Rob Lenderman is Co-Founder, CIO-CMO of BoostCTR, a crowdsourced marketplace the optimization and testing of online ad creative.
AdExchanger.com: Where did the idea come for "BoostCTR"?
RL: A few years ago I was working at a company that inherited an AdWords account for a multi-million dollar company. They had not had a single text ad changed in three years. We knew the leverage that you get from a better ad, so I started an internal contest at the company to see who could write the best ads. I was so overwhelmed with my other responsibilities that I needed the help and figured a contest was the fastest way to get help and make it fun. We had 10 people from the admin to the VP write. It was taking forever for me to get the ads, put them in the account, analyze the data, etc. so David and I had the idea of creating a tool to automate this. That was the first part of the idea.
It also turned out that I won the contest and some of the other marketing people involved actually wrote some of the worst ads, which was unexpected. The admin finished in the middle of the pack. At that point David and I realized that the best person to write is not always the one managing the account: it’s generally the best writer with the best skillset, and sometimes just someone with a fresh perspective. So the idea of creating a network of professional writers was born. When we put the network of writers together with a tool that saves the SEM manager hours a week you have BoostCTR.com.
Isn't the importance of CTR "dead"?
I would say two things:
The first is that we actually operate on any success metric that advertisers want to use despite our original name, which we will be changing soon. The two success metrics that we have automated so far are CTR and conversions/impressions. The latter taking into account both sales increases and volume increases to measure an overall lift. We have advertisers using both for various reasons.
The second thing I would say is that click-through rate is still relevant because it’s the first step in the conversion funnel. Most PPC advertisers’ goals with PPC are direct response oriented (or probably should be) and the first step to engagement is getting a click. Imagine you put an ad in the paper for your local car dealership's sale this weekend, and no one shows up on the lot to look at your cars (ie.no one “clicks”). I am not sure what useful information that ad communicated, but in the end you didn't make any sales and you would probably rather have the reader of the ad come to your lot that weekend, rather than just remember your company’s name. The vast majority of ads (onine or offline) are of the type that a “click” or its equivalent leads to a sale far more often than an impression. Perhaps putting your phone number in an ad can prevent the click and still communicate a potential sale, but that is an exception. Brand is one of the other few areas where their assertion may be correct, which is why it is not surprising that the research came from HP. It is also not surprising that they want to focus on reach and frequency either being a big brand and my personal brand of choice for a printer. But for most PPC campaigns – and I’m sure even some of the campaigns that HP runs – branding isn’t the only objective, and for direct response campaigns getting clicks is still important.
I actually think that Edwin Wong has it right. Each situation requires a different approach and that is why a network of writers and flexibility on which metric to emphasize is more important than a single writer who will always have the same perspective on the problem. The number one thing our advertisers tell us they like is the diversity of our writers. We bring a fresh perspective to every test and that helps them see increases in performance and learn more about how others see their products.
What problem is BoostCTR solving?
Simple - the inability of advertisers to write copy effectively. That can mean a number of things. It can mean not being able to bring a fresh perspective to the problem. For instance, I am only able to beat copy that I have written once or twice. I simply run out of ways that I can think of beating my own copy. This is the issue with having one or two people on staff doing all the writing. You simply cannot beat your own copy consistently. On the other hand bringing multiple people to the problem almost always results in better copy through testing.
We also help advertisers scale. Some of the advertisers we work with have hundreds of thousands of ad groups and having a tool and writers that can scale to that volume is important. Most advertisers are stuck using simple templates and our combination of tools and writers allows us to scale the "tail" for even the largest advertisers.
The last and most obvious problem we solve is that we save time for the SEM managers. They spend minutes testing each week approving ads as opposed to the hours they would send if they tried to go at it alone where they would have to write, manage, and measure.
The end result is better performance which is really what every SEM manager is trying to achieve.
Who is the target market from the advertiser point of view? Agencies, SEMs directs?
We find that the tool and network is most appropriate for large and mid-size advertisers as they have accounts that are difficult to manage from a writing perspective and can benefit the most from what we have to offer. We do have a self-service tool as well and can service smaller accounts through that tool but our focus is on functionality that can deliver the most value to advertisers with larger accounts.
So far we have been going direct as we build out our scale and capabilities but we have started working with some tool providers and agencies to integrate our capabilities into their offerings. Over time we expect to find advertisers using our network through their tool providers, agencies, and coming direct for those that use internal tools. We may release a public API to allow others to utilize our networks as well. If anyone is interested in offloading ad needs to our network through an API they are welcome to contact us.
Please discuss the competitive set and how BoostCTR will differentiate.
The reality is that we do not have a direct competitor. What we do requires a specialist and everyone that could be considered a competitor is really more of a generalist. For example, an agency could be considered a competitor in that they should be writing for you but they also handle other aspects of the account and are not normally equipped to handle this type of problem, which is why we have agencies coming to us asking for help or their customers coming directly to us asking us to help their agency. We also plan to introduce a free account analysis tool that will allow advertisers to measure their own ad writing success against our network average of their industry to determine how much they can improve their business if they were using us.
What is your sense of some of the key considerations that copywriters have in building a successful career? How does BoostCTR help?
Like most things in this industry it is important to market yourself and convince others that you know what you are talking about. That is difficult for most, and especially difficult for copywriters as most people assume they are all of equal value. Our system allows writers to be graded on performance and use that as a badge of honor in marketing themselves. In the future we will be exposing this information in a more transparent manner to allow our writers to prove their competency more easily.
How do you curate your list of copywriters -who's right for Boost CTR? And then what is their compensation - and long term recurring revenue?
Our writers all go through an interview process before they are allowed to write. We look at their past experience to determine if we think they will be a good fit for the network and based on our needs in a particular area. We also score them based on their performance and can terminate them if they underperform. We are the only writer network where you can be sure that the writers are part of the network because they have a history of good performance that was actually measured and not subjective.
Why is crowdsourcing seeping into the ad business in your opinion?
I think there are two reasons in our case. The first is scale. It is unrealistic to think that you can have a creative staff that will scale with your needs all year long given that those needs will fluctuate throughout the year. The second is that I think most people are starting to realize that having a group of specialists is more important than relying on just one or two individuals. You have flexibility and better performance in the end.
Any plans for boosting beyond the clickthrough rate? How about decreasing the CPA, etc? Or crowdsourcing copywriters for tasks other than search ads?
I think we addressed the CTR one earlier. There are lots of metrics available and we already address some of them. Beyond that we can look at other metrics in a manual way and as the demand for new metrics comes up we evaluate whether it makes sense to automate it. As for other products we have already started. We are running trials right now on a number of discrete text/image related requests that have come in and we are experimenting with the best way to deliver those requests on a larger scale. For example we are testing writing SEO page title and meta descriptions at scale and have a few others that are being tested. Our goal is to be the best provider for search, mobile, and social text ads on a performance basis.
A year from now, what milestones would you like the company to have achieved?
Big things. If things work out the way they are so far we expect we will have a full featured Facebook product (very soon), release text products related to SEO and email, be integrated with the larger bid management tools to facilitate easier testing for larger advertisers, and be able to state that we have continued to guarantee performance boosts to every advertiser that has used our network.