PebblePost Wants To Link Online Advertising With Direct Mail

Lewis GershThe ad tech community has taken its strategies to legacy marketing channels before – billboards, radio, point-of-sale systems and even linear TV. Now add direct mail to the list.

PebblePost launched publicly and revealed a $3 million seed round on Tuesday. CEO Lewis Gersh hopes to bring real-time analytics to direct mail campaigns for the first time.

You won’t see many brands bragging about their direct mail campaigns for industry coverage, but there’s still massive value in actual mailboxes, which get more marketing dollars than all of digital combined.

Gersh, who was an early investor and board member at companies like Chango and Tapad, said it was an interesting experience pitching the value of the post over digital channels, “some old sage marketer saying this to ecommerce companies.”

“It’s not sexy, but it works,” he said.

The company’s first product is aimed at retail and ecommerce companies, taking a brand’s first-party data sets and cross-referencing that with third-party data (via a company like Acxiom) to identify whether a mailing address and contact are correctly matched.

That’s well within the capabilities of typical direct mail, but it’s once the piece of mail arrives that the digital back end kicks in, said Gersh.

Once a piece of mail is delivered, that household or recipient is tracked for online or in-store activity. With a three-day lag between when a message is sent to PebblePost and when it hits a customer’s mailbox, digital players can now optimize and attribute on direct mail campaigns.

The new offering allows “intent expressed online to power personalized offers sent by direct mail,” said Todd Parsons, Acxiom’s GM of marketing services, in the announcement.

PebblePost CTO Rob Victor, a former Google and DoubleClick product manager, emphasized the importance of attributable mail.

“For the first time, direct mail response path activity can be seen in real-time analytics, putting direct mail into the click stream for attribution,” he said. The process for matching the right creative or offer with the right customer is automated, with the ability to optimize based on daily feedback.

Gersh said many brands see physical mailboxes as a stronger way to get deals to consumers and secure mindshare. Mailed messages get better open rates than inbox marketing items, claimed Gersh, and don’t come with digital’s concerns over potentially tarnishing a brand.

But many companies haven’t seriously considered tapping the post because, unlike all their other marketing dollars, direct mail couldn’t be integrated into an attributable user funnel.

Gersh also said the time is right for direct mail, as the product relies on two advancements.

The first comes from the US Postal Service, which has technology that enables PebblePost to track deliveries and optimize based on a target’s ZIP code or the day of the week.

The second comes from retailers, who have made major strides in building lists and connecting in-store and digital shoppers. This allows PebblePost to follow up on pieces of real-world mail with cookies tracking the recipient.

Gersh said that the startup’s 20-plus pilot retail partners saw an average response rate of 20% to the direct mail item (meaning that person visited the site or store within a set attribution window), and a 50% conversion rate among those qualified responders.

“I saw programmatic sweeping through digital, video and email, and then everyone was talking about TV … but I thought that would take some time before it could go into effect,” said Gersh. “Direct mail has over $100 billion per year going into it, but nobody is even trying to connect that to digital marketing and analytics?”

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