October 6, 2021
October 5, 2021

Why I Joined Spaceback

Ben Trenda

Some people pay for content. Most can't... or don't. Like it or not, ads pay for content.

But real people ignore ads. On average, you were served 1,300 viewable ads yesterday. How many do you remember? Right. 78% of people say they ignore ads (and the other 22% are lying).

But those same people spend time on social media and often engage with brand posts (74% of people surveyed say they have been persuaded by a social media ad). Why? Because brands keep their social content fresh and beautiful.

Display ads get stale and look like... ads. There are lots of reasons for this: Every display ad version has to be built in many sizes, planning cycles are long, etc... Oh yeah, and creative teams don't actually want to build display ads. Of course they'll get built if you pay enough--but in exchange for those fees, you get assets, not creativity.

People on social platforms don't respond well to posts that look like generic display ads either. But, here's what's different: The inherent two-way communication on a social platform allows real people to provide feedback in the form of likes and comments. This feedback cuts both ways, so brands have gotten good, even great, at quickly posting new, relevant content on social media platforms.

This emphasis on social posts is today's reality. Social posts are fresh and display ads aren't, so performance on the Open Web suffers, despite massive investments in targeting and optimization. Targeting tactics just don't matter much when the message itself is stale.

Turns out "what" we say matters at least as much as "who" we say it to.

This is devastating for publishers and media companies that rely on advertising to support content creation. When people ignore ads, the ad space becomes less valuable and rates drop. The lack of engagement with ads isn't the only factor at play, but it's a big one.

Not taking advantage of Social Display is also a missed opportunity for brands who focus their media spend on the walled garden social platforms, even though the content there is mostly user-generated. In general, brands would prefer to align themselves with high-quality content on great publisher sites, if the performance were similar.

So, let's help them do that.

Spaceback invented something called "Social Display", and it's a term you're going to be hearing about a lot more. Spaceback's creative technology platform makes it insanely simple to turn a brand's social media posts into beautiful ads that can be distributed across the Open Web. These ads stay connected with the original social post, displaying its user engagement stats over time, keeping in sync with Instagram, TikTok, Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and more.

People respond to the authenticity and social proof that Spaceback creatives offer, so it's not uncommon to hear brands report 2x lift or better on CTR, ER, and ROAS. These performance gains sound implausible until you consider your own behavior. Think back to the last time you engaged with an ad... was that a banner ad or a sponsored social media post?

Spaceback ad creatives work with every major DSP and publisher, so we see brands and their agencies running these creatives side by side with their regular display creatives--same tactics, same targeting, same Deal IDs, same DSPs. They just work, so brands inevitably shift more and more impressions to these ad creatives.

Early in my career, I had the good fortune to be part of the team that invented paid search, i.e. Google's business model. Overture eventually licensed the IP to Google and sold the company to Yahoo. But before all that, we had 100k paying customers because it worked.

These early days of Social Display feel like the early days of search. It works for big brands who want to maintain a consistent brand message across all digital channels. It works for smaller DTC brands who want to expand their reach outside the walled gardens and lower their costs. It works for programmatic buying teams at big agencies who want to improve brand outcomes. It works for DSPs who want to improve performance and shift more spend on their platform. It just works, so our clients tend to stick around and shift more and more of their creative delivery to these social display units.

In the early days of Overture, we crushed our numbers every quarter, and it was a lot of fun. We had to explain it to people and ask them to take a chance, which sometimes took some convincing--but it almost always worked well for the buyer. Our job in those days was at least as much about educating than selling.

The big agencies took much longer to get started. The most common objection was "we only buy on CPM, not CPC." At the time, I would paraphrase that as: "It doesn't fit into the spreadsheet." It took 4 years to get General Motors' agency to spend a dollar in Search. But that first dollar turned into $10M very quickly.

To be clear, Social Display is not Search. Instead of selling a new type of media, we make Open Web media perform like Social Media for brands. But the broad applicability of Social Display--and the ROI that new customers experience--feels a lot like the early days of Search, and I suspect we'll see a similar growth curve.

For all these reasons, I believe Social Display is going to play an important role in supporting the creation of high-quality content for the Open Web.

And this matters.

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