Business Insider: Ad-tech firm 4C has inked deals with pretty much every company that matters
Aug 22, 2018 • Mike Shields
The ad-tech firm 4C has inked deals with pretty much every company that matters in media — and it just nabbed a premier partnership with Amazon
by Mike Shields
reprinted from Business Insider
- The ad-tech and social-analytics startup 4C has been inking deals with a string of huge ad players, including NBCUniversal, Facebook, and Snapchat.
- Now the company has a similar deal with Amazon.
- The startup is promising advertisers a way to connect nearly all their digital- and traditional-media spending in a single digital interface and buying platform.
- But coordinated TV and digital advertising is rife with complications. And it’s an area that most ad agencies and enterprise-software giants like Adobe are also charging toward.
The ad-tech and social-analytics firm 4C says it can help marketers see everything. And based on its string of media and tech deals, it may be getting close.
The under-the-radar startup has plugged its ad-buying tech into a who’s who of advertising giants, including NBCUniversal, Facebook, Twitter, Apple News, Instagram, Pinterest, and Snapchat.
Now add to the list the hottest company in advertising: Amazon.
Using 4C’s Scope platform, advertisers can manage, analyze, and execute ad campaigns across all these platforms, the company says. That now includes Amazon’s powerful product-listing ads, a massive growth business for the e-commerce juggernaut.
So what does that mean exactly? And why are all these companies working with yet another ad-tech and analytics firm?
After all, lots of social-media-buying companies are tapped into the APIs, or application program interfaces, of giants like Facebook and Twitter so they can suck out data and use it to automatically buy ads.
And there are plenty of analytics companies promising to unify marketing data across platforms.
4C wants to be the bridge between TV- and digital-ad data
The company has raised over $31 million in venture funding since launching in 2011. And ad industry insiders say it has impressed with both its product and its data-science chops while also understanding marketers’ thinking. One of the cofounders is a data-science professor at Northwestern; the other is a former agency guy.
The company is attempting to work with the biggest digital companies and TV giants as it aims to help advertisers tie together all their ad-buying data in one place at a time when the industry is hungry to unify media buying.
Initially, 4C helped advertisers use data and analytics tactically — like, say, syncing ads on Twitter and Facebook to TV campaigns.
More recently, the company has tried to position itself as uniquely able to help marketers reconcile how their campaigns are working across multiple channels, rather than plan in silos: How many people am I reaching on Facebook? On NBC? Are they the same people? Are they getting the right message? And so on.
“The problem for the buy side is there’s not a comprehensive way to buy media,” said Terry Kawaja, the CEO of Luma Partners, “particularly when Facebook and Google control so much data and budgets.”
He added: “You’ve got to have a holistic view, and there are just not a lot of solutions to do that. So they are probably positioned pretty well for the where the ecosystem is going to go. They are early movers in actually having a product.”
For example, NBCUniversal has entrusted 4C with helping facilitate one of its early forays into selling TV ads through software for big brands like Target.
Advertisers are struggling with how best to allocate media budgets across screens
Indeed, this so-called cross-channel or omnichannel media buying is where much of the ad industry wants to go. It’s not going to be easy, given people’s rapidly changing media habits.
“Consumers are bouncing from platform to platform, screen to screen, and advertisers need to reach people all over the place at different times,” said Lance Neuhauser, the CEO of 4C. “So they need one central view. That takes a lot of hard math work.”
Ad buyers say 4C’s idea of unifying analytics and buying across different media makes a lot of sense. But it’s not always easy to execute in practice. One ad buyer described the process of melding data sets across traditional and digital media for buying purposes as “clunky” in its current iteration.
And giant ad-buying shops like GroupM and Dentsu are building data tools designed to help them reconcile who they’re reaching with ads in different media. Enterprise-software giants such as Adobe and Oracle are promising marketers access to some sort of digital dashboard where they can synchronize all their consumer data and track every dime they spend on advertising.
Bryan Benavides, the director of marketing for the retailer ABT Electronics, said that since he’s started working with 4C, he’s seen a 5X return on his ad-spending investment. “It really helps us figure out how to move money around, from Facebook to Pinterest, etc.,” he said. “There’s a single interface where you can manage budgets appropriately, find new audiences. It’s all based on ROI.”
However, to date, ABT hasn’t used 4C to connect social-media advertising to TV. That’s where things could get more complicated.
Neuhauser acknowledged how difficult that mission is. “This is new technology that requires a shift in thinking that moves away from the traditional process of buying media,” he said. “That said, we are always working to improve the product.”
Amazon is another feather in 4C’s cap
With landing Amazon, Neuhauser sees 4C bringing the company a new set of advertisers, while also helping more brands connect the dots between TV campaigns and e-commerce results, for example.
Down the road, as Amazon gets deeper into more forms of advertising, the bet is that 4C can come along for the ride.
“We want to help shepherd in that era and future,” Neuhauser said.
So do a lot of companies. The question will be whether advertisers will eventually want to go all in with one partner.
“It makes a ton of sense, because it’s where any agency worth its salt is focused on getting,” said Maikel O’Hanlon, the vice president of social-media strategy at Horizon Media.
“The age-old determination for agencies,” O’Hanlon said, “is whether they build it themselves … or do they entrust a partner to be the solution?”