How this Chicago company wants to save your hard-earned marketing dollars

March 11, 2016

Over the past few years, search and social media companies have been continuously improving the algorithms that let them target the right audiences with the right products. But while specifically targeting narrow audiences certainly is a step in the right direction, compared with older, more inefficient methods like billboards and TV ads, reaching the right people is only one side of the equation.

The other side is ensuring the ads displayed are for the right products: high-margin, seasonally appropriate items that are actually in stock. (According to Adobe, 14 percent of Cyber Monday ads in 2015 were for out of stock items.)

— a Chicago advertising technology startup — wants to help companies get rid of these inefficiencies. It does so with proprietary software that analyzes e-commerce clients’ internal data and adjusts ad campaigns accordingly.

Co-founder and CEO Richard Bray said the idea for ADSHIFT grew out of challenges he faced working at a boutique digital marketing agency. After noticing that companies were buying ads with low return on investment, he and co-founder Jason Randolph started shopping around for software that would help better leverage client product data. As it turned out, the software they were looking for didn’t exist.

“Having lived the problem, we decided, ‘Who better to solve it than us?,’” said Bray, who ended up hiring a couple of engineers to develop the software they needed for internal use.

What they found when they placed their clients on the platform was that nearly 20 percent of client ad buys were improperly allocated — that is, to low- or no-margin products or products in low demand or low supply. Using these insights, they started reallocating ad buys to higher margin, and higher demand products. After receiving lots of positive feedback from clients about the service, the team decided to pivot to SaaS adtech company, and rebrand as ADSHIFT.

The service integrates with Google AdWords and paid social media advertising, and automatically puts ad campaigns on hold when links break or product inventories run low. As soon as the product is back in stock, or as soon as a 404 error is fixed, ADSHIFT will automatically resume the campaign.

The platform can also help advertisers target more profitable markets. For instance, if a client sells allergy medicine, ADSHIFT can analyze pollen counts all over the U.S. and allocate ad spending to zip codes where pollen is particularly bad that day.

The beauty of the solution, said Bray, is that it requires practically no work from the client, and can be set up in a matter of days. For smaller companies, ADSHIFT can just scrape data from their websites to avoid 404 pages and out of stock products. Data on external information that affects customer behavior — social media trends, crime rates, weather — is largely freely available. Moreover, since ADSHIFT integrates with Google AdWords, ad inventories can be automatically compared with these trends without any need for additional input.

Since pivoting at the beginning of this year, ADSHIFT has raised a $650,000 first round of funding and is rapidly growing. The company is bringing on its 12th employee in the next few weeks and is hoping to fill a few more sales positions by the end of the quarter. Bray said the biggest focus during this growth period has been on building a culture centered around open, honest communication.

“Poor communication can sour everything,” said Bray. “Conflicts are going to happen every day, but if you’re open about them, you can turn them into positive change.”

Image via ADSHIFT.

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