Breaking The Complexity Barrier
Behavioral Insider: What was your motivation in launching the Epic Ad Center, which you bill as a self-serve targeting solution?
Michael Sprouse: Our premise has been that the evolution of different enhanced targeting has left small and medium-sized businesses behind. Whether it's geo-targeting, demographic targeting or finally behavioral, the complexity not only of generating and analyzing data but of matching advertising needs and strategies to the right data is confusing at best and overwhelming at worst -- both from a practicality and a resource standpoint. So the market opportunity, as we've seen it, is to create an interface that's simple to use, that is self-serve and that lets a small business get past the complexity barrier.
BI: What kinds of targeting are currently available?
Sprouse: The first application we've launched with the Epic Ad Center relates to geo-targeting. How it works is, let's say you have a restaurant in the Denver area and you're looking for a way to provide leads. You use what we call an Ad Wizard to go in and create a coupon for $5 pizza, which users can print out, create text and visual for the ad. Then you can choose where you want to target by clicking an area on our map or entering a specific zip code. Then, once you've created a display ad, video or a text ad, you can choose specific budgetary restraints, how much you're ready to spend and how many clicks or downloads your goal is.
BI: Could you give us a roadmap of where you see targeting functionality headed?
Sprouse: As we move forward, keeping this very simple interface in mind, the next steps are to evolve the interface to allow a self-serve set-up for choosing specific demographic profiles -- and we see behavioral characteristics as another layer closely clustered with that. So an advertiser will be able to work with a very simple display which guides them not only through the creative (whether it's editing or uploading photos or images or videos), but every component of a multi-faceted targeting campaign, to control who will see the ads.
BI: How do you take the back-end complexity off the interface? What kind of platform do you work from?
Sprouse: On the back-end we combine in-house-generated optimization, media buying and planning campaign management tools which analyze and select from available inventory based on the targeting criteria offered. We use our proprietary advanced set of algorithms to first determine, in real time, what ads are performing best -- and then use that data to predict future outcomes of the ad creatives.
BI: How do you plan to integrate the behavioral data the system is generating into the self-serve interface?
Sprouse: We envision the potential over time to integrate retargeting capability to focus on customers who may have clicked on ads in the past but not converted, or optimize prospects who meet geo and/or demographic criteria who also fit an interest profile based on behavior. The challenge is that as the aggregation and analysis of myriad forms of data becomes ever more complex, the need to enable businesses to leverage that data simply and automatically becomes more and more urgent. Even paid search, where the self-serve model started, has become incredibly difficult and complex. The process remains very manual, very daunting and very inefficient for the majority of advertisers. Display is even more so. Without a truly simple interface, the greatest targeting capabilities in the world will never live up to their promise.