How AdSkate is reinventing online advertising with AI

What is the first thing that appears as soon as you open a website? A dialogue box that says “Do you want to accept cookies?”, to which we simply click “Yes” without thinking. The next second, the website’s digital servants get to work: they record our online behavior, such as how long we stay on the site, what content we access, our location, etc.

This data is then sold to companies around the world, who then use this information to bombard us with targeted advertisements. Biting cookies earns brands and tech giants billions of dollars. What about our privacy? It’s in the “trash” the moment we said “yes”.

But what if there was a way to reach people with targeted ads without compromising privacy? That’s what AdSkate does. The 2019-founded ad tech company offers an “AI solution that provides brands with relevant contextual data for pay-per-click and programmatic buy-in campaigns.”

find the gap

The start-up, founded by Akaash Ramakrishnan, Salil Save and Shreyas Venugopalan, graduated from three acceleration programs (VentureBridge from Carnegie Mellon University, Pax Momentum, AlphaLabs from Innovation Works) and is part of an incubation program ( Carnegie Mellon University’s Project Olympus). Its headquarters are in Pittsburgh with a presence in Toronto, Canada. Recently, it raised $5,00,000 in a pre-seed funding round.

(L to R) Shreyas Venugopalan, Akaash Ramakrishnan and Salil Save — the team behind AdSkate.

(L to R) Shreyas Venugopalan, Akaash Ramakrishnan and Salil Save — the team behind AdSkate.

Describing how they started, Akaash Ramakrishnan, says, “Salil and I have known each other for a long time, while Shreyas and Salil know each other from their time in Pittsburgh. One day Salil called me and asked if there was an urgent business need in the ad tech ecosystem that could be solved using artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning. automatic (ML).

This led to a discussion about contextual targeting. And then the three had a call to set in motion what AdSkate is today. The trio, Ramakrishnan says, was a perfect match, each with backgrounds in AI, ad tech, sales and business development.

Contextual targeting

Ramakrishnan describes how cookies have changed the way advertising works on the Internet. “But now, thanks to laws like the General Data Protection Regulation, people are realizing how important privacy is. The Facebook-Cambridge Analytica data scandal was also a game-changer,” he says. .

This is where AdSkate comes in. Instead of relying on cookies, their AI and ML technology focuses on “contextual targeting”. This is how it works. When a brand contacts AdSkate, the startup uses its artificial intelligence technology to scour a list of target websites relevant to the brand. The technology analyzes the content of these websites and then suggests where advertisements for the brands’ products can be placed.

Ramakrishnan gives an example. “Suppose a sports brand wants to sell shoes. We would list a collection of websites they should target. Now suppose the brand chooses ESPN. tennis content section of the website,” he says, adding web content with relevant advertisements makes it easier for a brand to find niche customers who will be ready to click and buy.

Safety factor

The team even takes a brand’s “safety factor” into account. “Taking the same example, suppose the website content contains an article by a sportsman speaking negatively about Indian tennis. Readers here will understandably be upset. ‘ads in this section.”, says Ramakrishnan. “It’s critical to consider the mood of the user engaging the content based on which they will react to the ad.”

AdSkate has a list of over 800 content topics under which advertisements for their clients are placed. “We call it the opt-in list and it keeps growing. We take what’s most relevant to the brand, the product, and then launch the campaign,” he says.

This form of online ads is new and growing. At first, convincing customers was a challenge. “But as the government wakes up to the need for data protection, people are slowly realizing its importance and brands are also learning.”

Ramakrishnan also says that due to the pandemic, product placement ads in a movie scene are now actively sought after as “brands see the growth of OTT platforms.”

The path to follow

While this may all sound great from an internet user’s perspective, what are the marketers saying? What are the challenges ahead in a world without cookies?

Jessie Paul, CEO of Paul Writer, a B2B marketing agency, says: “For businesses, the implication is that there will be a disruption among those who had non-sticky relationships with their readers and users. The biggest beneficiaries sales reps are the ones who actually ‘know’ their customers and have a kind of door-to-door service.”

She advises, “For marketers, there needs to be a shift to other ways of targeting customers, such as through psychographics and demographics, in addition to data obtained with their consent. We can use context, cohorts and common sense to talk to consumers”.

Published on

June 26, 2022