Five Things Startups Need To Do To Attract Advertising Pounds, Dollars And Euros

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Editor’s note: Jon Hook is Head of Mobile at MediaCom International and MediaCom Beyond Advertising (part of WPP.)

There is a culture in Silicon Valley and its offshoots around the world that says if you build it they will come. That if your tech is smart enough then consumers, brands, fame, fortune and ultimately millions and billions will come your way.

To put it simply, once you’ve got VC backing, every other industry will just fall into place.

Sorry folks, that’s not the case if you want to forge long-term partnerships and advertising dollars from some of the world’s biggest brands.

Great vision and great engineering are undoubtedly a must-have for the next Facebook, the next Instagram, the next Snapchat or the next Videology.

But if you want to engage with the ad industry, either as an ad-tech player helping us automate brand messages across PCs, tablets, mobile, connected TV and beyond, or as a consumer play seeking advertisers to fund the experience, then it’s not enough.

Too many startups come looking for advertisers without understanding how our industry works. Even some of the established ad-tech giants, who should know better by now, don’t deliver everything we need.

MediaCom is part of WPP and we see a stream of startups, usually after they have successfully secured VC funding, who want to talk to us and our clients. These are not just ad-tech brands but also innovators creating great experiences and tools for consumers.

Next month, for example, our UK team is hosting a Technology Innovation day, with 10 disruptive technology companies getting ten minutes to tell us what they do and how they have the ability to change/disrupt/automate the way we currently work. We want to meet technology innovators to see if we can use their platforms to build powerful campaigns for our clients.

In the last couple of years, our global team has worked closely with a host of VC-backed start ups in the ad tech space including the likes of Celtra and Medialets to help them scale their business and work in partnership to develop their proposition to support the world’s biggest advertisers.

We’ve done it not because we have equity in them, but because having conducted appropriate due diligence (by looking at their methodology/technology and ultimately testing) we believe they will help us drive innovation and consistency for our clients and reduce our challenges in delivering communications across digital and mobile platforms.

This experience has helped identify five key things startups need to do to attract ad spend from agencies and the brands, whether they’re targeting ad-tech opportunities or are more consumer focused.

Firstly, you need to learn to speak our language. A lot of the start ups we see do not have someone who’s worked for a brand or an agency in their teams.

They need help in telling their story without resorting to engineering speak littered with acronyms. Ultimately, if we don’t understand what you do then and you can’t communicate this, how do we move forward and delve deeper into your proposition?

Second, there is a real short-termism amongst business looking no further ahead than the next sales quarter. You might have potential to rule the world in five years time but we’ll want to know what you can do for us now, this year.

If you can help us now then we can help build V1 of your platform and give you the base from which to build the all-conquering V2, V3 or V4.

The key question you need to be able to answer is how can you solve our business pain points now, be it your ability to frequency cap messaging/content cross device to ensure that we don’t serve the same message to the same people as consumer continue to switch from smartphone to tablet to desktop, or provide an enterprise software solution that truly enables us to deliver end to end consumer marketing, from CRM to Point of Sale and beyond.

What we don’t want is another siloed solution that will take us six months to integrate into our systems.

Thirdly, think global. I work in the global team and head up mobile, so I want scalable “mobile first” solutions that we can utilize in more than one country. Of course, there are local nuances to factor in and the execution/end result may differ market to market.

But your platform/ad-tech should be enable us to deliver consistency for our brands and enable us to access the inventory we require in multiple countries. This is something that MediaCom can help with, both bringing to the table our own partners but also our clients’ existing partners and data.

Fourthly, you need to be clear about your USP. What can you do that the likes of Facebook, Google, AppNexus can’t? Don’t claim to do 10 things if what you really do is one thing really well. We’d rather work with you on what you can do than be disappointed by what you can’t.

Over-claiming hits your credibility and, just as you only get a limited number of opportunities with potential VC backers, the same applies to the advertising industry.

Before you come to speak to us you need to learn to hone your story and identify what you do that’s unique.

Finally, you need to think about how you work with us. Most tech start-ups think that creating a self-service platform is enough. But actually what we often need is more direct help.

You might consider a service-based model where one of your experts works in our office two days a week, training our staff to use your system and ensuring we really maximize its potential.

Such expert help will make sure that we get the most out of your platform/opportunity and encourage us to scale our relationship that much faster.

It’s not just about having a great idea and a great platform. It’s about selling it to us in the right way. Tell us your story, show us why we need you and we’ll help you grow your business.

Ultimately, if you can make us look good to our clients then we’d love to help you look good to your VC backers.

Image via Shutterstock user Alex Roz