WHAT: Matches brands with celebrities to start conversations about the brand and drive clicks, mainly on Twitter (paid, in-stream messages not allowed on Facebook). Target audiences include moms, sports fans, teen boys and girls, and men and women ages 18 to 34. Celebrities pick brands and approve copy, Ad.ly delivers the endorsement. Must have at least 25K followers to be accepted to platform.
Blingalytics, which Ad.ly developed for its own real-time business intelligence needs, is open-source software for tracking social engagement and creating custom reports. Also integrates with financial software for billing and revenue reporting. Built in Python.
LAUNCHER: Arnie Gullov-Singh, CEO, is a former Fox and Yahoo executive.
WHY BLINGALYTICS: Most startups don't have the time or resources to build a Blingalytics-type tool. Data is the difference between winning and losing. Ad.ly is built on open-source tools, and the company is committed to the open-source community.
WHEN/WHERE: Blingalytics: August 2, 2011 / Beverly Hills. Company: September 2009
BACKSTORY ON BLINGALYTICS: Arnie says that when he became CEO in May 2010, Ad.ly had "very little in the way of reporting and analytics so I made it a priority to build that out." The team built a framework rather than one-off reports. First teased at SemTech, a semantic technology conference, in June. Open-source version is Blingalytics 3.0.
WHAT AD.LY LEARNED FROM ITS DATA: What they call "long-tail influencers" were not creating nearly as much value as celebrities, and celebrities accepted endorsements at a much higher rate than the long-tail influencers. By fall 2010 the focus was entirely on celebrities.
BUSINESS MODEL: Percentage of ad campaigns. Arnie says they're working on a couple of other revenue platforms "announcing later this year." Also, he would consider a premium-service version of Blingalytics "down the line."
HOW CELEBS ARE PAID: Ad.ly crunches data to figure out how much a tweet from a celebrity is worth and monitors that price over time. "We have a platform that essentially helps us bundle up celebrities into package we can sell to advertisers," says Arnie.
ON SUPPLY AND DEMAND: Ad.ly currently has more supply than demand. "We're not rushing to sign up more people," says Arnie.
COMPETITION: Sponsored Tweets (part of IZEA), Twitter's new in-stream advertising, MyLikes.
STATS: 24K endorsements, over 1K celebrities, 150 top brands. About 80% of Ad.ly's celebrities are in the U.S., 20% in the rest of the world (think Bollywood stars, soccer players, Latin pop stars).
BEST-KNOWN SUCCESS STORY: Helping actor Charlie Sheen get on Twitter (1M followers in about 24 hours) in March then running a campaign with him for Internships.com.
ON THE MARKET: Arnie says the number of clicks is going up, suggesting that the market for celebrity ads in social media is still growing. He sees Ad.ly as similar to Google AdSense in the value it provides as a network: "There are thousands of famous people that are either becoming more famous and driving more engagement or becoming less famous and driving less engagement. Having them all in one place for marketers to tap into creates a lot more efficiency in the marketplace."
ON AD.LY'S RELIANCE ON TWITTER: "We're more dependent on celebrities than Twitter," says Arnie. "We just happen to be using Twitter as distribution right now."
ON GOOGLE+: "There are certainly a couple of celebrities on Google+ but not nearly as many as on Twitter and not nearly the engagement. People have signed up, but they're not using it actively yet," Arnie says, adding, "Google needs to figure out how to get people to come back and use the platform."
WHO BACKED IT: GRP Partners, Greycroft Partners, angel Matt Coffin.
TOTAL RAISED: $6M, most recently $5M in May 2010.
NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES: 16
1. "Adly CEO Arnie Gullov-Singh on the Social Era of Celebrity Endorsements" (Brian Solis, April 29, 2011)
2. "Celebrity Endorsements Still Push Product" (AdAge, September 22, 2010)
3. "How Hollywood Learned to Love the Semantic Web" (Ad.ly blog, June 22, 2011)
4. Tweets from Snooki and other cast members from MTV's "Jersey Shore" to promote Disney's "Prom" movie.
[ Ad.ly marketing VP Krista Thomas says the Snooki tweets "got massive traffic and a fantastic CTR for the campaign overall." ]
CONTACTS & LINKS
Email: arnie at adly dot com
Investor and board member: Mark Suster, GRP Partners