On Tuesday night, I attended a fascinating event at The ADVERTISING Club called AD THINK, which is bridging the gap between tech startups and the advertising world.  As the event’s host, founder and partner of Evol8tion Joseph Jaffe, put it – we have seen a lack of creativity in digital advertising and with all of the creativity streaming from the high-tech startup boom, several stellar startups have emerged to bridge the gap between Madison Ave and Mountainview.  The event, which was standing-room only and will be the first in a series, brought five cutting-edge startup founders to deliver presentations on their products and attempt to woo a panel of experts who know a thing or two about successful startups, ad land, and how creativity and tech can work hand-in-hand.  The panel included: Brian Cohen, Chairman of New York Angels and the first investor in Pinterest; Andreas Dahlqvist, Deputy CCO of Global & Vice Chairman of NY for McCann Erickson; Nihal Mehta, Founder and CEO of Local Response (in 2001, he founded an agency dedicated solely to mobile – way ahead of his time); and Catherine Schenquerman, Digital Advertising Head of JetBlue Airways.

Even though I could talk about the all-star panel for a while, let’s talk about the startups – the true stars of the evening.  I was blown away by the creativity of each of these tech companies, and the potential that these startups have for the future of advertising and marketing.  The main theme among them was something we’ve talked about before: bringing data and creative together, as well as using data and analytics to improve and drive creative content for digital and mobile advertising.  I’m excited to see what’s next for each of these companies.

  • One of the founders of social intelligence company Bottlenose presented the analytics tools the platform offers brands, which, among other things, can correlate the volume of trending topics and conversations surrounding a brand on social media with key indicators (i.e., stock price, sales, website visits, Nielsen ratings, etc.) to uncover who and what on social media are driving important activities.
  • The founder of Customer.io started by saying, “E-mail is dead.”  We’ve heard it before, but his technology is actually using data gathered from e-mail marketing to help brands determine what to say and when to say it in order to achieve objectives from their e-mail marketing.  This could really bring e-mail back to life.
  • Speaking of the undead, if you’ve used the “Dead Yourself” app to share your love for AMC’s The Walking Dead, you’re already familiar with this next startup – KMco. Founder Kenny Miller talked about the ways that his company is changing digital and mobile advertising to make it fun again. Aside from the “Instagram for Brands” tech – like Dead Yourself – that they’re creating, KMco is also developing an app called GiftPop, which Miller described as a game show in your pocket, revolutionizing sweepstakes as we know them in the ad world.
  • Learn to pronounce the name of the next company now: Snakblox.  It’s a fascinating platform to assist brands and companies in creating unique social games and quizzes to drive customer sales – and also collect customer data.  The BaubleBar fortune teller app presented allowed a jewelry   e-commerce company to have Facebook fans and Twitter followers take the fortune teller quiz to get a unique coupon code to use on the company’s website, and share the game with friends on social media to drive more traffic.  This could be a way to turn social media likes and fans into real sales.
  • And last but certainly not least, the founder of TripleLift opened with the story of how he came up with the idea for this startup – a former client asking him to find out what “this pin-in-trist website is” that had driven 9% of sales in the previous quarter.  They were talking, of course, about Pinterest.  TripleLift is crowdsourcing how the entire digital and social world is using, sharing, and engaging with a brand’s images. It is focused on identifying and amplifying a brand’s best images and content, and has already seen great success for Nordstrom, among others.