Malaysian serial entrepreneur Alvin Koay wants to stand up for the little guy. His first tech venture, MobileApps, strove to help developers rise above the din and get discovered through interactive ads.
Now, with his new startup RichMediaAds, a self-serve ad creation platform, he hopes to enable anyone to make ads that are more clickable than even professionally made ones.
Alvin’s bet is that by turning ads into actionable and interactive mini-websites, advertisers can generate far more bang for their buck while publishers can charge higher rates.
So just how are the ads interactive? Here’s a laundry list: It can play videos, conduct a poll, make reservations, redeem a special offer, and buy stuff. And that’s just a sampling.
The goal is to dramatically lift banner ads from being the bane of the Internet and turn them into the next shiny thing. As users already know, banner ads are often an annoyance to readers and ineffective for publishers, generating a dismal 0.09% click-through rate.
Making banner ads more attractive and eye-catching is a potential solution. In recent years, many startups have tried to do this, and in addition they tack on ad creation tools to make generating ads much easier.
So RichMediaAds is definitely not a rare species in this space. Amobee has PULSE Create, which lets marketers create rich media and 3D mobile ads. 2359Media has Mobdis, a similar solution but without the 3D component (yet). Perhaps the most similar startup to Alvin’s is Flite.com, which integrates web apps into its ads.
But all these services have a problem, says Alvin.They’re too specialized for the general public. PULSE Create and Mobdis are targeted at marketers and hence offer more advanced features. Meanwhile, Flite is too costly as it serves top 20 publications.
In essence, RichMediaAds targets what Alvin calls “entry-level advertisers”, which are your restaurants, spas, smaller brands, freelance designers and small agencies. In other words, the DIY creators.
On the publisher side, bloggers and website owners can white-label the solution for free and offer it to advertisers. They can even create ads themselves on behalf of brands, earning more from the creative work.
All this sounds good in theory, but it’ll be some time before RichMediaAds can prove that its platform works. It’s currently in public beta, so it could go under the surgical knife a few more times before hitting the sweet spot in product/market fit.
Much of the technology used to build RichMediaAds is based on MobileApps, Alvin’s previous failed venture. Apparently, standing up for the little guy can have its perils, especially if the market — mobile developers in this case — is too small and niche.
RichMediaAds is standing in an interesting crossroads as far as digital advertising is concerned.
First is the rise of mobile devices and the fact that more eyeballs are migrating to smartphones and tablets. Ads created on Alvin’s platform are based on HTML5, which makes it iFriendly. He made an interesting choice of not focusing on native ads at this point — but that’s something he could go into later.
Second is an increasingly boisterous camp that insists that banner ads will be history. These startups — Kiip and Gimmie among them — believe that the future of advertising lies in offering users something tangible, perhaps a reward or coupon, and making it an integrated part of an app experience, mobile games being a good example.
It’s anybody’s guess how the digital ads industry will pan out, since there’s still so much experimentation going on. Facebook definitely has a lot to say on this subject matter too.
Nonetheless, it’s likely that online and mobile advertising will become increasingly prominent, taking a larger slice of the overall advertising pie.
If all goes according to plan, ‘RichMediaAds’ could very well be a prophetic word.
RichMediaAds was incorporated in Singapore. While Alvin was working on MobileApps, he received seed funding from i-Freek Inc, a public-listed mobile giant in Japan.