Adapt.ly Addressing Fragmented, Social Advertising With Self-Serve Platform Says CEO Sethi

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AdaptlyNikhil Sethi is Co-Founder of Adapt.ly, a social advertising platform company.

AdExchanger.com: What gave you the idea for Adapt.ly?

NS: I founded a company while studying Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at Northwestern University, focused on self-serve direct mail technology, and about 9 months in, I realized I wasn’t focused on the reasons I started the company for, I wasn’t focused on the passion for the product, or in the innovation of what we were creating, rather I was spending 90% of my day focused on customer acquisition efforts through our marketing/advertising efforts.  With our limited budget, I was spending my day making new creative on several social media properties trying to attract, measure, and monitor performance and continue to improve the results we were getting.  I remember opening up a word document and jotting down, “There has to be a better way to do simultaneously social ad deployment and optimization without me doing anything.” And Adapt.ly was born.

What problem is Adapt.ly solving?

Social advertising is broken, fragmented, hard to use, impossible to understand, difficult to monitor and practically impossible to hit the entire audience you’re trying to reach. Many advanced tools and services exist out there, but they end up costing businesses thousands upon thousands of dollars every month for marginal technology improvements.  Just to get on board many of these services requires multiple calls to their sales team, minimum monthly ad spends, and a long and cruel vetting process.

We believe that self-serve is the future of advertising. Just as Youtube broke the prehistoric video industry, and as blogging broke the newspaper monopoly, advertising is getting disrupted by self-serve ad platforms.  Many self-serve ad networks exist in the market, however each is creating their own isolated advertiser experiences and data silos.

Adapt.ly aims to connect all these social self-serve ad networks and let advertisers create a single ad unit and deploy on multiple self-serve ad networks. We monitor all the relevant data in real time and give actionable insights to tweak performance.

Given its scale, why does a marketer need anything other than Facebook as a self-serve ad tool?   Also, how does Adapt.ly add value to Facebook's self-serve platform?

To best answer this question you have to take one step back and look at the search advertising space.  The great thing about search, in terms of direct response, is intent.  So we started thinking about how to recreate intent in the social space, and ultimately realized that there is a huge correlation between the product and industry of the ad being served and at a very high level which social ad network it was served on.  For example Facebook is a very generalist site in that regard.  If I enter in golf as an interest of mine on Facebook, and proceed to serve golf ads against that user, there is no increased likelihood that that user is going to click on a golf ad. Understanding the context of the ad in the social space becomes incredible important.  Ultimately, social self-serve platforms are very immature, and Adaptly is building a lot of intelligence ontop of these self-serve platforms.

Why can't another company come along and do what you're doing? How will Adapt.ly differentiate?

We are laser focused on social ads, which allows us to build a complete product just around social.  Many people tend to just dump social and search ads in the same bucket.  However there is an entirely different psychology around deploying and optimizing social ads from search ads. There is an inherent emotion that has to be elicited from the ad unit, which goes towards, what we believe to be the true innovation in online advertising: The evolution of the ad unit, and we are seeing some of the first glimpses in the social space.  Secondly, we have core technology under the hood the powers our end-to-end solution.

Where in the funnel does the social marketing platforms your aggregating address? Why?

If you think about the current set of analytic tools available on the market today (Google analytics, Coremetrics, Kissmetrics, etc) + all the landing page optimization tools out there; they are all focused on the conversion funnel of landing page to a sale or some other measured action.  Adapt.ly is sitting one level removed and looking at the funnel from a customer acquisition to a sale.  We are working on bridging the conversion funnel gap in these tools, as it becomes very powerful for a business to view the complete funnel: Customer acquisition to a sale from within a single interface.  As well as prolonged conversation with the end customer, the ad unit is just the beginning.

What about adding other channels such as display ad exchanges and aggregators? Is that on the product roadmap - if so, when?

We want to focus on social ads.  The idea isn’t to maximize on any and all advertising property out there, but more so to leverage the next wave of advertising innovation.  It is our thinking that the future of advertising isn’t a land grab, however an innovation on the ad unit itself.  The social ad unit is becoming a very powerful entity and something that is still in its very early stages.

Who's the target market for Adapt.ly's product?  Are agencies a good fit?

We’ve created a central system to deploy a businesses ad inventory across self-serve social ad properties. In that sense agencies are an awesome fit, as they can leverage their client’s social media strategies across the millions of users locked inside of multiple self-serve ad networks.  We are working on building some custom solutions just for agencies and are looking for a few agencies to pilot our technology.

Can you see developing a services layer at Adapt.ly at some point?

We have two modes of our product. A self-service tool that allows a business to manage all aspects of their ad deployment and targeting on their own, as well as a full end-to-end solution, which asks a business two questions: What are you advertising, and who are you trying to reach. With that information Adaptly deploys and optimizes their campaign across social ad properties automatically and continuously.

A year from now, what milestones would you like Adapt.ly to have accomplished?

The real goal is to go beyond the ad.  The deployment part is straightforward. In a year I hope that I can tell you, that Adapt.ly is not an advertising deployment and optimization engine, but the social pulse of the internet.

Follow Nikhil Sethi (@nsethi) and AdExchanger.com (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

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