I recently sat down with COO Dave Hendricks and CEO Matt Keiser of LiveIntent. LiveIntent was just listed as number 55 in the 2011 Silicon Alley Top 100. LiveIntent raised $8 million in September of 2011, as it continues to help companies place real-time targeted advertisements within emails.
David Daniels: Describe real-time email and what you are doing at LiveIntent?
Matt Keiser: We often find that it is best to start out with what we don’t do. We do not send email, we are not an email service provider, and we are not a list manager. What we do is solve a universal problem faced by publishers: how to effectively monetize, sell, and manage email inventory. Our email ad platform delivers the features you have come to expect in display with a simple set of persistent ad tags. Publisher-sold ads, house ads, and LiveIntent Exchange ads can be scheduled and targeted in any combination, under the full control of the publisher. LiveIntent for Publishers (“LFP”) combines a powerful prediction engine with an ad management and targeting facility that delivers real-time display ads into email opened on any device. With LFP, publishers save time that has been spent segmenting, placing ad tags, and guessing what works best for their recipients. And advertisers benefit from real-time optimization and audience targeting at the impression level.
Dave Hendricks: The advertiser angle is really important. Advertisers benefit from LiveIntent technology because we give them the ability – finally – to buy email ad inventory across thousands of newsletters with a single IO. With the emergence of the smartphone as the primary device for so many people, more email is getting read on the go and on multiple devices. Advertisers want to reach people in mobile, when and where they are, and LiveIntent is giving them the ability to reach them in the applications they use most: email. We eliminate the guessing – our system knows what device you’re reading your email on, and optimizes to that device, in real time.
DD: What is required to make real-time email work? Is your platform accessing my content and data in real time or is the creative all set up and piped in before-hand?
MK: Publishers continue to produce and deliver their content (newsletters, alerts, notifications) the same way they have always done it: via an email service provider or in a CMS tied to a SMTP server, and LiveIntent’s LiveTags are compatible with all email sending solutions. What LiveIntent does is make the delivery of direct sold ads, indirect sold ads, and house ads dynamic and real time.
DH: Advertisers load up their ads into the LiveIntent system – or publishers who have sold their own ads – and then apply targeting criteria to the campaigns or their creative. When the recipient opens the message with the LiveTag inside, LiveIntent detects geo, device, time of day, and what newsletter they are reading. Based on that info, the LiveIntent ad server makes an instant decision – in milliseconds – what ad to show. This allows advertisers to target very specific audiences, such as iPhone users in NYC, or iPad readers at 7 p.m. This is real time. The rules are set before.
DD: What have been the more compelling and successful use cases to this approach to email marketing?
MK: There are tons of use cases. One popular use case involves alert mailings sent by publishers. It’s been simple for publishers to monetize scheduled mailings. When you know you are going to send a campaign at 3 p.m. on Tuesday to a defined audience, you can sell that. However, in the case of alerts, publishers never know when these are going out and even less about who will receive them. As a result, these mailings – which have very high open rates – haven’t been sold. By placing LiveIntent’s set-and-forget tags into the templates of these alerts, every one of them can be monetized without advance sales.
DH: App downloads are another simple application, which makes a lot of sense. App publishers have been looking for ways to drive the download of their apps. But sending out tons of email wasn’t one of the ways. What LiveIntent technology does is allow the advertiser to present its ad only to openers who meet their criteria – that might be device based, geography based, or demo based. LiveIntent performed a project like this with Citi Habitats recently where we were able to target only iPad and Safari openers in NY, Philly, and DC. None of the impressions were wasted on people who wouldn’t benefit from the ad.
MK: Television tune-in is a big project for us. We know that people are watching TV with their phones and tablets in their laps. What if you could run an ad in newsletters that showed an ad for a TV show that was on in 10 or 20 minutes? With the channel for the area that you live in? Creating that kind of awareness is only possible when you are real time and real place like LiveIntent technology enables.
DD: What type of performance are marketers experiencing when using real-time email to power their email newsletters?
DH: The click-through rates that marketers are getting using our technology is much better than display. Results vary between advertisers, but our average CTR on email ads is 0.5 percent; probably 10 times what display does. And because we are able to match specific URLs to each creative, the landing page can be optimized by other device-targeting criteria.
DD: Do you envision that your approach could be applied to other channels such as mobile, social, or display advertising?
DH: We think that our technology is benefitting from a seismic shift to mobile and local. With the imminent sunsetting of mobile Flash, the growing dominance of smartphones, and the emergence of HTML, LiveIntent is very well-positioned to work across channels, and as importantly, across the devices that a person uses to access all the services and information in their life.
DD: Thanks for taking the time to sit down with me.