“It’s the great ad-sales battle of our time,” declared the Wall Street Journal this May: web publishers’ attempts to snatch some of the $68.5 billion companies will spend on television advertising this year. The fact that even that snippet of info was delivered via an online video, and prefaced by a web commercial, shows how far down that road we are.
Coming in with a creative offering is Adways, a Parisian firm specializing in interactive video advertising. Brands such as Decathlon have already been wooed by the company’s package, which includes the embedding of clickable information such as the racquet used by a tennis player, or the t-shirt worn by a clothing model.
Interactive video click-rates are 11-times higher than classic video ads, says Adways: no wonder the firm is viewing 2014 as a year of increased expansion, after a certain California-headquartered outfit inspired the progression of a long-held idea.
“It was an early morning on July 20, 2010,” explains CEO Jaques Cazin, “and it was very simple: the iPad was being launched, and we saw something very interesting. People were starting to click, to touch, in a way they hadn’t done before.”
Adways had a giant market to attack and changing consumer trends. But the product? That wasn’t so easy. “To be honest it took us two years longer than expected,” adds Cazin, whose company has relied on just $1 million of VC funding until now. “The studio we have today, working on a SaaS platform, took us ten years – which is a lot for a startup.” At the beginning each video was taking Adways three weeks, “like a pret-a-porter (offering),” adds Cazin.
Part of the difficulty was creating a tool that was agnostic from navigator or computer. Adways can now be used on Mac or PC, Firefox or Chrome – or more. “We started in an artisanal way, building our tools,” says Cazin.
Today, though, that patience appears to have paid off. The company has attracted $3 million additional funding, which will be in its coffers by the end of this year. Adways Inc. has opened an office in New York City. And Cazin’s charges are actively seeking sales reps in Florida, Los Angeles and Canada. The aim is to add seven regional heads by December 31, hence the funding spree. “If you want to hire six or seven guys in the U.S. you better have large pockets!” says Cazin.
But despite the growth of the business, Cazin is careful not to lose that artisanal touch that has served Adways so well. “With the Adways tool, the U.S. is scalable,” he says. “We have a really interesting tool now. But I still keep a team of experts, because people always want specific features we don’t have on the SaaS platform.”
Companies such as InMobi and InnoVid will continue to capture a big chunk of the interactive market. And Cazin is quick to assert that his is not a “revolutionary company.” But the ideas, and funding, are good. And with a 2014 that includes expansion into the U.S. market, Adways’ artisanal approach to interactive video advertising may pay dividends.