AdSwerve – a business I wish I had thought of!

Put simply, AdSwerve brings enterprise-level ad serving from the leading company in the field, DoubleClick, to the smaller advertiser. They do one thing, and from my experience to date, they do it very well, this is DoubleClick for the little guy.

Opening its doors to customers less than 18 months ago, AdSwerve is approaching 100 customers, and at a $250 a month starting price, is likely paying the bills for itself quite nicely. Founded by Clint Tasset (a former DoubleClick man), and with Matt Fiskness on board shortly after, they are a group that get the ad serving eco system well and have stumbled across a fascinating business model. To their customers they are a technology and services company – it just happens to be that the tech they offer happens to be one of the best developed platforms in our entire industry, and is certainly not the technology of such a young company!

Their relationship with DoubleClick appears very symbiotic too. Dart focuses itself on building the best ad platform in the market and targets the large advertiser or agency who can shell out a minimum of $50k per annum. AdSwerve act as a reseller for that same platform and brings it to the smaller advertiser, providing all their own support services, giving Dart a revenue stream they otherwise would not have. And as the client grows? Well then they can become a fully-fledged Dart customer directly if they choose too.

And perhaps they fill another gap too – ‘excellence’ is not the first word most people would give as their descriptor of Dart customer services! Back in the day when I ran Bluestreak Europe, customer service would be the primary reason we would steal clients from Dart, (but to be fair to Dart I have not had personal need to use their customer service directly for a few years now).

For those of you who are less familiar with ad serving and why it matters, let me summarize. Ad serving serves 3 major purposes:

  • First, it provides independent analytics for your display media campaigns, and as stated by media insertion orders using IAB standards, is the set of numbers by which the media owner must bill. In fact, the “agency-side” or “advertiser-side” of ad serving is commonly referred to as 3PAS, or ‘3rd party ad server’ because of its independent nature. (*1)
  • Second, it allows for easy management of the sites you run on and the creative units you use – having trafficked out a campaign of 30 ads to 50 sites, the last thing you want to do is to contact all those sites directly to change them all when the client changes their corporate color from red to green on a whim! Dart makes things like this significantly easier.
  • Thirdly, it unifies reporting. If you advertise on multiple sites you need one tool and one reporting methodology – if you are reliant on 50 sites analytics, you are not comparing apples to apples. (*2)

And yet historically, the leading tool in this space has not been available to the majority of advertisers. Until AdSwerve came along.

And it leads me to another reason I like this company. By being an AdSwerve customer, you get access to Dart’s advanced reporting, including those that help you understand my favorite subject, attribution modeling. Even as an agency guy at iCrossing approving invoices for tens of thousands of dollars to Dart monthly, I didn’t get access to such tools without paying a lot of extra cash.

So clearly I am an AdSwerve fan! And I wonder what of their future? Their symbiotic relationship with the big G restricts them from expanding out to other technologies like Atlas, cutting off what to me was their obvious next income stream. But if we look at the valuation Google placed on Groupon ($6bn), perhaps we see the answer there. Clearly Google wants access to ‘local’ and to increase the services offered to the smallerer advertiser beyond AdWords, and isn’t that what Clint and team are building? Certainly the latter. One future could be that their business for the little guy takes Clint and team back into the machine at some point, bringing technology and services to the small advertiser at scale. (Wild speculation of course!)

Or perhaps they will continue their great service and success being happily independent – Clint and Matt are based in CO, and declined the move to Mountain View after the Google acquisition telling me that ‘people who live in CO live here for a reason’. I could not agree more. Good luck to them.

You can find more information on AdSwerve on their website at http://adswerve.com and watch out for tutorial videos on YouTube from them soon.

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(*1) Approximately 4 years ago, all the major independent ad servers stopped being so independent; DoubleClick was sold to Google, Atlas ended up at Microsoft, Bluestreak (no site anymore) at Carat and so on, with many questioning whether they could still be referred to as ‘independent. What matters is that they are independent of either the advertiser or the media owner… unless you are MSN or Google of course!

(*2) When it comes to analytics, an ad server will also give you access to ‘post-impression’ or ‘view-thru’ data, the process by which someone may be exposed to an ad and later converts without actually ever clicking on the ad itself.