AdReady: Growth for Builder of Insta-Display Ads for SMBs


AdReady, the Seattle-based media placement firm and builder of display ad templates for SMBs, has long been on our list of “most interesting” local services. And that was before it signed white-label deals with The New York Times, Boston Globe and MSNBC.com.

Last week, I dropped in on AdReady at its offices in the progressive Fremont section of Seattle. I met with President and CEO Aaron Finn, who founded the 40-person company in June 2006 with several colleagues from Classmates.com, and SVP Mark Feldman, a former AOL exec who runs sales and business development.

Finn noted the rapid evolution of the company, which has raised $12 million in two rounds from Madrona Venture Group, Bain Capital Ventures and Khosla Ventures. While the company has “doubled” its direct sales team to six in the past few months, half its sales are now coming from indirect partners such as The New York Times and Reader’s Digest’s Allrecipes.com. AdReady also provides the backbone for Yahoo’s MyDisplay ads. Several additional partners will be named within the next several weeks, added Finn.

“The indirect side may outscale us,” said Finn. “It should grow faster.” The indirect partners especially like AdReady’s efficiency. “It halves the sales time for the Reader’s Digest sales staff,” he said. “It empowers them to sell” instead of focusing on ad logistics. It also helps publishers keep their inventory at premium levels, rather than forcing them to sell at remnant levels, which can be 1/10 as high.

On the direct side, major accounts include a number of Seattle-based firms, including RealNetworks and Alaska Airlines. The Atlanta Hawks, TaxAct and Rally Software are examples of clients from outside the area.

For small businesses, a major benefit of AdReady is cost. Typically, minimums range from $5k to $25k for the premium service, although advertisers can start as low as $300 per month with self-service. That’s a significant advantage in an environment where the previous minimum display campaign on NYTimes.com ran $10,000 per month.

The use of the company’s 800 ad templates is cited as another key advantage for SMBs. The templates, which are both built in-house and outsourced, include such categories as travel, auto, entertainment, politics, health and finance (especially foreclosures and debt consolidations).

It isn’t just about the creative, either. Advertisers can see analytics on clickthrough rates for each template. “If you are an auto dealer, you can go to the best performing auto ad,” said Feldman.

In addition to clickthrough, AdReady’s analytics reveal other strategic information about the ad. “For example, changing the background color can have a 100 percent difference in the ad’s performance,” he said. “AdReady removes costs and barriers and opens up the banner market to a whole new set of advertisers.”

Finn and Feldman acknowledged that a lot of SMBs aren’t even thinking of display because the barriers to entry have historically been too high — if they think of online at all. “They typically start with paid search and natural search,” said Feldman. “We allow more participants to come in and buy inventory.”

Last April, Google made AdReady a certified reseller. It was Google’s first reseller to exclusively sell display, rather than display and search. The Google display ad builder was launched in October.

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