How Adam Berke Made AdRoll the Internet’s Largest Retargeting Platform

Posted by Anant January 7, 2023

Adam is the co-founder and President of AdRoll, the internet’s largest retargeting platform. Before joining AdRoll, Adam helped launch the CPL network at Aptimus, a publicly traded ad network acquired by the Apollo Group.


→ AdRoll is a display advertising platform

→ Focuses on retargeting, aiming to make it accessible and user-friendly for all advertisers

→ Goal is to make display a more performance-based channel

→ AdRoll is a display advertising platform that aims to make display a more performance-driven channel

→ AdRoll is a large buyer on Google’s ad exchange and also works with Yahoo! and Microsoft platforms

→ Retargeting and Google search are currently the primary ways for marketers to know user intent

→ Retargeting shows intent and allows for targeted advertising

→ Compares to Google remarketing in terms of inventory and bidding strategies

→ And a whole lot more



Adam’s Linkedin



Bronson: Welcome to another episode of Growth Hacker TV. I’m Bronson Taylor and today I have Adam Burke with us. Adam, thanks for coming on the program.

Adam: You’re welcome. Thank you for having me.

Bronson: Absolutely. Now, Adam, you’re the co-founder and president of AdRoll. Is that right?

Adam: Yeah, pretty much. All right.

Bronson: Well, tell us a little about Agora. What is it?

Adam: Yeah, I role is a display advertising platform. We started the company back in 2007 with the goal of making display into more of a performance channel. We saw a surge as the breakout marketing channel of the internet age and marketers flocked to it and display at the time was at best a an afterthought. And so we started the company right at a fortuitous time, as it turned out, with the rise of real time bidding and these exchanges and being quantitative data, data driven people, we thought there was a lot of things that you could do with targeting to enhance the performance of display and make it more of an accountable channel in the same way search was. And so the goal was really to build, you know, the AdWords of display. And we realized, you know, the killer app for display that marketers flock to in the same way that they were flocking to search was retargeting. Mm hmm. And at the same time, it was a poorly understood, poorly implemented channel. And, you know, that that all kind of came together. So, you know, we built really focused on building a really nice UI to be able to do sophisticated things with retargeting that people hadn’t thought of before and then bringing that to the masses really. So, you know, anybody can use the platform obviously and we have great account managers and so forth that can help on really sophisticated is the key to campaigns. But if you at a smaller site, you’re getting started out and you should still have access to this powerful marketing channel. So making it really easy for those kinds of advertisers to use it in the same way that they use search.

Bronson: Yeah, absolutely. So you said you it’s a retargeting company. Explain to us how retargeting works. First of all, tell us kind of high level like, you know, what it’s like to the end consumer when they’re retargeted. So actually know what it’s doing. And then tell us kind of how it works briefly from the cookies. And you mentioned the ad exchanges, all those kind of things.

Adam: Yeah. Well, I’ll start from the point of view of the mechanics of how it works. So the way it works today is that an advertiser, a customer of ours, to place a piece of code on our site and the way that we really view our platform is that every advertiser, every online business has this really valuable data set, and it’s generated by the behaviors that people exhibit on that on their site, the products that they view, how long they spend on the site, do they complete a certain action or not? And by placing our code on their site, they’re able to, in our interface, collect that data and then segment it in ways that are relevant to their business. So creating segments of people that drop off at different parts of the flow or capture a group of people who recently purchased that you might want to reengage with later. What do you think our single piece of JavaScript or image pixel on the site, we can create those types of segments. We have very intelligent bidding algorithms that run underneath, decide how much and how often to bid for users. And then marketers can use the interface to apply their their business rules, who they want to target, who they don’t want to target, and so forth. And then obviously have a beautiful recording interface that gives them a lot site to figure out what’s working, what’s not, and being able to adjust. Yeah. Yeah.

Bronson: Okay. So so you’re collecting all that data and then the marketing people, they’re buying ads using that data so that people that have already been on your site and taken certain actions are then kind of shown your ads all over the Internet in different places. Is that right?

Adam: Yeah. And hopefully, you know, an intelligent marketer will and will use the tool in an intelligent way, like.

Bronson: Like all advertising.

Adam: Yeah. And obviously when you created those segments that you, you know, thought about and, you know, who were which then you were not, not that you’re obviously trying to then master the message up to, to resonate with that group or make sure you’re conveying the right aspect of your product at the right time for that specific user. And then, yeah, and then we’re helping them, you know, act on those segments on all across display imagery, one of the largest buyers of Google’s ad exchange, you know, we buy on Yahoo! And Microsoft platform and all across the Web. And then we one of the alpha partners on Facebook as well, the first company to be able to bind Facebook at exchange. You can act on these same segments in the largest single publisher on the Web. So that’s been a big boost for our customers as well.

Bronson: That’s great. And when I was look on your site the other day, I noticed something called liquid ads. It seemed really interesting. Tell me how Liquid Ads works with all the stuff you just described.

Adam: Yeah, like liquid ads ties to that theme. Precisely. So the idea behind liquid ads is that what the the ad that you actually end up showing the user is really important. And it’s amazing how in performance marketing, a lot of times creative is sort of put on the back burner. And our and our thought with liquid ads was that, hey, we want to show a really. Elegant, useful, targeted ad for that user. And we can do that based on recommendations, based on what we know about other users who visit that site. So kind of Amazon like recommendations on products. So people who look at this search, they tend to want to buy or tend to end up buying this other thing. So we can do that recommendation in the ad unit. As the ad renders, we can see this person, we can look at that idea up in our data warehouse and say, okay, I need X, Y, Z exhibit in this behavior. Therefore, they’re probably interested in this ad. And then so that’s kind of the mechanics, but then also having a really flexible infrastructure that allows for the ad to be compelling and beautiful. And the problem that a lot of people have with these kind of product specific dynamic ads is that they’re very tablet sized looking and they’re very ugly, which could be okay for direct response sometimes. But you also want it to reinforce all of the wonderful things about your brand and be consistent with the look and feel so liquid ads by call. Liquid is flexible for the point of view that you can do a lot with it from a brand perspective. And that is dynamic like like fluid, like liquid in terms of the products that show for each individual user.

Bronson: No, it makes sense. And you know, it seems like you have a number of competitors that do retargeting and anybody can buy in these ad exchanges, do retargeting on the lowest level. But it’s really all the technology built around that. It seems the algorithms, the the intelligence, the knowing what to do and when to do it, that kind of makes you guys stand out, just from my point of view, anyway.

Adam: Yeah. I mean, we’re we’re a product driven company that started in 2007. So now that it’s a big head start in terms of having been working on this problem for a long time. Yeah. And you know, the product we know speaks for itself. And yeah, I mean, it takes a long time to build these algorithms to figure out what the right cues are for a particular, how much to bid, how to adjust, feeding over time and so forth, and having, you know, engineers that can develop all of that. And, you know, 27 year you think back, we also started the company going into, you know, the worst economic climate ever. You know, we’ve been our own kind of revisionist view of history was a great thing. And, you know, it was a great thing because we didn’t rush to market. We didn’t we didn’t kind of rush something out the door with a sales team in marketing. We focused on that product and the technology for years before we really went full bore and bringing it to market. We only did that once. We were really confident that it worked really well. We do stuff and then we’ve only built from there since.

Bronson: Yeah, and one of cool things about retargeting is that it actually shows us intent and that’s kind of the magical word here. Like we know what their intentions are like, we know what they clicked on, we know that they were on the side that shows intent itself. And then also think about how Google search shows intent, like when somebody is typing in a search, like we know they’re looking for Nike size 12. I mean, we just we know that besides Google search and retargeting, is there any other kind of large scale way to know intent for marketers or is those kind of two options?

Adam: Well, yeah. I mean, today those are certainly you know, it’s funny, you know, that’s one thing that’s got a lot of the same language that we use internally when we think about our product, you know, harvesting intent and where do you collect content online? Google is very lucky to have this box that everybody goes through and just types in exactly what they want to buy. And then, you know, you can get a lot of it also from your site yourself. There are other other ad tech companies that create content data says third party data. But, you know, if you think of the marketing funnel, the lowest level intent is your first the first party, the intent data that you own that’s generated on your site. And then, you know, everything kind of it might increase in scale as you go up the funnel, but it’s slightly less targeted and slightly less intense. They haven’t been to your site yet, but they might have. Did you use the automotive example? You know, the highest content user has been to the dealer locator on the brand’s site. One higher level was maybe they did a search on Kelley Blue Book. So that’s kind of moving a little higher up. So that cookies may be interesting for Subaru, but not quite as much as if they’re looking for a dealer. So, yes, there are other other data segments you kind of like think of some of the, you know, science fiction type stuff that might exist in the future with geolocation and the activities for marketers there. When users enter to report, yeah, walking.

Bronson: Around and seeing the ads based on your retina scan, that kind of stuff.

Adam: And ten data sets, I mean, obviously as a marketer you want to be, you know, you’re, you’re marketing to humans who have sensitivities and if you’re not taking those, you’re not solving for that aspect of the equation. As a marketer, then your campaigns probably well as the right thing to do, and b they’re probably not very effective because, you know, things that turn off people are going to turn them off of your products.

Bronson: Yeah, absolutely. That’s what I think when I watch Hulu. Hulu and I see the same ad seven times before I’m done with the show, I think by the end of. Like, I hate that product, even if I would have been a user because it was just too much, it was over the top.

Adam: I would just say thank you for giving me that free show without having me having to buy cable.

Bronson: Yeah, exactly. Well, I’m a premium member, so I’m still paying on money, so I’m getting ads in month. But yes, I’m all about the free web and I’m okay with advertising. But, you know, especially when they overdo it. Let’s talk about how AdRoll compares to something like Google remarketing. Talk to us about how it compares in terms of, let’s say, inventory and even bidding strategies.

Adam: Yeah. Well, yeah. You know, to take a step back, we launched our self service retargeting product and kind of the opening of the platform in November of 2009, kind of, as I mentioned, after about two years of development. And then the Google remarketing product came out in February of 2010. So we were like, Oh man, you know, Google’s like, let’s get what’s going to happen. And, you know, the euphemism has really ended up being very true that, you know, when you have a big competitor coming to the marketplace, it can often do wonders to educate the market. That’s certainly what’s happened, especially for a company like Google that kind of bolted on remarketing to a platform that’s primarily built around search, secondarily built around display. And then, you know, the remarketing pieces is this is the final sort of add on or a recent add on. So yeah, you know, big picture, lots of stuff that we realized we could do by being specialists in what we thought was the killer app of display and being incredibly excited. So you mentioned a couple of the key areas of access to inventory, obviously. So we are and the way we phrase it is that we’re inventory agnostic. I don’t care if we serve an ad on a publisher X or publisher Y or Publisher Z, we’re going to serve it wherever it performs best for the advertiser because that to our customers. Google has a publisher network and they deal with advertisers. So you’re only accessing Google’s publishers. And there’s no doubt that there a lot of great sites in AdSense that use AdSense as a publisher. There’s also a lot of not so great sites. So we find and the data bears out that you get a lot of benefit by evil, by being able to cherry pick the good performing sites from Google, the good performing areas of Yahoo, the good performing areas of Microsoft and so forth. And then, you know, as I mentioned on Facebook Exchange, that’s also obviously a huge boon. So if you have this kind of fixed budget that you’re trying to spend, you can put it all in Google remarketing and then you get the good in the bad. Or you can use a specialized platform like ourselves that can cherry pick the best from all of the various inventory sources. And naturally that performs quite a bit better. So access to inventory is a huge one. And then, I mean, the whole bidding strategy that Google is based on around optimizing for CPC is very different than a retargeting platform which is focused on first party data. So we’re bidding on a specific user based on how valuable that user is to the advertiser. So our algorithms, you know, look at all sorts of different data points that indicate intent, how long the user spent on the site, how many products did they buy? Are they not by? How long ago did they by having impressions if we serve that user. So more so on that inform, you know, somebody who bounces off the home page. We might bid a $0.10 CPM for that user, someone who showed a high degree of intent, we might bid $10. So that’s that kind of notion of user value. Babysitting doesn’t really exist in Google remarketing product and what.

Bronson: Seems incredibly valuable. I mean, just hearing you talk about it, that kind of strategy is a no brainer. So it’s hard to imagine doing it without that kind of strategy.

Adam: Yeah, well, I mean, Google remarketing is good. As I said, you know, it ended up being a great way to educate the market on how powerful the channel can be. And that’s one of the beautiful things about remarketing. I mean, you can always do it better and there’s always advanced strategies and where you can do liquid ads and segmentation and so forth. So we get a lot of our customers are kind of graduating out of Google Remarketing to see what it can do. Okay. And I want to take the next step. I want to do X, Y and Z. I want access to Facebook. I want dynamic, creative. I want a different segmentation strategy, bidding strategy and so forth.

Bronson: Yeah. And you also mentioned our Facebook exchange there. So Facebook exchanges, you know, recently come out. How big a deal is this for retargeting? Is it a massive deal because you read online, it just seems like a really big deal or is this kind of like it’s another ad network? Not a big deal.

Adam: What’s the deal? You know, it’s been the biggest change to or the biggest evolution in in retargeting. You know, that says retargeting has probably been available outside of real time bidding. But yeah, I mean, you’re bringing on the largest publisher on the Web, you know, that comes for sale of almost a third of every display ad served up. I served on Facebook. And, you know, as we’re learning more and more about it, we’re learning that it has a lot of other positive characteristics as well. Things like the fact that a user is logged in and therefore kind of verifies that identity. There is more, let’s call it. Non-human traffic is floating around the Web and then people realize it’s still kind of you can filter it out in various ways via RTB. And I think the technology does a good job of doing it. But having that kind of removed from the equation entirely solves a bit with the fact that all of the ads are always in view, and you scroll as they do. They’re predictable places so people don’t accidentally click on ads. Finding the inventory to be very high quality and there’s a lot of it. So it’s very efficiently priced also.

Bronson: Yeah, that’s great. And I was reading a study that you guys released and tell me if I get any of this wrong, but you compared Facebook Exchange to kind of web retargeting at large and you found that Facebook exchange is better for CPMs costs, you know, per thousand impressions, CPC costs per click but that it was lower at CTR, the click through rate and CPA, the cost per acquisition.

Adam: What’s that you want the CPA to be lower. So yeah, it was delivering a better cost per acquisition than standard web retargeting based on our study of 468 advertisers that were running.

Bronson: So what’s was answer asking? How did you get that data first of all, so you studied 400 and something. What did you study? Again.

Adam: That was 468 advertisers who are using both standard display and Facebook exchange through our platform. So today we have a little over 1200 advertisers using Facebook Exchange. At the end of Q4, it was in the 800 range, which, based on the Facebook earnings call, Sheryl Sandberg said they had about 1300. So a little more than half of all of them.

Bronson: Wow.

Adam: I mean, obviously, we represent a large swath of different sized advertisers. So people spending, a lot of people spending a lot. We had a group of 468 that were using both. And so we looked at that group only for that study that you mentioned.

Bronson: Gotcha. So what should we do with that data? Just, you know, the common marketers are trying to figure out, you know, what kind of strategy they should have. Based on what you found. Does it actually change anything? Is it just novelty to know it or does it actually matter?

Adam: Oh, no. I mean, I’d say, you know, off the bat, unequivocally, Facebook exchange has been a boon for for advertisers that are concerned with performance. So, you know, people anybody who’s not using it as part of their retargeting strategy should probably revisit that. Part of that is it’s a moment in time. It’s very early. And so the folks who adopt new channels early stand to gain the most. I’m sure Facebook Exchange will get more competitive over time, and CPMs might trip up as it gets more competitive, but we’re not seeing any signs of that today. So yeah, the learning is definitely something you want to try. The other learning is that it complements, it actually compliments. It is incremental too based on our data standard web. So yeah, if you if you’re using, it’s not that you initially want to switch it all off, it’s that they both kind of play a role in a retargeting strategy. And now, yeah, Facebook crushes it on a performance perspective right now. And actually one of the surprising aspects is how unique the audience is that you’re not going to actually overlap on impressions with a ton of your users anyway. It’s almost a way to find people that you wouldn’t have found.

Bronson: No, that’s great. Let me ask you something else. You know, I think about retargeting and I think about mobile. And I know we’re in the super early days of how kind of advertising at large, how marketing at large is going to work on mobile. What do you think is the future of kind of retargeting on mobile? Is it still just a big question mark or are we like inching in the right direction anyway? Just kind of I want to pick your brain about it.

Adam: Yeah. I mean, some of those questions are getting to be more and more answered. You know, I’d say there’s a there’s a division kind of in two camps. There are companies that own universal identifiers. So you log into Gmail on your desktop, you log into Gmail on your phone. And Google’s not doing anything with that data from an ad targeting perspective today. But you see the opportunity Apple launched a if a identifier for advertisers in iOS six. So that’s a that’s a mobile app that kind of their version of a mobile cookie that gives user control to turn it on and off and so forth, but also gives advertisers the ability to measure and target on mobile. Obviously, you know, Facebook is the largest as the largest used mobile device. And people also use the mobile the desktop experience quite a bit. So that starts to draw that connection there, you know. So the real question, I think that that remains is, you know, there’s also a probabilistic model that you can do on device fingerprinting. And so the bigger you know, the question, I think that’s going to evolve and that needs to be figured out as technical limitations start to be addressed. It’s not perfect, but it’s moving is what are the use cases? You know, what do advertisers want to do with it? Is it that, you know, someone went to your mobile site and you. Want to retarget them to install a mobile app. Is it that somebody’s search for a product on their phone while they were in your store and then you want to target them when they’re on or home on their laptop? There’s all these different use cases that you want as the technology gets better. Is more going to be left to the creativity of the marketer to figure out how to adapt it to to serve whatever they’re trying to accomplish from a business perspective?

Bronson: Yeah. So it seems like it’ll have kind of the same evolution as other channels where at first we try to do what we did on desktop. Hey, let me show you an ad based on where you’ve been before. Even though this is the new banner ad on an old device. But eventually you’re saying the creativity, like with all channels, will take over and we’ll figure out what the right way to market on mobile is using retargeting and everything else we do to make sure.

Adam: We’re in that kind of first phase. Right now, let’s just take the analogy from on desktop and then create that experience on the web or on on mobile. But yeah, I mean, as you said, the opportunities are really interesting too. And naturally, marketers will want to adapt to target their marketing based on the way people and their customers travel through the world and interact with their online presence, whether no matter what device they’re on.

Bronson: Yeah, absolutely. Now, at Admiral, you guys help a lot of companies kind of create strategies, create campaigns that are really successful. So you get to see kind of at a high level what companies understand, what they don’t understand, what they miss out on. So let me ask you some questions. The kind of help companies that want to use AdRoll or want to use, you know, retargeting in general to know what they don’t know. So what do most companies kind of overlook when they think about retargeting? When you come in and they’re a decent sized client and you meet with them face to face, or they usually miss about this opportunity.

Adam: Yeah, I’d say the thing that they don’t think about most often is that they probably have a lot of really good retargeting strategies implemented via their marketing automation solution, and they don’t think about that quite as much that you have a funnel and a and a lead nurturing and a customer nurturing process that you take people through via email and that a cookie can ask a lot like an email in the sense that it’s a fairly good 1 to 1 relationship to a particular user. So thinking about the same your funnel in the same way as you think on what you want to email a person thinking about adjusting your message messaging based on segment. Yes, sure. What they do on a site. But what’s the consideration phase? How much time do they spend thinking about this product? How much time is it an impulse purchase? Is it a long consideration process? It’s a long consideration process. Are there touchpoints throughout that process that give you an indicator that, hey, this person is moving down the funnel and therefore we can change our messaging? So thinking about your retargeting campaign in the same way that you think of your marketing funnel and of course connecting the creative to to match that strategy. Yeah.

Bronson: When you were saying that a light bulb went off, I like I never really thought about that. Like, Oh, this is a unique more or less identifier and that is like an email. And I think about email very differently than I think about what I would use a cookie for my website. But what you just said makes me wonder like, well, why, like, why is there such a drastic difference in how I view the two funnels when they’re so similar? That’s great.

Adam: From a marketing perspective. A lot of the way you’ve thought about messaging and so forth, that those different phases you can apply to your retargeting gatherings.

Bronson: Now, that’s great advice. How do you feel like companies really do with understanding the power in their data sets? You’ve mentioned data at least three or four times in this interview, so I know it’s it’s you know, it’s personal. Like you really do understand the data matters. Do they come in thinking, oh, we’ll just see who hits the home page and then we’ll show them an album there on Facebook? Is that kind of their view of it or do they get that?

Adam: It sort of goes back to mobile conversation. I mean, people who are new to it, that’s kind of, oh, I’ve heard of this thing called retargeting works. What’s the quickest, easiest way I can get live? Yeah. And so, you know, that’s the nice thing about retargeting is that even that quickest, easiest thing can perform. All right? And at least, you know, at least has a really good subjective feel to it that you know your friend and see the ads and, you know, your mom sees that and tells you and so forth. So it’s usually enough to get marketers to think about it a little bit more and a little bit more in-depth and a little more sophisticated way. Okay. It’s actually this data set that we have and that’s starting. You know, that’s kind of an evolution in the way marketers think in general, that there is this kind of growth hacker, you know, notion about looking at our data sets, looking at our CRM, looking at who we should target, how they perform and all that. So, you know, I think retargeting is kind of part of that big data theme about. Without a doubt.

Bronson: Yeah. And then when it comes to like really gathering that data, all those data sets, I know earlier you mentioned that you could put the one pixel image on your side or the JavaScript embed and then you guys kind of pull data from that. Are you pulling really detailed data from that? Like, Oh, they click to purchase this thing and then abandon the cart? Oh, they went over here and looked at the blue sedan, like, are you guys getting that granular just from the JavaScript or do I have to implement other third party solutions to really get that data? How does it really work together?

Adam: No. Yeah, that’s how it works. So yeah, single piece of. JavaScript will. We’ll look at those variables that you mentioned and create segments based on what product category down to the specific product level. Yeah. And yeah, I mean, the way it works from a data collection perspective on our site is that we have a data warehouse that creates a profile for each anonymous cookie I.D. that says this person looked at this many products and these specific pages, these URLs. And in fact, that allows us to create what we call retroactive segmentations. So basically, even if a even if a marketer didn’t think upfront, oh, I want to create people who looked at pants because we have a new pants line coming out. We can wear our data warehouse, pull all of the people, all the cookies that we have that look, look at product pages and create a new segment on the fly. So a lot of powerful things that advertisers are just getting started with on what we call the average reactive segments.

Bronson: Yeah. Now, I mean, just to make sure I’m just double checking here, so you don’t need a developer to go in and like put a little piece of code next to the sign up button, put a little piece of code next to the image like you really are just tracking all of this from a single embed.

Adam: Yeah. I mean, and that’s I think that that’s always the objective of the technology companies make the really complex things simple. So we were doing a lot of the complex like data crunching under under the hood. But then an implementation is just like on Google Analytics, single piece of code. Yeah. And all of the, you know, business rules stuff should be able to be done by a human in an interface that’s pleasant and understandable. Mm hmm. So, you know, we had a big UX team also that’s seeing where people run into issues with campaign set up and reporting and what we want to see and how they want to act on it and interact with their campaigns. So we spend a lot of time on the data with a native team that doesn’t spend a lot of time on the UI, just looks at how we bind to these algorithms, how can we help people target better? And then there’s a UI team that’s thinking, okay, well, how can we make it easier for people to do these really powerful things with that data?

Bronson: Yeah, that’s great. You know, also, when I was looking online, I noticed in some of your ads that you talked about how you turn a $1 into $10. Is I hyperbole or is that like a typical rally for some companies? I mean, how does that actually work?

Adam: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, that you know, you get very quickly into an attribution conversation, taking a pretty typical attribution model of click credit, a small amount of you credit. And that’s that’s that’s a not untypical performance result by any stretch. And then, you know, there’s all sorts of ways, you know, I think the ties to something that we’ve really focused on, which is which is being flexible because we know that every company measures has different KPIs when it comes to their marketing and they measure things differently and they’re shooting for different they measuring performance in different ways. So having a platform to be very flexible is they okay, you’re trying to optimize for this conversion and you measure it a certain way. But let’s back into that versus kind of coming up being like, here’s the attribution model, but you have to provide kind of expectations and so forth. And that’s based on a pretty typical type of attribution model.

Bronson: Yeah, that’s right. So with with the people watching this interview, they’re going to be kind of two things going on. One that has learned a lot from you about, oh, what’s that?

Adam: APPLAUSE, big one.

Bronson: Yeah, the applause being one. Absolutely. And they’re going to learn a lot about AD or how to use it, how to think about retargeting, how to really attack that, you know, channel. But also maybe that now they can learn about how AdRoll itself grew because you have your own growth story and you have to get customers yourself and you have to build your own user base. Let’s talk about that a little bit. You mentioned some numbers, how big you are in the Facebook exchange compared to other advertisers. What kinds of growth have you all experienced? I don’t know what numbers are public, but whatever you can share. How big have you guys gotten right now?

Adam: Yeah, we’re pretty transparent about that kind of stuff. We have the largest retargeting, largest customer base of any retargeting platform, over 6000 active advertisers. In March, they were actually active running campaigns and adding, I think around 900 or so per month these days. And, you know, revenue wise, we tripled last year. We recently announced that and on pace to triple again this year revenue perspective. So yeah I mean the growth is great and you know, I think it’s a combination of, you know, once again in retrospect, having started the company, right, like we closed our series A three weeks before Lehman went bankrupt. So, you know, a good time to hunker down, find the best possible developers, best possible engineering team, best possible product team, and just build an awesome product. And then, you know, growth gets a lot easier when the product really speaks for itself. So we are, you know, on marketing, we can take credit for a lot of things. At the end of the day, we really our goal is just to let people try it, be consultative, help them use the platform better. And we know if we can do that, they’ll they’ll have good success and growth.

Bronson: And that’s something we hear over and over on this program, is how important the product is, that marketing can only do so much. The product has to be something that people actually will. But leaving aside the product for a second, because Adderall is a good product. What have been your primary customer acquisition channels? How are you finding new customers? How are you retaining old customers? What kind of strategies are you guys using to actually grow the user base to 6000 like you have now?

Adam: Well, I mean, it’s a little bit circular, no doubt. Our biggest acquisition channel is our free trial. We’re only able to offer that because we know the rate at which people convert from a free trial to eventually see the value of the service and therefore pay for it. Well, what does that.

Bronson: Free trial like? Where are you giving them? How long is it where they get in return? What kind of retention rate do you have? How much do they upgrade? I mean, walk me through that a little bit.

Adam: Yeah, I can’t give you every.

Bronson: That’s right.

Adam: But yeah, I mean, the way where it stands today, it’s about $60 in media, which usually we try to budget at for about two weeks. So it’s kind of like a two week free trial. You know, the goal, the goal and there’s sort of a we attract relate that to larger advertisers as well as we put together test plan for that. So I always like to talk about the fact that we have advertisers spending as little as $100 a month on the platform and as much as $100,000 a month. So but the $100,000 budget doesn’t come in overnight. It comes in with a test and then it grows and so forth. So taking that, you know, point of view that like, hey, we stand behind this, you want to put enough commitment behind the test to get good data and get a fair insight into how it will perform, but also not too much skin in the game that you feel like you put too much at risk to try something that you’re unsure about. So we walk that line and the free trial is our most obvious external aspect of that. And our conversion rates from free trial to buying the product are very high and our retention rates are not mid upper 90% range from month to month. And the nice thing about retiring it’s performance channel. So to perform as well, people grow their budgets. So we also see their budgets grow month over month. But see also in that because they’re getting good results.

Bronson: Yeah, absolutely. Besides the free trial, is there any other kind of main strategy or even secondary strategy that you guys use after that?

Adam: You know, we try to we we have a unique view of the retargeting space because of the volume that we have, the number of customers and the length of our experience. So we try to be consultative once again. I think our marketing comes back to that. We don’t we try not to be too, you know, excessively outspoken. We try to be helpful. We try to provide data and information that is useful to people who are looking for information about how to do retargeting, had the retargeting better, what to expect, how it can perform for their particular business. Because such a breadth of customers across so many verticals, we’re particularly well-suited to provide that kind of information. So we try to focus our marketing and, you know, lack of better content marketing around that, providing that is useful help people run better retargeting and answers their questions. And then, you know, once they the more they know, the more likely they are to choose us. We go, Yeah.

Bronson: Yeah, yeah. You mentioned content marketing consulting and you mentioned your free trial. And those are kind of like repetitive. You can do those every week, kind of to acquire new users. Has there been anything that was like a one time strategy that worked out really well for you? Something that’s not really repeatable or, you know, nothing you can really do again. But it was like, wow, that really worked for what it was.

Adam: Well, I should add also that one of our evergreen strategies is our own retargeting campaign, which is it.

Bronson: Kind of goes without saying, I guess.

Adam: Cost per acquisition, it’s a free trial, so that’s another one. And then, you know, I’m trying to think of a specific example, but we do use we do think about, you know, doing the same way you do an email blast. You can kind of do a a layer of strategy on your retargeting campaign. So using that to inverse to say, hey, new dashboards out, let’s broadcast that to everybody, existing customers, new customers. So, you know, we do think of our retargeting strategy in terms of firsts and peaks. Also, if we have a particular piece of content we want to make sure people know about and so forth and then, you know, point in, you know, other kind of one time shot, you know, we had an awesome opportunity as being part of the one of the first three or so, four or five customers that were able to use Facebook Exchange. So we wanted to take advantage of that moment in time and talk about that and talk about why we thought it was a great channel. And that’s what has brought out really.

Bronson: Well for us. Yeah. Do you have any growth strategies kind of right over the horizon, stuff that you’re wanting to try that just don’t have the time resources or whatever yet that you can think of?

Adam: Well, you know, the whole goals that you envision, I think this is true of, you know, of any startup, but there’s there’s there’s a virtuous cycle where the where the rich get richer kind of thing. So, you know, as you are, you know, not that we’re not very rich by any stretch, but, you know. As as you achieve success, you have greater opportunity to be more successful in recruiting easier. For example, when you have a success story, you get asked to speak at, you know, these types of things. And then that helps you, you know, bring your message and brand to a to an audience. So, you know, there’s not a specific thing that we’re saving up for.

Bronson: It was being successful, so you can be more successful. That’s the advice to.

Adam: Build on our successes, for sure. We have we have a long view. We think this is a awesome space to be in. So, you know, we are saving up for a new like conference booth. So looking forward to unveiling that. But you know, in the grand scheme of things, that’s a that’s a small investment. And what’s more important is kind of nurturing relationships with our customers, helping our customers tell the story. Also, it’s going to be a big theme that I don’t know. Once again, kind of tying back to the idea that, hey, we have this great customer base, let’s make sure we empower them to tell, to refer people and things like that. So more of the things along those lines as.

Bronson: Well as you’ve kind of watched the growth of Admiral, has anything really surprised you about it? I’m sure you came in with like hopes or expectations or this is what the graph is going to look like when I look at our numbers in a couple of years. Has anything surprised you or has it been kind of like, yeah, that’s what I expected.

Adam: Yeah, it’s kind of well, no, definitely not. I mean, it’s kind of ironic. I mean, the thing that’s been surprising is that and it doesn’t look it. I don’t think people capture this from the outside, but it’s taken a really long time. You know, the grand scheme of things. We started the company in 2007 and you know, I think there’s a notion that it’s like, okay, we’re a start this overnight success and that has not been the case. So, you know, to me it doesn’t I think to people on the outside, they may be like, oh, you guys are you guys are getting great. Guys are growing so much lately. Really big success stories like that. Well, it’s also been a really long time. We’ve really been working hard for a long time on this. So, you know, the expectations that come in and have an overnight success is probably pretty unrealistic. But, you know, you put in the work and you’re okay with gradual learning and building iterative successes that that builds up doing every little thing you can. Really well done.

Bronson: Well, yeah. You think about the numbers you’ve already told us, you know, 6000 users, you’re adding a few hundred each month. Now, it’s not hard to do the reverse math on that and see that in year one you didn’t have any customers, you know, I mean, you look at it’s like, okay, you’re adding a couple of hundred a month now and you’re at 6000 like the first couple of years. You guys are just fighting to live, right? I mean, that’s really I must have been.

Adam: Right. Yeah. You know, it is a horrible economy and we just stayed really close. And then not only did that cause us to focus on product, but, you know, the little few customers that we did have would give you very sincere feedback. They would keep their dollars, you know, and if you were if they’re holding on to dollars, you know, as tight as they possibly can, if your product isn’t delivering for them, they’re not going to use it. And so we didn’t have the luxury of the delusion of the winning ourselves and thinking that things were working when they weren’t. We got very quick customer feedback and you know, we have that kind of recession era mentality as a company that we want to stay very close to our customers, make sure they’re delivering awesome results because we appreciate the hell out of every single one of them that we know how how hard it was to get customers. And so we just do appreciate them very nearly today.

Bronson: Yeah, this has been a great interview. I don’t have one last question for you and you might have already answered it here in the last little bit. We’ll see. What’s the best advice that you have for any startup that’s trying to grow and trying to acquire new users? What bits of advice would you leave them with?

Adam: Yeah, unfortunately it’s the hard advice, which is the focus on the product. First you can you might be able to fool people with marketing for a certain amount of time. At the end of the day, if you have that product that you really believe in, even if it’s about starting solving a smaller problem, the first to solve that problem really well and listen to your customers really closely. And and and that will be the best path to growth.

Bronson: Perfect. You’re giving us so much good advice today. Thank you again for coming on the program. My pleasure.

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