Former Googlers Launch Drawbridge to Take Retargeted Ads Cross-Platform

Ad retargeting is a growing trend, with everyone from Google to startups like AdRoll and ReTargeter trying to target ads to people after they leave a website or perform an online search. The next frontier of advertising is cross-platform advertising, the ability to target an ad to a user on their desktop, and then follow them to their tablet, smartphone, or other device. While retargeting companies are increasingly working on mobile retargeting solutions, most are just working on siloed solutions for each device, rather than a truly cross-platform solution.

Startup Drawbridge raised $6.5 million in Series A funding in May 2012 for its cross-platform online advertising platform, and at the time founder/CEO and former Google/AdMob information scientist Kamakshi Sivaramakrishnan called cross-platform ads the “Holy Grail” of modern marketing. Until now the company hasn’t released any products publicly, and today its pulling back the curtains and launching two products, Drawbridge for App Marketing and Drawbridge for Cross Device Marketing, aimed at helping companies target and retarget their users across various devices. Both products let marketers run targeted mobile ad campaigns, so they can target mobile users either based on previous website visitors, or based on their demographic and behavioral profile, segmenting by location, device, and other details. With the app marketing product, the goal is always an app install, while for the cross-drive product, the goal could be anything from filling out a form, to a website visit, to an app install.

Eric Rosenblum left Google to join Drawbridge as VP of Product this summer, and he says that while currently advertisers can run mobile advertising and retargeting campaigns, connecting the dots between the desktop and mobile is Drawbridge’s key value proposition. “From our view looking at it from the outside, cross-device was really the next big frontier, that the world is not only going mobile but is going cross-device,”  Rosenblum said in an interview. “Previously you could not extend a campaign from desktop to mobile using the same targeting criteria, or you could not retarget the same individual.”

Retargeting online is done by tracking a cookie in their browser, but there’s no mobile equivalent of a cookie, which has led to problems trying to track and retarget users on their mobile devices. Drawbridge is able to tie a user back to their device, rather than just being able to target a mobile user by device type. “Applications across iOS and Android don’t have the concept of a cookie, and so you have to do something different,” Rosenblum said. “Essentially what we’re doing is using the desktop cookie, making a match to mobile devices, and using that bridge to serve the right ad to the right device.” Drawbridge matches mobile device identifiers to a desktop cookie by making a statistical match between the two. Rosenblum was quick to note they do this without using any personally identifiable information (PII), so it’s all anonymous.

The app marketing product is aimed more at developers trying to promote their apps, while the cross-device marketing product is targeted at marketers looking to amp up their mobile campaigns. The company’s closed beta involved testing with 50 companies, primarily gaming, ecommerce, media, and travel companies. “The common thread among all of these is that they have high lifetime value per user, and they care about post-action engagement,” Rosenblum said, for example companies that don’t just want a website view or a signup, but want users to engage on an ongoing basis, like Netflix, Spotify or an ecommerce site. In terms of pricing, the app marketing product is priced on a per-install basis, while for the cross-device marketing product users can pay on a per-install basis, or operate on a revenue sharing or cost-per-click model.

Since raising funding in May, Rosenblum said the company has paired 200 million devices with users, and that number is growing to over four million per day, with some campaigns garnering between 3-10 times the engagement that traditional online ads not leveraging the platform have been able to provide.

Sivaramakrishnan and Rosenblum’s former employer Google has its own retargeting solution, though to date they haven’t debuted any cross-platform solutions. It’s only a matter of time though before other retargeting and mobile advertising companies find their own way to advertise across platforms, though for now Drawbridge seems to be one of the only companies that has been able to crack the cross-device code.


Erin Bury

Erin Bury

Erin Bury is a Co-founder and CEO at Willful, an online estate planning platform. Also a former Managing Director at Eighty-Eight, a creative communications agency based in Toronto. She was formerly the Managing Editor at BetaKit. Follow her on Twitter at @erinbury.

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