John Manoogian III is Founder of 140 Proof, which offers targeted, social stream advertising.
AdExchanger.com: How has your previous experience ie. your work as a Creative & Technical Director at Organic informed the development of 140 Proof?
JM: A core part of what Organic did when I was there was try to combine smart creative with smart engineering, using a glue we called "Personas," and it turns out that was a powerful formula. I had the good fortune of working with a number of talented people there who opened my eyes, and the client’s eyes, to the marketing power of personas, these personified clusters of research data.
Personas formed a structure for rapidly ideating and executing against a brand objective without getting getting sidetracked in debates about subjectivity. What frustrated me, though, about personas in my past agency experience, was their manual creation; how slow they seemed to take shape, and how “offline” they were. I wanted to plug them into the data and the tools that we were building for clients. 140 Proof’s persona targeting essentially uses algorithms and massive amounts of streaming data to create and target personas on the fly.
So the answer is: I tried to take what I learned at Organic and mechanize it as a a real-time media platform. I can’t take credit for implementing all this of course: our west coast office is primarily software hackers and tinkerers who have built not just the cloud cluster that does the ad-serving but also the algorithms themselves, most of which are patented and/or top-secret.
What problem is 140 Proof solving?
- There was really no way for brands to scalably and respectfully access the massive community of influential Twitter users
- Adding real scale to earned media & PR tactics
- Reducing complexity in digital advertising
What we’ve seen is that "banner-blindness" has made consumers increasingly immune and annoyed by the proliferation of display ads, no matter the size / shape / etc., and therefore advertisers need to STOP inventing new display formats and instead begin looking more closely at the CONTEXT through which people increasingly consume information: the social stream. 140 Proof is the first and most robust solution for advertising within the social stream.
What would you say about the targeting opportunity 140 Proof creates for marketers - is it upper-funnel, lower funnel? Brand or DR? Twitter-related-only?
We take pride in being a hybrid platform extending the value of social streams to advertisers. So while we see large brands succeeding on 140 Proof with upper-funnel campaigns that build demand and awareness, we also launch lower-funnel campaigns, which are more transactional in nature, on a daily basis. Brand folks come to us for reach and measurable word of mouth, which we track through retweets. Search folks love us because they can pay per action we integrate into their existing reporting tools.
Fundamentally, the social stream is about discovery and sharing, which means it’s a big brand sandbox of toys for marketers who know how to use them.
We think the opportunity of contextual advertising in social streams extends far beyond Twitter, however. As we talked about earlier, social streams like Facebook, Blippy, Last.fm, and of course Twitter are increasingly the conduits to everything that matters in our digital lives. This trend began with RSS feeds, exploded with blogs and then Twitter, and became mainstream with Facebook. We see the scope of the social “stream” as being wide as the Amazon river and several billion dollars deep.
Please provide a use-case of what you see as typical, scalable 140 Proof opportunity for marketers.
A large-scale example is what we’re working on with Best Buy right now, which is a targeted media strategy with massive US consumer reach through a single cross-channel buy.
What the client has asked for is a simple way to map the different phases of the shop/buy/own cycle to separate messages. Because Twitter extends from the web to the desktop to the device, we were able to use 140 Proof’s targeting to hit consumers with separate messages at home, while browsing the web, and then later with more lower funnel messages via mobile, all through Twitter.
Looking more closely, can you discuss the targeting parameters your platform offers?
140 Proof’s patented persona creation and targeting system supports a rich set of targeting criteria based on consumer interest signals in public API data. What we do, in a nutshell, is offer the power of persona-based targeting with the simplicity of a checkbox-based selection. Advertisers deliver a profile of the targeted audience, eg. 18M g. "Progressive Urban Tastemakers, Males 24-29."
New persona definition (eg. Tech Influencers, Mommy-bloggers, Financial Investors, etc.) use demographic input from advertisers and are stored as "keyword clouds" within the advertiser's account in our system. The keywords are comprised of:
- Interest Signals: keywords mentioned; content of links shared; type of users followed.
- Plus demo criteria: geo-location; gender; OS; application platform (eg. Windows, Mac, smartphone, etc)
We have a growing library of personas defined by the above parameters that are expanded and customized for different campaigns. We have an Audience Insights team comprised of multiple Engagement Engineers who work against advertiser criteria and iterate keyword searches over time to precisely define persona audiences. Keywords used are conversational in nature and include names, places, topics mentioned, searches, and hashtags.
And, what about "intent" - intender data is big in display. Is targeting "intenders" possible through social media, in general, and 140 Proof, in particular?
Definitely! We’ve worked with brand clients to develop custom personas around such specific buying targets as “Mac Switchers”; people who own Windows computers but intend to research and/or purchase Apple products.
How does pricing work?
Brand campaigns are traditionally run as CPM (in the ~ $10 - $14 range), since impressions are the lens through which brand media buyers tend to view the world. We also do lower-funnel search campaigns on a CPC basis (~ $1 - $2 per click) for marketers who are DR-focused, and no matter the cost basis, we always report on all engagement metrics (Retweets, Replies, Clicks, Favorites) for agency campaigns.
Are you ever concerned that Twitter could effectively "shut off" opportunities that 140 Proof offers?
All platform businesses, from PayPal to Zynga, experience bouts of uncertainty at some point in their growth related to behavior of platform partners. We believe Twitter has built a valuable and vibrant ecosystem of players who create value throughout the Twitter food-chain. Since 140 Proof passes significant revenue back to all our Twitter publishers, we’re proud to be a primary revenue source for Twitter ecosystem developers. We’ve also worked closely with Twitter before and during the launch of its Promoted products for advertisers, specifically with the advertising and executive team leads — and we look forward to continuing those relationships and creating more value for the Twitter ecosystem, and for advertisers.
What about funding - can you see dipping into VC wallets again? Is 140 Proof profitable yet?
As a private company we don’t discuss our financial situation, but 140 Proof has had an extremely good 2010 year in both ad sales and network growth, and we look forward to continuing to deliver the same excellent growth and value back to all our investors.
A year from now, what milestones would like 140 Proof to have accomplished?
To have cemented rock-solid relationships with Twitter and other social stream providers, to have 100% satisfied parter-publishers, and to be the premium social stream advertising service in the US market.
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