Creative Agencies To Storm The Exchange: Rich Brings Reporting On Brand-Focused Goals Says Burt Corp CEO von Sydow

Gustav von Sydow is CEO and Founder of Burt, an advertising software company and makers of “Rich,” a campaign analytics tool focused on creative agencies.

Rich From Burt recently presented “Rich” at DEMO ’09. Why was it chosen to present? Can you discuss the value proposition?

GvS: Right now, we think of Rich as an educational tool. The main idea is to provide an efficient feedback loop for copywriters, art directors etc. so that they can learn from their previous work.

Naturally, trial-and-error has been one of the main ideas behind providing campaign metrics since like forever, but the reports aren’t really being used by the creative agencies on a wide scale, as I’m sure you know. And if the people actually making ads aren’t using the metrics tools to get feedback on their work, what difference can we expect the reports to make?

The tech side of advertising usually attributes this to a perceived technology aversion on behalf of creative agencies, but that’s simply not true. I love technology, advertising and metrics (heck, I even started a company around it) as much as the next guy but when I worked full time at CP+B I still didn’t use reporting tools to a very large extent.

So at Burt we thought “what if we created a metrics tool tailored to the needs and workflow of the creative agency, would that make them use it?”. And it did. Big time.

We’ve run campaigns on Rich since may and are still providing access at an invite-only basis. We actually do get paid (CPM for those of you keeping score) for campaigns that are running, but as most of you guys know advertising platforms are sort of a working capital nightmare…

This has forced us to be a bit restrictive in how many campaigns we let on until “Rich for free” (a more lightweight and low cost version) is ready for market, or until Burt gets a more solid capital base. Whichever comes first. But we’re in a good spot and things are happening on all fronts, so either way I think we’ll be able to let a big chunk of people on around the time I’m speaking at Eurobest in November.

What was the reaction? Any feedback you’d like to share?

We were a bit surprised of how extremely positive the reactions were, both from creatives and advertisers. At the time of our first pilot test we were spending most of our resources to develop our other products, but those in the Rich pilot literally forced us to shift focus to get that product ready for them to use for real. Turns out there really was a huge unmet need to enable creative agencies to become more data driven.

Who and what is Burt? (a bit of background on you, the team, touch on other products) And, what’s the mission of the company?

Burt makes software that taps into the knowledge of creative agencies, an underserved but extremely critical audience in online advertising. Remember, the biggest effect multiplier in any campaign is the idea and execution of the ad itself, something usually in the sole hands of creative agencies.

I used to work as a planner at Daddy, which then got acquired by CP+B (world’s best ad agency according to AdAge, AdWeek and Creativity) earlier this year to from the base for their European operations. Gustav Martner, my co-founder at Burt, also co-founded Daddy and after he sold the agency to CP+B he still works full-time.

Burt basically builds products based on our hands-on-experience from Daddy and CP+B to address challenges we’ve faced in our daily work. And by using that in-depth understanding of creative agencies to drive our decisions I think that we’re in a rare position to create tools that creative agencies will actually use.

A week ago I presented Rich at DEMO, but as a company, Burt has been in the works for about a year. Last september we presented our first product, Copybox – “the Photoshop for copywriters” – at Techcrunch50, a software that also landed us an award at this year’s Cannes Lions, making us one of few companies to be spotlighted on major venues for both technology and creative advertising.

Besides the odd appearance at award shows and conferences, we’ve been trying to keep a low profile to focus on working with a some pretty great clients and build products to help them create more cleve, entertaining and persuasive stuff… but after DEMO a lot of people started to take notice. I guess we can’t hide forever 🙂

How do you balance working at Burt and your Crispin Porter Bogusky responsibilities? And, are you getting enough sleep?

Haha, good question. I’m down to working part time for CP+B now, but Gustav Martner (co-founder of Burt) is still working full time as the Executive Creative Director for CP+B Europe – he also has a wife and two kids. So compared to him, I really shouldn’t complain. Besides, Burt has got some super smart people on staff that makes things a whole lot easier to manage for both of us.

Has your CPB experience influenced your product development at Burt? If so, how?

I’d say we’re *very* influenced by the people and clients over at CP+B. And how could you not, with the track record they have? 🙂

One of the most important insights they I have with me from CP+B is probably that most creative agencies (the good ones, at least) love technology – and metrics for that matter – so long as it’s packaged to fit in with how they operate and their needs. But making this happen is *hard* and though I think that Burt is in a better position than most to succeed in doing so, we still have a long way to go.

Do you consider Burt, and a product like Rich, more about services or technology? Is there a proprietary angle to your decisioning process, for example?

Burt is a product company, the only “service” we aim to provide is “self-service” hahaha… seriously, I think there’s waaaay too much overlap between a lot of “technology” companies and the agencies as it is – especially in the rich media and dynamic creative space.

Our goal is to make tools that leverage other more people intensive parts of the value chain.

The simple use cases can be solved thru our apps, and the more sophisticated ideas is executed by accessing our APIs. But creative agencies will have to manage it themselves – for instance, the tech staff at CP+B is extremely competent so I can’t see why we should overlap with them at all.

We’ll focus on making our interfaces as simple and powerful as humanly possible, and educate agencies on how to use them properly. I think this is one the things that Google really got right.

Do you see ad exchanges and demand-side buying platforms fitting into the goals of “Rich”?

I’d say that anything that makes it easier to buy and manage ad placements is a fantastic development for creative agencies, since it will bring them closer to the media. And anything that’s great for them is generally also good news for us.

Short term I think that Rich will benefit from this development by providing advetisers and agencies better metrics to audit purchases made thru ad exchanges than most other tools – enabling you to understand if an ad is in plain view or if someone paid attention is naturally great for getting a leg up on the real value of an exposure.

Long term I think that ad exchanges will probably benefit our other products – Copybox and Meme Machine – more, since they’re more focused on leveraging RTB (or whatever you want to call it) and the separation of placement and data.

However, we have no interest in competing in the data aggregation or the valutation and purchase space, but are extremely interested in meeting companies that focus on these functions. We’re confident that we can give them with a hefty chunk of business they otherwise would have no chance of getting from creative agencies, that is if they can perform either of these functions reasonably well.

A creative agency, landscape question for you. Do you see creative agencies adapting to the use of technology today? Who’s getting it, who isn’t – and what are the factors involved?

Software time and advertising time are something completely different – ironically, most products in ad tech are built based on a software view of the world. Square peg. Round hole.

In our experience getting creative agencies to use technology is not that hard if you manage to create something that allows them to do better stuff, on time and within budget. It’s really as simple as that.

Do you think the creative and media agency models merge at some point given the use of technology by both?

It looks like the valuation and aggregated purchase of media will become increasingly simple over the coming two-three years. If planning and management of ads can be integrated into creative process, I think we’ll see quant leaps in the quality of advertising ideas and their execution – which is really a bigger issue than quality of media these days.

So yes, I think creative and media *have to* merge at some point, but it’ll require a new set of tools – a toolbox we aim Burt to become part of.

Is media creative in your opinion? Does it deserve an equivalent seat at the table, so to speak, with the client even when discussing strategy and messaging?

Burt – like many ad tech companies I’m sure – is built around the idea that media and technology should be a part of creative and strategy – and the other way around, of course. But I think that the problem is alot trickier than just “giving media a seat at the table” and appointing a “creative technologist”. Or creating “a new type of agency” for that matter. Remixing the organization alone won’t cut it.

I think that your company’s point-of-view on this issue can probably make or break you, regardless of size. I’d actually go as far as saying that our idea on how to attack this is will be hard to replicate and right now part of our “secret sauce”… but I don’t feel ready to give away our entire hand at once 🙂

But I can say as much as that I think that the best advertising – TV, online, print, whatever – has always been great at understanding the media and the audience’s relationship to it. If media is just an afterthought – a dumb pipeline for one-size-fits-all ideas – alot of potential is lost. And *that* we can’t afford in online advertising, because the consumer is in control and we need to deserve their attention. So now more than ever, advertising really have to live up to it’s full potential.

Are you seeing a market in brands/clients that are looking for better reporting on brand-focused goals?

Absolutely. Using Rich to provide more brand-focused metrics have shifted clients’ opinions on what online advertising can accomplish. Rich actually makes banners (somewhat) comparable to TV or print. Would be nice to break out from the ol’ direct response ball-in-chain once and for all, wouldn’t it? 🙂

Follow Gustav von Sydow (@vonsydow), Burt (@BurtCorp) and (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

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