Tech Profile: appssavvy

Tarah Benner
Tarah Benner

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appsavvyWhat is appssavvy’s adtivity platform, and how did you and your team get started in this field?

adtivity is a publisher-facing technology platform that offers the first real-time, activity-based ad solution for advertisers. adtivity delivers native, non-disruptive, large ad experiences within natural breaks across the web, mobile and tablet. Brands drive awareness and engagement (at scale) when users engage in activities like sharing, commenting and voting, as well as casual gaming activities like leveling-up or completing a mission. Through adtivity, impressions are 100 percent viewable and deliver results 10 times better than industry benchmarks for brands and agencies. It is exciting to be at the center of the explosion of native advertising.

How should the marketing/advertising industry utilize adtivity to create better end-results for its clients’ content and digital marketing strategies?

It’s time to recognize the Internet is no longer about pages and impressions. It has evolved (and continues to do so) into a living, interactive experience powered by people. The advent of social and mobile has enabled people to connect, share, post, comment and play with friends (or new friends), not just sit back and surf. People are at the core. In turn, reaching people with advertising has become even harder. There’s a need to recognize that people are at the center, and the same old, tired tactics of the past decade must evolve.

adtivity is delivering by enabling both publishers and brands/agencies to understand what people are doing and determine a better time to deliver advertising: not around the experience, but as part of it and with context.

Why did you think there was a need for a different type of advertising network? What has been traditionally wrong with ad network and display ads?

We don’t think there is a need for a different type of ad network. Our vision is bigger than that. When co-founder and president Michael Burke and I started the company nearly five years ago, our mission was to rethink the delivery and reception of advertising, and that hasn’t changed. This began with a focus on understanding first and foremost what people were doing. This simple yet thoughtful approach led to more than 1,000 successful campaigns on the web, in social media and on mobile, many of which won awards.

Our vision was sound, but for the activity advertising opportunity to reach its potential, we needed technology. Thus, adtivity was born to reshape the advertising experience on the web from around content to native to the site or app, based on what people are doing. We’ve developed and continue to build upon the industry’s next SaaS (Software as a Service) platform for publishers to leverage and create new, native ad inventory.

In the display space, ad offerings have evolved in shape and position only. The banner evolved to a larger box with rich media and video (often times auto-play, another interruption). They’ve also remained consistent around content (instead of part of it) and outside of targeting technologies — irrelevant to the user, thus leaving brands and agencies to do anything they can to gain attention.

With adtivity, a publisher-facing platform, we are working closely with publishers to integrate into their site or app and immediately starting to assign value to the activities being performed, thus understanding the best time to deliver ads that are most relevant to the experience and the user. With activity advertising and adtivity, we’re disrupting the space by focusing on unlocking and creating new inventory that understands what a user is doing and then takes advantage of the natural breaks following an activity, such as completing a level within a game, sending a message or uploading a photo. These breaks are times when users are most receptive and most likely to engage, like the natural breaks that occur during a television program. On TV, an ad isn’t shown right in the middle of a suspenseful scene. It is carefully placed at the end.

How does adtivity work? What types of messages is adtivity feeding users, and how does it determine which ads are relevant to users?

Just to recap, we’re integrated with publishers on web, social and mobile. We create ad experiences triggered from native activities, and we drive awareness and engagement for advertisers. It’s very simple. Advertisers are driving awareness for a message or trying to realize an outcome from their ad buy. Because we know what people are doing and are able to deliver an ad in real-time based on that activity, we know when they will be most receptive to the message or when they most likely act upon the outcome the advertiser is looking for.

On behalf of nearly 150 publishers such as Disney Interactive, LATimes.com, Hallmark.com and AOL’s recently re-launched Games.com to name a few, adtivity already has identified nearly 1,000 activities brands and agencies can target.

A big part of the activity advertising opportunity is for the publisher to recognize a user’s activity through messaging. Ads delivered through adtivity include unique messaging from the publisher through our ad frame. For example, in the recent Nestle Pure Life campaign, the ad frame’s message from OMGPOP’s game Cupcake Corner said, “You’re an excellent cook!” in context to the activity completed.

The next phase for adtivity is to get brands and agencies to think about building their creative and content to speak to the native display ad opportunity, which goes beyond simply resizing a unit.

In addition, creative in online advertising has been lost due to standard formats limited in size and shape. We’re bringing back large, beautiful ads. On the web and in social media, the standard adtivity ad is 600x300 and 300x250, or full screen in mobile. We expect these and other native ad units to become IAB approved, thus driving native display through activity to true scale.

You talk about the natural “break.” What is this?

Since day one, web advertising has for the most part delivered advertising around content. Advertising online is rooted in interrupting people’s experience. It is much like print media. On TV and radio on the other hand, ads don’t appear in the middle of a suspenseful scene or in the middle of a song — they happen at a natural break in the action.

The “natural break” is the right time to deliver an advertisement. It’s the right time because it doesn’t take away from the user experience; it doesn’t detach anyone or anything from the publisher, and it’s the time the advertising will be best received. Paid search is a great digital example, as ads are delivered based on intent. This is the opportunity ahead with web advertising across platforms — fewer ads delivered at times where people are most receptive and more likely to engage. We’re already seeing this to be true, and the numbers don’t lie. adtivity ads are experiencing 10 times or more engagement than its predecessors.

How do digital advertisers need to adjust their strategy to compensate for the vast amount of ad clutter out on the web? Why do you think so many advertisers keep trying the same old techniques to diminishing returns?

For our great industry to evolve and take advantage of the opportunities ahead, we need to change our mindset and think beyond what we already know. We need to push the envelope and break free of advertising in the same old silly boxes around that content that we’re all trained to ignore and of which there is more than we know what to do with. It’s holding back innovation. It’s holding us back from what we should be focusing on, which is less inventory and higher quality that adds — rather than detracts — from the user experience. It’s time to think about people first.

How should advertisers use adtivity to interact with users differently via a mobile device or tablet? How receptive are users on a smart phone or tablet compared to a user on a laptop or desktop?

First, this is just as easy and efficient as buying a traditional network, but with better performance and within environments that make more sense. The great thing about adtivity for brands and agencies — not to mention publishers — is that it is a multi-screen solution. adtivity functions in the same way, whether it be on the wired web or mobile devices. It is all about understanding what people are doing, identifying activities and the timing and context for when an ad is delivered and received.

How do you see digital advertising evolving in the next three to five years? What trends are you most excited about?

I’m most excited about the industry’s adoption of change. When you’re in the business of change, it can seem painfully slow, but it is happening. We’re seeing next generation publishers, including Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Foursquare and Tumblr, among others, creating native advertising businesses, much like adtivity is doing for its publisher partners across web, mobile and tablets. Brands and agencies are more open to innovation than ever before as the tried and true continues to decline in performance, thus showing a need for change. Together we can move the market and create the next pre-roll unit — one that takes billions of dollars from the existing pool of dollars.

Overall, though, it is exciting to see that for the first time, people of the Internet are being recognized. Among those publishers that I noted above, they all have one thing in common: the user experience comes first. This is a model the digital advertising industry needs to embrace to break through the “same old, same old” advertising strategies of the past decade or so.

chris-headshotChris Cunningham co-founded appssavvy, an activity advertising technology company, and serves as CEO. His and appssavvy's vision has pioneered a new advertising model through its native advertising platform adtivity, focused on people's activity.

The vision of activity advertising has established Chris as a recognized thought leader. He frequently speaks at industry events and comments on the latest developments in the social space live on TV or in leading publications such as The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Bloomberg BusinessWeek and USA Today.

In 2012, he was named as one of the "Most Important People in Mobile Advertising" by Business Insider. In 2010 and 2011, he served as co-chair of the IAB Social Media Committee and was a finalist for Ernst & Young's Entrepreneur of the Year award.

Chris graduated from the University of North Carolina Greensboro with a Bachelor of Arts degree in economics & marketing and is based in New York City.

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