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Dear adtech startups: 5 ways to optimise your image

I was invited to chat to around 30 startups at the Emerge Clinic during Festival of Media Global today. In a market where differentiators are hard to come by and even more challenging to communicate in a compelling way, adtech startups are faced with a choice: Communicate your proposition clearly or jump on the jargon bandwagon with everyone else in order to be understood.

So, here are five ways to get noticed in the cluttered world of adtech:

No-one cares about your product: Try to remember that no-one gives a shit about your product, or your business. It is extremely tough to extract yourselves from your product as you’ve spent months and years working on making it the best you can be. However, just because you spend the majority of your time trying to sell to your core constituency –  publishers, brands, advertisers – you need to remember the intricacies and nuances of this market are unintelligible to anyone whose specialist subject on Mastermind isn’t ad exchanges, programmatic or header bidding. Your wider audience wants to hear about industry trends and insights, not the intricacies of your technology stack.

Keep it simple: Picture the scene. You’re coming off the back of a long development cycle, fund-raising, sleepless nights and jam-packed days. Here you are - a new adtech business just about to launch yourselves to the market - and you and your team of highly intelligent people are working on a tagline for the website. Minutes and hours pass, debate ensues, and then the lightbulb moment – you’ve cracked it, it’s the phrase you’ll use to describe this new offering to the market... "We are a full-stack, end-to-end, targeting and decisioning platform…” Help!


  • Use your website to communicate effectively, but don’t over-burden users with jargon and words. In most cases comms is best done with video and imagery
  • Consider your audience. Most often ad tech businesses are communicating directly with their core constituency. Who is it you’re communicating with and why? Don’t forget that other people are coming to your website. I’ve known many journalists, for example, who’ve come to a client’s website only to go to another source to figure out what they actually do – remember the majority of people looking at your website will actually be generalists and won’t have the in-depth understanding you do
  • Use Crazy Egg to understand user behaviour, where they click, where they dwell, how they navigate
  • Use SimilarWeb to get analytics on your traffic and that of your competitors. Compare what they’re doing with your own activity and see what you can learn

Talk about interesting things: Adtech vendors must be outward-looking, developing insights and content that is of interest to the wider market. It’s completely unreasonable to walk into a bar, head over to the nearest table and interrupt a conversation about X to talk about your new idea Y. What’s more realistic is that you’d wait for your moment, get involved in the conversation being had and then bring your idea in later. When it comes to content, don’t fall into the trap of self-promotion. Your corporate blog is not an opportunity to promote your product. Help people to do their jobs better, by offering answers to key questions (such as this SpotX piece), or becoming the source of industry insight. A good example is Freewheel’s Video Monetization Report.

[caption id="attachment_1803" align="alignleft" width="300"]Festival of Media Global Sara Collinge, UK Director of Clarity PR, at Festival of Media Global[/caption]

Show off your best assets – Adtech companies are rich sources of data, so you should use this asset in your marketing and PR activity. PageFair does this exceptionally well and has established a thought leadership position through building stories using data. Another recent campaign was Captify’s  General Election campaign. These kinds of stories require resources, time and money. Of course, you need analysts who can pull data from your platform and cleanse it to the extent where it’s useable, so it’s best to dive into data when you’re ready – that point varies, but don’t be afraid to take a risk and see if it works.

Timing is everything: When it comes to media relations, speed matters. The same theme applies to digital and social. You need to be faster or more insightful than the competition to secure the interest of journalists and influencers. Here are some tips for planning and structuring your communication in a timely way:

  • Build a calendar of events - Responding to news stories is pointless if more than a few hours has passed since the story broke, so consider your resources and plan ahead. The 10th anniversary of Twitter’s launch is coming up in July, the EU Referendum in June, not to mention Cannes and DEMEXCO later in the year – can you respond to these events? If so, plan now for the future
  • Respond to breaking news with pithy commentary, share it with journalists who value strong opinions on thought-provoking topics
  • Use a content calendar to structure your social media strategy – pick five core themes or buckets into which all your content will sit. You can download a content planner from Hubspot here, take it and adapt it to your needs
  • Once you’ve done that, plan your posts around what times or say posts receive most engagement – e.g. Tweets at 12noon and 6pm get the best click rate. Posts at 5pm get the most retweets


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