My name is Lewis Gersh, and I am co-founder and CEO of PebblePost™. I have been founding and investing in technology companies since the mid-90’s under the vision that I term Transactional Media. It’s been a rollercoaster of highs and lows, steeped in melodrama, much of which this blog will delve into over time. Today is one of the highs. I have never been more excited than I am today, as we unveil PebblePost™ and Programmatic Direct Mail, a perfect application of Transactional Media.
The vision of Transactional Media focuses on how information is exchanged between parties and across media, a ‘communication transaction.” This is often between brands and consumers in the form of content and/or commerce. Within these transactions, innovation seeks to drive greater efficiency and efficacy, often by increasing and leveraging relevancy. Think of Google search results with ads - intent data, efficient and effective, relevant.
I founded two ventures incorporating Transactional Media in the late 90’s in partnership with AOL and Omnicom’s Organic Online. One was a store and one was content. Both leveraged user-driven segmentation, connecting consumers with brands, and the results were highly effective.
In 2002, in our leftover office space, I started one of the first angel investment accelerators. In 2006, it became one of the earliest seed funds in the country, Gersh Venture Partners. I used a Transactional Media investment strategy focused on B2B start-ups to take advantage of the nascent advent of Ad Exchanges, Real-Time Bidding, APIs with reliability and ubiquity, and Big Data.
The portfolio grew to 12 companies, enjoyed 3 very successful exits (FetchBack, Industrybrains, Tranvia), with other winners like Madison Logic and Bombora growing strong. Transactional Media was working very well as an investment strategy and it was time to grow the opportunity.
I changed GVP’s name to Metamorphic Ventures, then added a first and later a second partner, and under my Transactional Media strategy we built the largest portfolio of B2B targeting companies including Chango, ThinkNear, Tapad, Sailthru, Moveable Ink, 33Across, RetailNext, iSocket, Mass Relevance, BuzzPoints, Qualia, Boost Media, Indiegogo, and others. This petri dish of Transactional Media investments was fascinating to me, and here’s why.
Each CEO could not believe what the other CEOs were doing to make their version of targeting work and how much they varied from each other. The nuances across both data inputs and the outputs they were applying it to all behaved very differently. Every aspect is a variable and use-case dependent. Each company had to find its own equilibrium of efficiency and efficacy in a communication transaction between a brand and consumer. The common thread is finding relevancy, and relevancy changes based on virtually limitless variables.
After 10 years and ~50 deals as the founder and CEO of Metamorphic Ventures, this ‘accidental VC’ has gone back to the operating side to apply Transactional Media in the biggest manner yet.
Rob Victor and I have co-founded PebblePost™ to enable Programmatic Direct Marketing using the world’s intent data.
We are thrilled to announce the world’s first Programmatic Direct Mail platform that transforms real-time online activity into personalized direct mail. We are connecting the power of Digital’s real-time intent data with the efficacy of Direct Mail. Direct Mail is the largest marketing channel next to TV with the highest performance after telemarketing.
Our integrated Programmatic Direct Mail™ platform includes Segmentation, Workflow, Analytics and Optimization, creating a highly efficient closed-loop system.
Our platform encompasses the world’s first:
- Ad server for direct mail
- Workflow management system for end-to-end digital-to-direct mail campaign management, production and mailing
- Real-time analytics on response path and conversion activity
- Continuous, daily optimization of dynamically rendered direct mail.
Our first product offering is Retargeting with Direct Mail. Customers who visit one of our customer’s sites will be sent an open-faced mail piece (aka a postcard) about 3 days later based on the parts of the site they visited.
An enormous amount of innovation was required to make this work efficiently, effectively, and economically. Several issues seemed insurmountable on functionality alone. The data inputs and outputs behave very differently than anything experienced before in either the online or direct mail environments. It took significant, necessary learning and tuning to achieve a successful result that is all now baked into our platform.
We, and the customers on our platform, have discovered that Programmatic Direct Mail greatly enhances the relationship between brands and consumers. Response and conversion rates are outperforming targeted digital and direct mail channels by orders of magnitude, with significantly higher average order value and extremely high ROI. We solve several of the biggest plagues on the digital advertising landscape: viewability, fraud, and ad blocking. We are 100% privacy compliant with complete 1:1 transparency. And it doesn’t interfere with the user experience.
With Programmatic Direct Mail the efficiency of digital meets the effectiveness of direct mail, and the relevancy of the communication transaction between brand and consumer is truly Transactional Media harmony.
And we’re just getting started.