Qualia CEO: We’re Turning Intent Signals Into Targetable Impressions For Brands

KathyLeakePrior to 2011, when Greycroft Partners brought in Kathy Leake as president and founding partner of LocalResponse, the company had a different name – Buzzd – and a different business model.

“The original idea was monetizing check-ins for advertisers,” she said. “If someone checks into Macy’s using Foursquare or publicly on Twitter, we would @message them some kind of offer in-store in the moment.”

But hyperlocal targeting was already served by the PlaceIQs of the world, she said, and so the company repositioned as LocalResponse, a social ad network. And now, three years on, it has done it again.

Even after these iterations, the firm hasn’t entirely divorced itself from the social check-in. Leake said Qualia is, instead, using social signals along with data from a host of sources such as product comparison app PriceCheckers and shopping tool Pretty In My Pocket to create a composite of commercial intent.

Leake spoke with AdExchanger.

AdExchanger: What problem does Qualia solve?

KATHY LEAKE: When we started the company, all that really existed [in social data collection] were the social listening platforms, but we wanted to create a company that allowed marketers to respond to the social fire hose. Not just pull data and analyze data, but respond in relatively real time. We considered that a real shift in behavior in 2011, when Twitter was really taking off and when people were broadcasting their whereabouts. 

A consumer raising their hand and saying “I need jeans” is really interesting to Levi’s and Macy’s, and we started to incorporate that into our targeting and called it intent targeting. We’re serving most ads within 12-24 hours of expressed intent.

A lot of social vendors – Facebook PMDs, specifically – have been acquired or pivoted away from pure social since 2011.

We started looking at other behaviors beyond social – people using apps for commercial purposes, adding a product to a wish list or setting price alerts – it’s a very strong intent signal for an advertiser. You’re not guessing if someone’s in-market. They’re raising their hand and saying they’re in-market. Many people credit us as being one of the first if not the first to monetize the Twitter fire hose – to take that social data and turn it into a targetable impression for a brand.

How much data are you processing?

We’re getting daily and, in some cases, hourly feeds from our data partners and, in terms of scale, it’s about 300 million signals per month we’re analyzing. And by signal I mean you checked in to a location, you broadcasted, you posted to a wish list, you checked a price alert. We count those as individual signals. What we care less about is uniques, because as a consumer, you’re exhibiting multiple commercial signals at any given time on multiple devices. We’re actually analyzing where those signals are input as well, so that’s a piece of our targeting as well. You may check into a location on your phone but then purchase from your desktop at night.

Who are your platform partners for location targeting?

We partnered with Tapad and BlueCava, but we look at them as the plumbing. For us, we’re interested in the data on why you would serve someone an ad vs. where the ad is.

How do you measure the success of a campaign? What KPIs do you use?

We have an analytics suite we rolled out midyear this year. It shows clients, did a consumer search for a term related to the brand? Did they go to the website and spend more time onsite than they normally do?

And we’re using Moat to measure hover rates and dwell rates beyond the click, which can be gamed. I don’t want to build a company being measured on click-through rate. We’ve also partnered with Placed to determine, did we drive behavior in the real world? Did someone go to an auto dealership? Did they go to a retailer?

So you’re not exactly in branding territory nor are you lower-funnel, CPC-type stuff.

We’ve defined a point in the purchase cycle that’s sort of mid-funnel. If you’re talking to people who may have already purchased, there are a lot of wasted dollars. If someone’s in-market for a phone and we can guide them to Verizon, then that’s kind of a mid-funnel place we’re taking ownership of.

Once they’ve converted, they’ve converted. That’s bottom-of-the-funnel and we’re not necessarily playing in that space, nor are we playing in brand awareness.

Your previous company also changed its name, from Media6degrees to Dstillery.

When I came into Media6, it was an idea on a piece of paper with $1 million in the bank and we had no idea if it was viable. I’m very comfortable with flying without a net. My job was to take that company to market. I did all the original selling at Media6, helped closed like $8 million in revenue to put the company on the map and then started hiring a team after that. I took the company to about $22 million in revenue and a $100 million valuation. At that point, I felt like I had set it up on its trajectory.

What’s your fundraising picture?

We did a Series A of $9 million last year and a small inside round last year of about $1 million. I’m purposely conservative on raising money. On the other side of this with Media6, we raised a lot of money there. It limits your exit opportunity, and you must grow the company to a certain degree. It’s good to make friends with money, but if I take $10 million from someone that means I have to turn it into a $100 million company, and it’s just a longer marriage.


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