All posts in “advertising”

Kidtech startup SuperAwesome is now valued at $100+ million and profitable

Technology companies like Facebook and Google are scrambling to catch up to the fact that the kids have joined a web originally built for adults, and are using it the way adults do – by liking and commenting, sharing, clicking through on personalized recommendations, and viewing ads. But the technology underpinning apps and sites built for kids can’t operate the same way as it does for the grown-ups. That’s where the company SuperAwesome comes in.

SuperAwesome, just less than five years old, has been tapping into the growing need for kid-friendly technology, including kid-safe advertising, social engagement tools, authentication, and parental controls. Its clients include some of the biggest names in the children’s market, including Activision, Hasbro, Mattel, Cartoon Network, Spin Master, Nintendo, Bandai, WB, Shopkins maker Moose Toys, and hundreds of others – many of which it can’t name for legal reasons.

Now, the company is turning a profit.

SuperAwesome says it hit profitability for the first time in Q4 2017, and has reached a booked revenue run-rate of $28 million, after seeing 70 percent growth year-over-year.

This year, it expects to grow 100 percent, with a revenue run rate of $50 million.

Sources close to the company put its valuation at north of $100 million, as a result.

The company says the shift digital is driving its growth, as TV viewing is dropping at 10 to 20 percent per year, while kids digital budgets are growing at 25 percent year over year. At the same time, the kids brands and content owners are realizing that safety and privacy have to be a part of their web and mobile experiences.

SuperAwesome has flown under the radar a bit, and isn’t what you’d call a household name. That’s because its technology isn’t generally consumer-facing – it’s what powering the apps and websites that today’s kids are using, whether that’s a game like Mattel’s Barbie Fashion Closet or Monster HighHasbro’s My Little Pony Friendship Club, or a website from kids’ author Roald Dahl, to name a few.

Key to all these experiences is a technology platform that allows developers to build kid-safe apps and sites. That includes products like AwesomeAds, which ensures ads in the kids space aren’t tracking personal data and the ads are kid-appropriate; PopJam, a kid-safe social engagement platform that lets developers build experiences where kids can like, comment, share and remix online content; and Kids Web Services, tools that simplify building apps that require parental consent and oversight.

These sorts of tools are increasingly become critical to a web that’s waking up to the fact that the largest tech companies didn’t consider how many kids would be using their products. YouTube, for example, has been scrambling in recent months to combat the threats to kids on its video-sharing site, like inappropriate content targeted towards children, exploitive videos, haywire algorithms, dangerous memes, hate speech, and more.

Meanwhile, kids are lying about their ages – sometimes with parental permission – to join social platforms originally built for the 13-and-up crowd like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and

“It’s very easy to come out and beat up Facebook and Google for some of this stuff, but the reality is that there’s no ecosystem there for developers who are creating content or building services specifically for kids. That’s why we started SuperAwesome,” says SuperAwesome’s CEO Dylan Collins.

Before SuperAwesome, Collins founded gaming platform Jolt, acquired by GameStop, and game technology provider DemonWare, acquired by Activision.

Other SuperAwesome execs have similar successful track records in terms of company-building. Managing director Max Bleyleben was COO at digital marketing agency Beamly, acquired by Coty, and a partner in European VC fund Kennet Partner. COO Kate O’Louglin was previously SVP Media in ad tech company Tapad, acquired by Telenor. Chief Strategy Officer Paul Nunn was previously the Managing Direct in kids app maker Outfit7, acquired by China’s United Luck Group.

Today, the company’s 120-person staff also includes a full-time moderation team to review kids’ content before it goes public. A need to do more hands-on review, instead of leaving everything up to an algorithm, is something the larger companies have just woken up to, as well. For example, YouTube said it was expanding its moderation team in the wake of the site’s numerous controversies to north of 10,000 people.

  1. Screenshot 2018-02-16 17.57.11_PopJam

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SuperAwesome is much smaller than that, but it has understood the need to double-check kids’ content with a more hands-on approach for some time.

“The content created on [SuperAwesome’s] platform goes through two layers of moderation. It goes through our machine learning moderation. Then it goes through our 24/7 team of human moderators as well,” explains Collins. “With the kids’ audience, it doesn’t work to completely automate all this – you have to have human involvement.”

There are now tens of millions of pieces of content flowing through SuperAwesome’s platform every couple of weeks, to give you an idea of scale.

This online social space is something that kids’ brands want to enter, but safely and in compliance with U.S. and international laws around child protection, like COPPA and Europe’s GDPR-K.

Though SuperAwesome’s focus a couple of years ago was more about helping advertisers and marketers, today, two-thirds of SuperAwesome ads clients have since adopted its social engagement tools from PopJam. (A demonstration of this technology is also live in SuperAwesome’s own kids app by the same name.)

Now, SuperAwesome is leveraging its experience in the kids’ space to help YouTubers come into compliance with Google’s stricter rules, too, so they can ensure brands they’re “kid-safe.” SuperAwesome recently rolled out a content certification standard for under-13 YouTube influencers and those over 13 who target a very young audience with their videos.

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This is something SuperAwesome’s brand customers requested, because they’re spending their ad dollars on YouTube – and sometimes finding their messages matched up with inappropriate content. The problem of toxic content on Facebook and Google could have a massive impact on the ad industry if it continues to go unchecked. For example, one of the world’s largest advertisers Unilever this month threatened to pull ads from Facebook and Google if they don’t address the problems with propaganda, hate speech and disturbing content aimed at children.

SuperAwesome’s new, voluntary certification for YouTubers takes into account the content the channel produces, their behavior on the screen, their recording practices, and much more.

“YouTube is not an under-13 platform, so their hands are kind of tied in terms of something like this,” says Collins. The company announced the certification earlier this month, and already has 35 YouTubers on board, representing 35 million subscribers and 8 to 9 billion monthly impressions. “There’s real momentum that’s happening with this,” he adds.

SuperAwesome believes it’s now poised to for rapid growth as more brands and businesses begin to address the needs of keeping kids safe online.

“Kidtech, as a category, has really just been invented in the past three or four years. No one thought they’d have to build specific technology for kids…this is problem that we’re starting to solve,” Collins says.

SuperAwesome has raised $28 million to date according to Crunchbase, including a $21 million Series B from Mayfair Equity Partners in mid-2017, which included Hoxton Ventures and Inspire Ventures. The company has no immediate plans to fundraise again.

Featured Image: Hero Images/Getty Images

This Ikea magazine ad is also a pregnancy test

Ikea collaborated with Medical Lab Mercene Labs to create an ad that doubles as a pregnancy test. Peeing on the marked area will show whether you’re pregnant. If you are pregnant, a discounted price will appear right on the ad. Peeing on an ad may be unconventional but it could also be the future of advertising. 

Click-to-WhatsApp messaging buttons are now rolling out in Facebook ads

WhatsApp has always said that it has no plans to put ads into its own app, but this is not stopping Facebook, which now owns WhatsApp, from figuring out other ways of monetizing the hugely popular messaging service, which has around 1 billion daily users.

Today, Facebook is launching a new ad unit that will let businesses create a link between the two platforms: advertisers can now include a button on their ads so that people can call or message via WhatsApp with the click of a button.

We reported early sightings of the feature in test mode earlier this year.  Now, Facebook has confirmed to us that it’s rolling this out gradually, starting first with North and South America, Africa, Australia and most of Asia.

You might notice that Europe is not included in the list, and wonder if that might relate to news that Facebook last year had to pause efforts to share data between the two platforms when it was deemed to violate data protection laws.

From what we understand, the plan is to introduce Europe at a later date, but Facebook is going to first observe how the feature is used elsewhere, and is also still working through questions from outside the company about how WhatsApp and Facebook will work together.

(Those outside the company may well include consumers, but also regulators.)

The new feature getting announced today, more generally, follows on from some bigger developments for how WhatsApp is already being used by businesses.

Facebook tells us that more than 1 million Facebook Pages already include WhatsApp numbers in their posts each month, which implies that there is already a pipeline between the two companies being used by businesses more informally to connect with customers more directly.

Anecdotally, I’ve heard that in some developing markets, businesses are using their WhatsApp and Facebook pages as their primary points of contact for users, so this would make some sense to expand for Facebook, as the new White and Yellow Pages, respectively.

“Many people already use WhatsApp to communicate with small businesses. It’s a fast, convenient way to stay in touch,” said Pancham Gajjar, product marketing manager, Facebook, in a statement. “By adding a click-to-WhatsApp button to Facebook ads, businesses can now make it even easier for people to learn about their products, set up an appointment or use their service.”

The other trend to note here is that WhatsApp has been working on a way of creating more specific business accounts for some time now. Most recently, it’s posted some more information on its help pages about how business accounts will be verified, confirmed or unconfirmed — although it has yet to roll out any specific products or pricing tiers that speak to these three statuses.

The new button ad-unit is also similar to the click-to-Messenger ads that Facebook previously rolled out.

“That format was the first ad product to explicitly link activity on Facebook with activity on Messenger, and it was followed by other ad formats on Messenger itself,” said eMarketer principal analyst Debbie Williamson. “It seems that Facebook is following a similar strategy for WhatsApp, starting with click-to-WhatsApp ads on Facebook, and presumably eventually rolling out ads on WhatsApp itself.” (Which really would be a track back from WhatsApp’s mission statement.)

For now, Facebook does not have plans to add the WhatsApp button integration to regular consumer services, although you can see the potential for putting the links in, say, Pages where users want to offer a contact address, or in the Marketplace next to items that are being sold, or even in job listings.

“We recently started testing different ways for a Facebook Page to point people to their WhatsApp presence from the Page itself,” a spokesperson said, “but don’t have any more details to share on that right now.”

Updated with comment from eMarketer.

Apple introduces a new pay-per-install ad product called Search Ads Basic

Apple today is introducing a new way for app developers to acquire users for their apps: it’s launching a pay-per-install advertising product called Search Ads Basic. The “basic” branding signals that this product is being aimed at smaller developers compared with the existing Search Ads product, which is now being renamed to Search Ads Advanced.

Launched last year, Search Ads have been one of the biggest changes to date in terms of improving discovery of mobile applications on the App Store. The idea with the original Search Ads product was to help developers better target potential users using specific information – like location, gender, keywords, and whether or not they’ve ever installed the app before.

After configuring a campaign, those ads would then appear at the top of the App Store search results when users searched for a keyword or terms, like “games,” or “war games,” for example.

Developers paid for these ad placements when users tapped on them.

That product, now called Search Ads Advanced, isn’t going away. Instead, it’s being joined by a more entry-level option, Search Ads Basic.

In this case, developers aren’t paying for taps, but for actual app installations as a result of the ad.

Setting up a Search Ads Basic campaign has also been designed to be a much simpler process. The only parameters that have to be entered are the app to be advertised, the budget, and the amount the developer wants to pay per install.

Here, Apple will helpfully suggest the maximum the developer should pay based on historical data from the App Store related to the type of app being marketed. While other pay-per-install ad campaigns from third parties may offer similar results in terms of installs, Apple’s advantage is that it has direct access to App Store data and the ads themselves show up directly in the App Store – not elsewhere on the web.

Apple’s implementation of ad targeting also respects user privacy. While it does use its historical understanding of App Store trends to help target ads, it doesn’t build specific profiles on individual users for targeting purposes.

In addition to the ease-of-use, a side effect of using Apple’s Search Ads product is that it can lead to a higher chart ranking. Apple’s algorithm takes into consideration number of downloads and velocity of those installs to move an app up the Top Charts. Because Apple considers an install from Search Ads a “high quality” download, it counts those installs towards the app’s chart position and its rise.

There are no limitations on the type of app or size of the company that can use Search Ads Basic, but it will make the most sense for smaller shops who aren’t yet ready to toy with Search Ads’ more advanced options. Plus, Search Ads Basic limits budgets to $5,000 per month, while Search Ads Advanced has no such upper limit.

Since its launch, Search Ads have been largely embraced by developers as an easy way to increase their app’s exposure. Apple’s data indicates that conversion rates for the original Search Ads product have been holding steady at over 50 percent, while the cost per acquisition has been below $1.50. Compared to other platforms, this is below the market norms.

The new ad product is launching today and will be available on alongside the Search Ads Advanced offering. From there, developers can start their campaigns then track results in an online dashboard showing how many users installed the app, the campaign budget, and the amount paid.

Initially launched in the U.S., Search Ads were more recently expanded internationally, to markets including the U.K., Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Switzerland and Mexico.

However, Search Ads Basic won’t roll out to these markets until sometime next year.

Facebook will temporarily disable a tool that lets advertisers exclude people of color

Facebook has been under fire for its practices and policies that enable advertisers to exclude “multicultural affinity” groups from the audiences they reach via the social network. Now, in light of a ProPublica investigation and pressure from the Congressional Black Caucus, Facebook says it’s committed to taking a closer look at its advertising policies, its COO Sheryl Sandberg wrote in a letter to CBC Chairperson Cedric Richmond.

Until Facebook figures out how to ensure advertisers don’t use its tools in a discriminatory way, Facebook will temporarily disable the option that lets advertisers exclude multicultural affinity groups from their audience. As Sandberg wrote in her letter to the CBC, multicultural affinity groups “are made up of people whose activities on Facebook suggest they may be interested in ads related to the African American, Hispanic American, or Asian American communities.”

Multicultural marketing, Sandberg said in her letter, is common in the ad industry. There are “many legitimate uses for this kind of marketing,” she said, but there are also concerns that advertisers use Facebook to discriminate against people in the areas of housing, employment and credit loans.

“By allowing online advertisers to promote or market a community or home for the purpose of sale to select an ‘ethnic affinity’ as part of their advertising campaign, Facebook is complicit in promoting restrictive housing practices,” members of the CBC said last year.

Facebook said it also will take a look at how advertisers are using exclusion targeting across other “sensitive segments,” like ones that relate to members of the LGBTQ community and people with disabilities.