April 27, 2020
April 27, 2020

QUARANTINE JOURNAL: What is Spaceback and why did we start it?

Casey Saran
Co-Founder & CEO

As I write this after the 7th Zoom meeting/Google Hangout of the Day, I’m thankful for at least one notable effect of shelter-in-place: it has given me and my team the time to pause and reflect on why we started the company -- and what it delivers in this weird time for our industry.

If I wrote only a couple of sentences about why we started Spaceback and what we wanted to bring to the larger ad/marketing industry, it would go something like this:  

  1. We are adtech nerds, in awe of what that infrastructure does every day, fueling the billions of transactions that keep the Internet afloat.
  1. But as nerds and fans, we also saw insane potential for adtech to just be... better. Innovation in the past decade has focused on the transaction side, rather than a better experience for users. We can deliver better efficiency, measurement, speed, and scale -- but if users hate the content, it’s like having a Ferrari without a drivers license.
  1. Ignoring user experience was hurting everyone except ad blockers. What does it say when your product is so loathed that it begets an entire ecosystem to help your target audience avoid it?  (The cycle of marketers’ increasingly disruptive ads vs. consumers’ increasingly sophisticated avoidance still fascinates us; more on that here).
  2. Content on social media platforms is typically much more compelling than what we’re used to seeing in display ads. In fact, some of brands’ best content shows up on its social channels. Social display delivers content that feels both more personal and more relevant, because it’s informed by clear signals (if users don’t like a brand’s content, they unfollow).  Meanwhile, traditional display ads felt like an afterthought.  

Basically, there was a gap between paid media and social media… which happened to mirror exactly the gap between ad performance and user experience.

We asked ourselves what we could do, technologically, to put the user first while still leveraging the best of adtech infrastructure?  

  • Was there a way to marry the personal, human experience of social content with the measurability, scale, and efficiencies of programmatic display?
  • Could we improve the user experience while also improving display ads’ performance?
  • Could we give the display space… back to the user, by filling that space with better content?  

In answering those questions, Spaceback was born.

We combine the best of social -- the authenticity and feel of a personal relationship between brand and user -- with the efficiency, pricing, targeting, scale, and measurement of programmatic ads.

And, spoiler alert: it turns out that when we improve user experience, we also improve performance. Which seems so obvious in retrospect. But as we built our platform, the results became undeniable.

When you recalculate the value of users/reprioritize the value of bringing a good experience to them, it’s a better transaction. It is possible to bring a brand’s most amazing content from social into this programmatic environment without compromising all the good things that programmatic brings. And this helps close that gap between brands and their audiences, not just the gap between paid and social.

Which brings me back to where I started this post. Remembering why we started Spaceback and what we’ve tried to achieve… how can we help our industry in this unprecedented moment?

Time will tell, but here’s a starting point, before I jump on to my 8th Zoom call of the day:

Brands, agencies and advertisers are weighing questions which in any other time might feel routine, but now seem especially urgent: Spend now, or wait? Invest in marketing or save? And what messages should we convey?

In times of crisis, traditional branding and advertising halts, or at least slows down. But social persists when other parts of the content machine aren’t firing. Globally, we are all spending more time on our virtual connections, not less. We are connecting with brands and with the communities around them more, not less.

Utilizing social display for advertising could well be a boon for advertisers right now. It’s some of your best, most human content -- and social validation will point towards which posts are resonating. It’s an effective, easy, and (with Spaceback, at least) inexpensive way to keep your brand in front of your audience.

Leveraging your social content is something you can do, knowing that it will keep you connected to your customers as you decide what’s next for the rest of your program and answer those important questions. It’s what Spaceback did before the pandemic, what we’re doing now, and what we will do with you, together, as we all jump into whatever happens next.

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