If authentic marketing means matching a need with a product or service, then the closer a company can get to ferreting out individuals’ needs the better the bottom line.
The three-year-old company EngageClick, which now has a sales office at 33 Witherspoon Street with a team of five headed by Rick Granato, has developed what it calls a technology ad platform that personalizes ads served to consumers.
Granato, who has been with the company for nine months, notes that the first two years were spent perfecting the technology and building the proprietary algorithm and ad platform. Once perfected, they went to market.
EngageClick’s ad engagement platform, Granato says, “can take display ads that you would see on a computer, tablet, or phone and serve those ads to consumers at any given time and any given place.”
But the ads are not “one size fits all,” he observes, as has historically been the case. “What we do is take a combination of what you’ve looked at in the past and machine learning, using cookies and big third party data,” he says. “We don’t know your name or any of your personal information, but when you are on your mobile we know where you are and what you are looking for.”
This information allows them to present contextually relevant ads — from brands ranging from consumer packaged goods companies, quick-serve restaurants, and automotive manufacturers to pharma, insurance, and financial service companies — to a consumer, based on interests, where they are, the time of day, and the weather.
In contrast to the banner and video ads that the typical consumer might see on a news source while drinking a morning coffee, for example, a customer of a retailer that participates in EngageClick might, in the morning, see ads from a local Dunkin’ Donuts or Starbucks, maybe featuring breakfast items.
If that same individual is searching for information on a work project midday, he or she might not see a standard video or banner ad for American Express. “Based on the type of information you’ve searched on or your historical trends on what you look at, we may be serving up a cash rewards card,” says Granato.
Then, in the evening, the person may be watching television while using a tablet to look up program information, to search CNN for the latest political news, to find weekend entertainment, or to search for tire information. “Say you are looking for high performance tires on the tablet, and you Google Pirelli Tires,” says Granato. “If, say, it is raining, you might see a Pirelli ad that is dynamic. Maybe little raindrops would populate the ad.” He adds that it might also give you an invitation to five local dealers within a five-mile radius or perhaps a coupon or other incentive you could download to your phone.
The ads are also dynamic, enhanced by EngageClick for clients. “They give us basic advertising creative, standard or video ads; we build dynamic layers of interactivity into those ads,” says Granato.
They might, for example, layer over a standard ad something that will engage the customer or provide additional information that is contextually relevant: something a person can tap on or swipe or scroll over with a mouse. “We take static ads and make them dynamic and interactive,” he says.
The three-year-old privately held company, funded through former Google, AOL, and Yahoo employees who also serve as advisors, has about 25 employees, with sales offices also in Palo Alto and New York, and an engineering team in India.
Granato grew up in Little Silver, where his mother had a retail store and his father was a CFO of a New York-based publishing firm. He majored in business at McDaniel College in Westminster, Maryland, graduating in 1990 with the idea of going into nontraditional forms of advertising. His parents now live in Pennington, and Granato lives in Hopewell with his wife, Amy, a realtor for Callaway Henderson Sotheby’s.
His first job was in a training program at American Greeting Cards, where, he says, “I spent a lot of time in stores.” He moved to the publishing world and in the mid-1990s began working for Snyder Communications, where he was responsible for launching place-based media programs in doctors’ offices, day care centers, and airports. He joined Snyder when it had fewer than 50 employees. When Dan Snyder sold the company, there were 1,000 employees. (Snyder later bought the Washington Redskins.)
Granato went to New York-based Accent Health, another firm that brings media to doctors’ offices, where he was vice president of sales, and went on to be one of five founders of Exam Room Network (ERN) a medical marketing platform based in physicians’ examination rooms.
After selling ERN in 2005 to Cincinnati-based On Target Media, Granato stayed on for 10 months, then moved to Princeton-based In-Store Broadcasting Network, which delivered point-of-sale video commercials to supermarkets. He then spent three years as senior vice president of sales and marketing for MediVista Media, which provided point-of-care marketing videos to doctors’ offices.
He then worked about a year each with RMG Networks in Princeton and Canoe Ventures and BrightLine, both in the greater New York area.
Though Granato says he cannot comment on EngageClick’s revenue, he allows that EngageClick has about 25 clients or strategic partners, which are a combination of brands, advertising agencies, and publishing partners, companies that might own television stations, magazines, and websites. “They use our technology to serve better and more context-relevant ads,” he says.
The company expects to grow strongly over the next 6 to 12 months and is projected to double its head count in sales and marketing and in research. It also expects to triple the number of clients, customers, and strategic partners over the next year.
Engageclick, 33 Witherspoon Street, Suite 210, Princeton 08542; 609-306-9247; Rick Granato, www.engageclick.com.