November 22, 2017

Media Tech Venture Studio Participant Q&A: Ad Lightning

Earlier this year, we announced the launch of the Verizon Media Tech Venture Studio in partnership with R/GA. This is a new program focused on identifying and developing innovative growth- and early-stage companies with disruptive technologies that will shape the future of digital entertainment and media consumption.

The program, consisting of eight innovative startups, is coming to a conclusion, so we caught up with the participants to learn more about their experience in the program. For this participant spotlight, we sat down with Ad Lightning's Kate Reinmiller, Co-founder and VP of Operations, to talk about the company's background story and experience so far.

What is the problem your company is trying to solve and how did you identify this problem?

Ad Lightning's single mission is to improve ad quality.  Programmatic advertising has become the dominant paradigm for buying and selling digital advertising due to its effectiveness for user targeting and automated marketplace economics. In 2018, it is estimated that 80% of the $39B US digital ad market will be programmatic.  However, an unintended effect of the programmatic market is the prevalence of low quality, disruptive and even malicious ads in the supply chain. Bad ads decrease user engagement, slow page load times and cost Publishers millions of dollars in revenue. Ad Lightning gives Publishers, Exchanges, and Platforms the tools they need to find bad ads, along with the data and processes needed to remove them.  

As a lifelong digital Publisher, my co-founder and CEO, Scott Moore experienced this issue first hand in his role as CEO of Cheezburger.  As the digital advertising market shifted from high-quality direct-sold ads to programmatic, Scott saw the volume of bad ads on Cheezburger increase practically overnight.  With the influx of bad ads, the young, tech-savvy Cheezburger audience turned to ad blockers and ad revenue quickly declined. There was nothing he or his team could do to stop the bad ads.  Having experienced this issue early in the evolution of programmatic buying, Scott realized that other Publishers would soon face a similar fate if something wasn't done to improve ad quality and protect revenue.

Tell us how you first came up with the concept and/or business plan for the company.

The original concept for Ad Lightning was to find a way to help Publishers regain control of ads delivered programmatically, provide better visibility into what was happening on their site and provide tools to determine where the bad ads were coming from.  By doing so, we decided to focus on improving user experience, decreasing page load times, making the need for ad blockers irrelevant and ultimately increasing Publisher revenue.  MediaPost actually talks about the unstated agreement between publishers and users in this post.

What drew you to this the Verizon Media Tech Venture Studio program?

As a startup focused on digital publishing, the opportunity to engage with properties like Verizon/AOL was very exciting.  

What have been the highlights of the program thus far?

Working with the services teams has been the highlight of the program.

What aspects of the program do you find most useful for yourself and your business?

The refreshed messaging and positioning has been invaluable.  From a marketing perspective, as a young company with only a few competitors, we needed to more clearly differentiate ourselves in our communications. We now have a clear messaging strategy that we can use to align our team internally, project confidently in the market and also support our story as we work to raise our Series A.  The visual design and pitch deck work will also be assets that we can incorporate to uplevel our visual presentation and more clearly articulate our value to potential customers and investors.

How have your interactions with the other program participants been?  What have you learned from them?

To be honest, being based in Seattle, we haven't had as much interaction with other start-ups as we would have liked.  We share a common investor with ScoreStream, so that's been a fun connection.  Our co-founders tag-teamed on the NY schedule and our interactions at RGA have been first rate at every stage.  

Tags: Paul Heitlinger , AdTech , Media , Ad Lightning