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The Farmer in the Deal (Or: Sowing the Seeds of a Startup)

The Farmer in the Deal (Or: Sowing the Seeds of a Startup)

The most common question we get here at PebblePost is: “How did you come up with the idea for Programmatic Direct Mail®?”

The answer is like that old saying: slowly at first, and then all at once.

I have a deep background in digital and programmatic advertising, of course, dating back to its earliest days. And like a lot of people I was fascinated by how quickly programmatic evolved. It swept through display advertising, swept through email, and then into video ads. People thought the next stop would be in-home, with IPTV, then on to radio, outdoor, etc.

I was concerned with IPTV privacy issues and with liquidity—how to get high-quality video ads to run at the right time in the right place.

At any rate, I’d been giving the question of where programmatic would go next a lot of thought. And one of my favorite places to think is at my farm in upstate New York. It’s a rural retreat, mostly just fields and woods—a great antidote to city stress. When I’m there with my family I’ll often lose myself in a simple task and let my mind go wherever it wants. Call it free-range thinking.

So one day I was cutting a field on my tractor, running all these various programmatic scenarios through my head, when it hit me: Wait a minute. Everybody forgot about direct mail. It’s the second-largest ad spend next to TV. It has the highest response rate of any media. And there’s been no new product in 25 years…

I turned the tractor around and headed back toward the house, still thinking: If you could do retargeting with direct mail and make that work, you could build up a lot of data and eventually make a complete programmatic loop…

I knew there would be a lot of technical details to work out, which is why I couldn’t wait to talk to my buddy Rob Victor back in New York City. I knew he had this really great idea for a workflow management system that would bring digital tools to direct mail. We might be able to merge ideas into something really big. Own programmatic for an entire marketing channel. So I sent Rob a text: Let’s grab a beer. I got a big idea.

After that I went back outside, got on my tractor and finished thinking through the basic framework of what became Programmatic Direct Mail®.

I’ve told that story often. And I had just finished telling it to my dinner companions at an event PebblePost sponsored in San Francisco when a woman I’d never met gave me a dumbfounded look. Apparently she’d heard only the very last part of the story. “Wait,” she said. “Are you telling me that before all this you were a farmer?”

Yup, that’s me and Rob. Just a couple of entrepreneurs in overalls, working that fertile land where American Gothic meets programmatic.

#digital  #programmatic  #startup  #tangiblemedia  #founder

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About Lewis

Lewis GershChairman and Founder at PebblePost, former VC in adtech, long-time endurance athlete, happy dad to “The Heathens.”

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