Los Angeles-based adtech and digital advertising company SteelHouse has been pushing forward on transparency and promoting the power of creativity, which is why the company recently launched the Premier Edition of its Advertising Suite at SXSW. They are calling it the “world’s first fully transparent, self-serve retargeting solution with creative capabilities.”
The product is ultimately designed to make retargeting easier for marketers of any skill level.
“Any company selling retargeting based only on performance is living in the past—basic performance is now table stakes,” said Mark Douglas, SteelHouse president and CEO. “Marketers want to know four things: that their ads look amazing, where their ads are running, what they paid, and how their ads truly perform. That’s why we built Premier.”
To help implement its new vision, SteelHouse also hired a slate of new C-level people, beefing up its executive leadership team.
David Simon has been appointed new chief marketing officer. Simon is an adtech industry veteran who relocated to LA from Boston, replacing Patrizio Spagnoletto, who joined Hulu late last year.
Boris Bronshteyn joins as SteelHouse's first chief technology officer, coming from Target Media Partners Interactive, where he was VP of technology.
Chris Innes, one of SteelHouse's first team members, was promoted to COO from chief monetization officer, a first role for the company.
All of the new appointments follow the recent hiring of Google vet Natalie Serota as VP, head of business development.
The new crew is already at work helping push the team forward and embrace the new technology.
“We’ve seen a lot of companies come and go and we just keep growing,” said Douglas, discussing how adtech companies have consolidated, which he feel is positive because it will result in a smaller number of players with differently shaded software solutions.
With SteelHouse’s Premier Advertising Suite, anyone in the marketing world can easily create ads, quickly place a pixel, define their campaign goal, set their budget, and launch their campaigns through multiple channels – including desktop, mobile, in-app, native, Facebook, and Instagram – in minutes instead of days or weeks. Within hours their campaign will go live, driving highly-qualified leads to make a purchase. The Premier edition leverages the same scalable SteelHouse technology, which has generated billions of dollars in business for thousands of global brands.
“The most innovative part of this release is the SteelHouse Creative Suite because it means no one has to settle for average, off-brand ads,” said Marwan Soghaier, chief product officer at SteelHouse. “Our Creative Suite is groundbreaking. It offers marketers the ability to fully customize professionally-designed templates that automatically size for multiple channels and populate with dynamic product. Ads that look like they took weeks to build go out in minutes. The best part is, they perform.”
Creativity in adtech?
Creativity is one reason Simon came on board, along with the company’s forward-thinking attitude.
“This is a company that's really going to be a part of the next chapter in advertising because of the way it looks at both the technology and the responsible way it looks at serving the industry,” said Simon. “My goal is to really focus on identity and differentiation to the brands so that we're in a place where people have a really crystal clear understanding of who we are and what we do that's different and better.”
While the adtech world is not usually associated with creativity, Simon saw that the company was rooted in a creative nature, which is his background. That’s a key focus in how he sees SteelHouse’s continued growth.
“I think that creativity is fundamentally undervalued in adtech and I think that the opportunity, and maybe our ability to rise above, cut through and differentiate in the marketplace, is to focus on our creative tool set and the way that we work with creative people – and even taking that as far as to how you present the brand,” he said.
Simon added that SteelHouse is not a boring brand. Even when adtech is driven by math and product, a company like theirs has an opportunity to emphasize their own creativity and that of their clients. Creative people are always looking for that next tool – the one that is going to help them express themselves more completely, and SteelHouse can position to creative people that they can be creative while the company gives them the tools to allow them to do their job well, fluidly and effectively.
“If you're creating ads, you want to make ads that work and having the connection to information to let you know whether your ads are working best is going to help you do that better. I think our position to them is, ‘We help you do what you do best.’”
Transparency is key
Helping creatives and others in the ad world do their best involves a level of transparency that Douglas and his crew know is vital, especially since many in the business haven’t taken true transparency to heart.
“Generally, businesses do things in their own best interest even when it in some way could be a conflict with their customers’ best interests. If a customer is demanding certain data, that data could lead to different decisions and those decisions might temporarily not be positive for your business. I think it's in the industry's interest to just take the hit and give customers what they want. If you just give them more confidence you just wind up in a better place,” said Douglas.
SteelHouse even changed their business model during the company’s best sales month ever, because Douglas felt it was the right thing to do.
“At the time we were doing media-based pricing. Essentially you buy from us, we keep a certain percent, but it wasn't clear to you what that percentage was. I asked team: ‘If you were starting a company today, would you choose the pricing model we currently have?’ And everyone in the room said they would not. So, in our fastest growing month in the company's history we started a move to change the transparent pricing.”
That started a new pathway for SteelHouse, which sprung a trend towards total transparency, which is everything being out on the table, available to the client, including any data.
“Everything's out in the open in the company, so it extends to how we work with our customers,” added Douglas.
The Premier Advertising Suite is a performance marketing solution, according to the company, and it’s built for marketing teams and companies of all sizes. It’s not necessarily built for professional media buyers. Douglas described it “more like E-Trade and less like Bloomberg – you don’t have to be a professional trader to use it.
“We are cutting out everything in adtech that you would not want, and we're being completely transparent about it,” he added, noting that transparency and automation are big parts of the product, but that it is built around the SteelHouse Creative Suite.
“It's the most transparent and most effective media buyer you could ever hire – a combination of transparent, clean advertising combined with all the tools so you can all do it yourself. I think it's a pretty compelling solution. We knew exactly who it was for and how we wanted people to perceive and use it. Those things: total transparency, creative, and automation are the underpinnings of the product.”