Jonah Goodhart and Noah Goodhart are the Co-CEO’s of Moat, a creative company.
AdExchanger.com: Please share a brief background on the executive team at Moat.
JONAH GOODHART: The company was founded by myself and Noah Goodhart. We brought on Ant Taylor as part of the founding team to serve as our GM. Mike Walrath serves as our Chairman.
Noah and I got our start in digital advertising in the late 90’s with a company we founded called Colonize. Colonize earned revenue through online customer acquisition. We had clients such as American Express, Paypal, and AT&T. Display advertising was our largest distribution source and we became a very large buyer of display inventory, spending millions of dollars per year. In fact at one point we were advertising so much that we actually had more traffic than Google! Our media buying technology at that time was essentially Mike Walrath and some spreadsheets. Mike was working at DoubleClick where we bought a large portion of our inventory. We worked with Mike to find efficient ways to “bid” for inventory from choice publishers.
Overall though, the buying process for display was very manual and inefficient. In late 2002, Mike decided to leave his job and launch a new company to address this problem. We talked and decided to partner – he would start Right Media and we would fund it.
I imagine that most AdExchanger readers know the Right Media story so I’ll skip that part but after Yahoo! acquired the company, Noah, Mike and I decided to form WGI Group in order to make angel investments (we’ve made over 20 so far). When Noah and I decided to launch a new venture, we surveyed the display landscape and saw several good companies working on the science of online advertising, but saw very few focused on the creative side – the art. So, we decided to launch Moat to work on the creative opportunity. After launching the company, we went about building our team and brought on Ant Taylor. Ant had been a rising star at Right Media and had decided to leave Yahoo! after spending a few years there managing the exchange. Ant saw firsthand the importance of creative as he worked with some of the biggest CPG companies in the world and decided to join Noah and I to help build Moat.
While we aren’t creatives in the agency sense of the word, we have seen first-hand the huge impact that great ideas and better ad
executions can have on campaigns. In our Colonize days, one of the ways we were able to compete with larger companies with superior technology was by redesigning ads for our clients and making them more engaging. So we are targeting the creative space because we know it can lead to performance increases of 100%-500% or more and can be the single most important factor in having a successful campaign versus one that’s not. I think it’s a mistake to assume that better technology will solve every problem in online advertising – we need better creative as well and we think this is largely being overlooked. Imagine a company running a Super Bowl spot where the commercial itself was an afterthought. It doesn’t happen offline and it shouldn’t happen online either.
What problem is Moat solving?
At a high level, Moat is focused on helping the industry make better ads. We break this into 3 parts: First, we think it is too hard to
perform what should be a basic task of locating and viewing specific ads online, so today we’re launching Moat Ad Search as a simple way to search for display ads. Next, we think the click as the primary metric for evaluating the success of a campaign, particularly a brand campaign, is outdated. So we’ll be releasing our Moat Ad Analytics suite which will make it easy to add far more informative measures such as interactions, engagements, and visual heatmaps to any display campaign. Our analytics platform is designed specifically to give ad designers the data they need to design more engaging creative. Finally, we believe the process for actually building creative is slow, cumbersome, and unnecessarily siloed from media, and we’ll be addressing this problem through our creative marketplace.
In that you’ve decided to start with a product that is “search for ads,” who needs to search for ads and why?
Our goal with Moat is to help shift the digital advertising conversation to be about the art as well as the science, so we felt that there was no better way to begin that discussion than featuring creative front and center and we think Moat Ad Search is the way to do it. We think people will find many uses for the search tool – advertisers can use it to see what ads are running, creative agencies/ad designers can use it to showcase their ads, publishers and ad exchanges might find it helpful to discover new advertisers. The site is live today, so please take a look at http://www.moat.com and let us know your feedback.
How will you monetize “search for ads”? How does this dovetail with other product plans?
Our ad search tool is free and we are really focused on just building out a great product. For us, the real goal of the search tool is to spark a broader conversation about online creative. As an industry we need to know what ads are out there, we need better ways to measure their performance, and ultimately we need to make new and better ads. All of our products will be focused on these themes.
What is the timeline for product roll-out of the analytics and marketplace? Any dependencies?
While we haven’t officially launched analytics or the creative marketplace, we actually do have paying clients for both products. For
example, we recently did an analytics campaign with IAC for Chevrolet and the launch of the new Cruze and we will be launching an analytics pilot with eBay shortly. On the creative side, our marketplace has built ads for Groupon and other daily deal sites, as well as some larger brands such as Blackberry. We’re planning to open up these products to the general market in the next several months.
Considering all of the valuable data created from the search tool at the least, any plans to add a media component to the business? Why or why not?
No, we really think of ourselves as a creative company and want to be careful to not take on too much. We think there may be a media model that works well with our company and the plan is to partner with the leaders in that area. We have in fact already done some of these partnerships and plan to do others. We have found that companies that are in the business of selling media can utilize our creative services to enhance the value of their offerings and increase revenue.
So, why couldn’t Google build your search tool? Isn’t this a concern considering Google’s search expertise?
I love this question because I think it’s one that every startup thinks about and eventually gets asked. When we started our first company we often got asked why the big players at the time couldn’t just do what we were doing. Later when we were involved with Right Media we often thought why doesn’t Yahoo! or Microsoft do this – certainly they had plenty of resources. As it turns out, it’s not about who has the theoretical capabilities, rather it’s about focus and timing. It seems that often big companies prefer to wait and see if a new model is successful before ultimately jumping into the space. I think this serves them well as they can choose to pursue the markets which are showing success. Sometimes they’re too late such as in the case of Facebook perhaps and sometimes they realize there’s a huge opportunity which they want to own (such as DoubleClick and Right Media). Either way, we think it’s great when big companies start paying attention to what we’re doing as it’s validation and perhaps a foreshadowing of interesting things to come.
Stepping back, how do you see the role of the creative evolving in the next 3-5 years? And how will Moat address this evolution?
We believe there will be a big shift towards focusing on digital creative over the next several years. As more and more spend goes
online, large advertisers will demand that their creative is as high-quality as their television commercials. In the near future, there will be many more great break-through online campaigns that generate as much buzz as Super Bowl commercials. As this evolution occurs, the industry will need tools to help unlock the power of digital creativity and we think Moat can be a central player in this area.
What about funding – any plans here?
Today we’re funded through our own fund, WGI Group. We went this route to give us maximum flexibility as we built out the company, allowing us to have 100% focus on creating our products. At some point, we’ll bring in additional investment partners, and we’ve been fortunate that several top investors have expressed interest, so stay tuned.
A year from now, what milestones would you like the company to have achieved?
We’d like Moat Ad Search to be a ubiquitous tool in the industry and we’d like our Analytics and Marketplace products to continue to be embraced by brands. From a user’s perspective, we’d like to think that Moat can help improve the quality of ads online and hopefully get to the point where it’s fun to find and share cool ads with your friends.