This post is part of our new Future of Marketing series which interviews the leading founders and executives who are on the front lines of the industry to get a better understanding of what problems the industry is facing, what trends are taking place, and what the future looks like.
The following is an interview we recently had with Vitaly Pecherskiy, co-founder and COO of StackAdapt.
What's the history of StackAdapt? How and where did you begin?
My co-founder, Ildar, was actually my client at a previous job. The first time we met to go over the account was at Starbucks. The conversation very quickly turned into the future of technology, innovation, opportunities, and entrepreneurship. Over the next 5 months our friendship grew and it became apparent that there was a clear gap in the market for another ad tech player. We left our jobs to start a service-based company that introduced organizations to programmatic, but our passion for technology meant we always knew we would eventually develop our own product.
At the same time, we met our third co-founder, Yang, who recently moved back to Toronto having spent a few years in New York building equity trading platforms. The fit was immediate – we had complementary skills, we bonded over how we envisioned the company and the product, and we had similar risk tolerance. We started building early proof of concepts that got picked up by a large automotive brand about 9 months into the journey. The rest is history.
What specific problem does StackAdapt solve? Who do you solve it for?
Nowadays consumers build relationships with brands on a value level and content marketing is a powerful vehicle to build that trust. Clients that use our platform come to us with a clear problem: they struggle with getting attention in today’s crowded marketplace. They’ve noticed that what worked in the past doesn’t work as well today – social channels are getting increasingly saturated and organic reach is dropping, and search engine optimization takes too long to yield results. Our customers are looking for ways to increase exposure to new target audiences on demand. Our native advertising platform lets them break through the noise and reach potential customers with content-driven ads. More importantly, it helps them understand how their media dollars actually drive their business forward beyond surface level metrics like impressions and clicks.
What is your solution to their problem?
As marketers ourselves, we felt the pain of using complex programmatic platforms. Our vision was to build something different than the traditional media-trading platform, something intelligent and intuitive. We didn’t want another complex “switchboard” type of product. We wanted something that makes complex things simple. An enterprise product that solves problems and that people would love logging into every day.
Because StackAdapt operates in many ways as a data-company, we collect proprietary browsing behavior data. Then we use machine learning to predict which products people are interested in. Buying native ads is easy. Making them actually drive your business forward is hard, so that’s where we focus our energy: How can we find people online who are actively looking for a product just like our customers’ and nudge them in their favor? Our proprietary data engine does just that.
What are the top 3 tech trends you're seeing in the advertising industry?
Trend #1: Data transparency. I think more marketers have started to ask questions related to how data is actually aggregated and who is in the audience segments that they target on a trading platform. I see more and more people question whether the price they pay for 3rd party data is justified and what sort of performance lift it actually gives. It’s a very overlooked topic especially in the context of awareness campaigns where tracking ROI isn’t as straightforward as with conversion-based campaigns, but overall marketers are becoming more data savvy.
Trend #2: Video advertising. It boggles my mind how many dollars are flowing into TV advertising and how little accountability there is. Obviously, I am biased because I work in digital. There are challenges in tracking in digital too, but when I hear that in many places people are asked to use pen and paper to self-declare their TV watching habits which are then used to gage the success of TV campaigns, it makes me laugh. We’ll see more brand managers wake up and demand more transparency around TV dollars.
Trend #3: Content experiences. We are starting to see marketers evolve beyond text-based blogs to building content experiences where they ask consumers to engage with their brands in a more interactive, engaging way. It’s no longer a wall of text that people are expected to read, it’s interactive quizzes, it’s user-generated photo galleries, it’s visual story telling that makes brands stand out from the rest. When you have nailed that, your content distribution and paid media strategy is like adding fuel to the fire.
What's the future of native advertising?
All digital advertising will eventually become native. It has taken longer than we anticipated in 2013 when we started StackAdapt, but it’s already apparent that this trend is unstoppable. As more publishers become responsive and cross-device, native advertising is the only route that makes sense for them as a monetization channel. Native ads are a powerful way to deliver branded content that’s less interruptive and more engaging than traditional ads. Once we accept that native is going to be the default way to communicate brands’ messages online, the questions of attribution and ROI remain. Are these native ads reaching the right audience? Are the native ads moving the needle for our brand? We think most marketing channels will evolve to become performance channels and native advertising will play an integral role in this change.