A few months ago, Vancouver-based Inbound Retargeting Technologies, which operates as Retarget Links, announced that it acquired Las Vegas-based competitor Primeloop for its IP. Retarget Links allows social media, inbound, and email advertisers to create short links that anonymously tag people clicking on the links.
While working as a small team of five, the startup is bullish in its goal to become a leader in the link retargeting space — and has just announced a $400,000 seed round to help it accomplish this goal.
“We took a lot of steps before coming to the current product, so we needed a lot of prototypes; at one point, in an earlier version, we used another retargeting provider as a way for us to prove the concept,” said Serge Salager, CEO and co-founder of Retarget Links. “What we’re doing now is managing our own ads directly…which is a complicated technology, and that’s where most of the money has been funnelled, so we can actually develop that technology.”
Retarget Links allows customers to create shortlinks that add a tag to whomever clicks on the links, and display banner ads on the websites they visit. Salager said that it’s a departure from the old way of running banner ads, which required brands to pay thousands of dollars to put their banners in publications and other websites that reached their target audience.
“You have to remember that a banner ad is prestigious, so showing a banner ad in the Wall Street Journal shows credibility; when your targets sees a banner ad, they believe it is important,” said Salager.
“It’s really democratizing banner ads and making that technology super accessible.” – Serge Salager, CEO of Retarget Links
Salager added that with link retargeting, customers have more choice in who actually sees their banner ads. He gives the example of a 16-year-old client who used Retarget Links’ service to promote her sweet 16 party; she sent shortlinks on content her friends would be interested in, and once they clicked, they were tagged and started seeing her sweet 16 banner ads whenever they visited websites like Vogue and Elle.
“It was only maybe 40 of her friends who saw the ad, but they were seeing those ads in Vogue magazine which was impressive thing about this technology. We allow super targeted ads — and she did it without even having a website,” said Salager. “She created the links with us, gave us her banner ads, and made sure people she wanted to show banner ads would click on the links. It’s really democratizing banner ads and making that technology super accessible.”
The seed round includes investors like 500 Startups, Tony Hsieh’s Vegas Techfund, and Seraph Group, as well as Vancouver investors Lance Tracey, Jim Fletcher, James Topham, Joan Plensa, Hein Brand. engageQ, a Vancouver-based digital marketing firm that doesn’t usually delve into investment, also participated in the round.
“We’ve never made an equity investment — until I saw this,” said Tod Maffin, strategy lead and president at engageQ. “In short, link retargeting is absolutely a game-changer in the online marketing space. Retargeting has already proven itself to be a very strong arrow in a marketer’s quiver, but until Inbound’s technology came along, it relied on having the target visit the advertiser’s website.”
Maffin said that because of the technology, target audiences no longer have to visit the advertiser’s website, since links in email signatures, product newsletters, and on social media can tag people. “Individual messaging can be displayed, depending on what link the target clicked on. That opens up paths to reach people with interests in specific products or services, rather than just a general branding message.”
Retarget Links’ customers include Uber, Staples, Freshbooks, Intercontinental Hotels Group (Holiday Inn, Crown Plaza), Shopify, and FreshGrade. The company plans to use the funding to commercialize its tech and pursue more trade partnerships. “For a marketer, this is radical technology, so being able to choose the customer you want to show a banner to is really mindblowing,” said Salager.