San Francisco based AdRoll is on an ambitious plan – to make really sophisticated display advertising campaigns available to smaller companies that had previously only been available to large brands and agencies with deep pockets.Search is getting tougher and tougher to make work. It’s very competitive and large brands come in and buy up all the high value keywords. If AdRoll pulls this off, they would’ve essentially succeeded in leveling the playing field for aspiring brands and start ups of all sizes.
Adam Berke, co-founder and VP of Business Development, presented AdRoll at the Oct 20th 2010 SFNewTech event. Adam said that AdRoll got started in 2007 and their goal in starting AdRoll was to make display advertising easy and effective for brands of all sizes. This involved creating solutions for small and medium sized business such as ecommerce brands, start ups, niche, and local business. These companies have not historically used display advertising because they lacked the proper tools to generate the ROI they require with sufficient control and transparency. And when you talk about ROI positive and display advertising, the 1st place to start at is retargeting.
What is retargeting?
Imagine a potential customer has visited your online shopping or e-commerce site a while back, performed some actions on your site, and then got distracted or went off to do comparison shopping. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could “recapture” that lost customer? This is what retargeting is all about. AdRoll places a piece of code on the site, cookie people on the site and based on where they go on the site, adroll can display relevant ads on the other sites that the visitor is going to, in an effort to recapture that customer / sale.
Adam then proceeded with his demo, in which he showed everyone how to set up a retargeting campaign using the AdRoll display advertising platform, and how to measure the results. Starting with valuation (for traffic, demographics etc) of a demo site selling e-commerce products, he showed how AdRoll gives you an approximate ROI estimate for your campaign as well as a daily recommended budget for the campaign. Adam also showed how you can add segments to your campaign to target very specific type of customers. For example, people who are shopping for shoes, vs people shopping for pants.
The adroll dashboard is very much like search analytics dashboards and provides a lot of visibility and transparency into your retargetting campaign. AdRoll also offers a 2 week free trial for new customers.
Backstage, we spoke to the AdRoll founding team about other players in the retargeting space, and how similar or different AdRoll’s service was. This was what they had to say.
AdRoll Team: Fetchback was the first mover in the retargeting space. As a first mover, they went with what was quickest to market, which is a service model for larger budgets. If you go to their site, you’ll notice there’s no way to launch a campaign or to get started in any way without requesting contact from a salesperson.
Because we want to service any size budget, we focused on building a scalable technology platform. This includes self-service options, transparent reporting, and the ability for marketers to manage their own campaigns much in the way they manage their SEM campaigns. We do this through automated integrations with our ad inventory sources and optimization algorithms that do a lot of complex stuff behind the scenes. That way we, don’t need to have people doing manual work, so they can focus on helping our customers with stuff machines can’t do (campaign strategy, etc), even if the customer’s budget is on the smaller side of spectrum.
Also, of course Google is making a major push into display advertising. However, since this is for your own benefit, I assume you’ll want to do better than the generic “can’t Google just do this” question one can ask any web start up.
Under the Hood – Technologies Used.
AdRoll has server over 3.5 million (and counting) ad impressions since inception! They’ve been able to accomplish this enterprise level service that scales nicely, in part due to the technologies they use to power their service. This includes a 100% geo-distributed cloud based infrastructure, geo-distributed serverside cookie store built in Cassandra, Ad servers written in Erlang and Python stack starring Pylons (web framework) and SQLAlchemy.