INTERVIEW by GARY GOLDMAN | PHOTOGRAPHY courtesy of CHRIS CUNNINGHAM
The vast majority of fast-rising tech startups aim to make your online activity more convenient. Organize the things you love with Pinterest. Buy and sell anything with people nearby with Zaarly. Gain access to millions of songs with Spotify. While all of these organizations serve noble goals, Chris Cunningham is actually revolutionizing the single most bothersome aspect of your digital life: advertising. By founding appssavvy, the New York entrepreneur saw the opportunity to replace intrusive ads with new displays that could become an inherent part of the users’ experience and, shocker, actually make it more valuable. The process is simple: collect as much data as possible on online behavior, identify targeted consumers, and deliver forward-thinking ads when those consumers are engaged in their favorite activity – whether that is playing a video game or brushing up on the news. With investors including AOL Ventures and the New York Times, as well as a roster of clients ranging from Coca-Cola to American Express, Chris is mostly excited at the prospect of injecting some creativity into a field that he considers to have remained relatively unexplored over the past ten years.
Here comes the necessary elevator pitch! Would you mind telling our readers about adtivity by appssavvyy?
Appssavvyy is an activity advertising technology company which aims, through its recently launched platform called adtivity, to collect as much inventory as possible on the publisher’s behalf relating to online activity. Our team registers and pulls information from social activity platforms, allowing national sales teams to brand advertising in a more targeted and innovative way.
How will the adtivity platform help expand the reach and impact of advertising?
The publishers that we are working with (more than 125 to this day) need to generate revenue through alternative models, not via traditional ads, which are often found to be disruptive to the user experience. We provide these publishers with the ability to create a better ad delivery mechanism that creates value.
I’m wondering how this works practically. Let’s imagine that I’m playing a video game. How will I be offered advertising creatively, as opposed to just seeing a banner when I start the game?
For instance, when you reach a new level in a game, a message from the publisher will show up and congratulate you for doing so. This is much more targeted way to present ads, one that takes into consideration your experience. Instead of being bombarded with ads whenever you’re trying to reach a page, it will happen when you complete an activity, such as collecting, sending, and earning virtual goods, polls and contests, completing a level, visiting a friend or sending a message within a game, and “Liking” something, to name a few.
Click here to see some of appssavvy campaigns in action.
Pretty amazing. You’ve spoken about the integration of ads mostly within the context of games. How will this model be integrated with some of your newest partners, like the New York Times or AOL Ventures?
That’s a great question. First off, I need to say that the investments by those companies have been significant because they have enabled us to continue to invest in the business and to push forward in a difficult economy (in December, appssavvy raised $7.1 million). From a strategic level, we’ll learn more about how those businesses can potentially use the platform for their own needs. I believe that publishers, whether on the web, social, or mobile can absolutely benefit from activity-based advertising.
What is the most innovative adtivity campaign you’ve undertaken?
One of our recent adtivity campaigns involved the first ever mobile activity-based advertising program. To give you a concrete example, an ad for HP TouchSmart would appear whenever users chose to write a review in the Audibly app. It was the opportunity for HP to get brand exposure, triggered in a way that was front and center to the user experience; the delivery of the ad and the performance were top-notch.
How do you measure success?
We know we’ve been successful when the performance metrics point to some level of engagement. As a matter of fact, we’re already seeing an involvement rate that is four to eight times industry average with activity advertising.
Let’s use one of your favorite expressions: how are you going to “crush it” in 2012?
The first goal will be to build a platform allowing publishers to sustain and grow their businesses in innovative ways: collecting more information, targeting users in a more informed way, and realizing their full potential. We’ve been fortunate to gain a number of incredible content publishers in the past two years, so our team will focus on building-out relationships with them and further develop our adtivity platform.
The second goal will be, simply put, to build a great company: somewhere people enjoy working at, and enjoy solving problems. For the third year in a row, Crain’s New York Business ranked us as one of the best places to work in NYC.
Do you think we’ve already come far in terms of digital advertising capabilities, or have we only scratched the surface?
I think that for the last ten years, there has been virtually no creativity around advertising. Really, no one has pushed the limits in terms of whats’ possible. Appssavvy aims to be at the very frontline of what is possible to deliver ads. We’re in the early beginnings of a new chapter.
How can Daily BR!NK readers contribute to your success?
I’d like your readers to believe in activity-based advertising, as well as the opportunities existing to make advertising a richer experience. Spread the word on what has already been accomplished. We are also currently trying to recruit great people for our business, so feel free to visit our careers page.
I know you said you’d be hiring 40 individuals this year. What type of people are you looking for?
Engineers, developers, sales and product managers.