring this out. It's hard, because once marketers have figured out one platform, another one seems to pop up and emerge. Marketers have a hard time keeping up with all th emost recent platforms. In addition, those platforms are not providing the metrics that marketers need. Some platforms have been getting better and better at metrics, but, there's still a lack of metrics to convince marketers they really need to spend more money here. That's why the initiatives that Facebook and Twitter have with partners like Nielsen are so important. It's so business marketers can justify their spending. Without metrics, it's hard to justify spending millions and millions of dollars. That's why we started out by providing as much data and metrics as possible.
What's the missing thing here that the industry needs to gain broader adoption from brands and advertisers?
Walter Delph: I think the goal is how to figure out how to draw a correlation with sales. That's what we are striving to do. Some of the platforms are getting more advanced, and a few have built those things early in the process, such as Pinterest. Others are catching up. But, I think, it's figuring out how to create the correlation between marketing and sales. That's really the best thing to do in order to justify more media dollars.
What's the big goal for your company now?
Walter Delph: The big goal for us, is to continue to invest in our ad technology. We have four years of history monetizing the social stream, and that's a lot of data. We're talking about demographic information, we're talking about earned media information, we're talking about call-to-action data. What we strive to do, is use our machine learning algorithms to continually analyze social events, and get brands the insights they need to be smarter and be more successful at celebrity activation. Then, when we do that, we can tell those brands which celebrities would be optimal to utilize for their messages, and use that data to be smart.
There's a ton of new social sites out there, which ones are you seeing the most interest with celebrities and brands?
Walter Delph: From both the marketing and celebrity side, we're seeing a ton of interest in visualization of what is going on. That means specifically, services like Vine and Instagram. We work with a lot of creative people, and they see things on Instagram, and more recently with Vine, very exciting. Those are both pretty hot, with brands really wanting to test what to do there next.