Interview: Swoop CEO Ron Elwell Introduces Swoop’s Ad Platform Focused on Deep Web Content Integration

Swoop has recently announced the launch of its service, which seamlessly integrates relevant information about products and services – at times in the form of sponsored content or advertising – into web content. We reached out to CEO Ron Elwell for more insights into what seems to be one of the most user-friendly and non-intrusive advertising solutions currently available.

Otilia Otlacan: Congratulations for Swoop launching its first vertical – food! Could you give us some insights into what made you work on a deep content integration solution for advertisements and information?

Ron Elwell: Over the past decade publishers and advertisers have seen declining engagement with display advertising. Engagement rates with display ads are now below 0.09% and less than 16% of users ever click on an ad. This has led to declining revenue for publishers, declining engagement for brands and consumers are faced with more disruptive and intrusive advertising. We believe that by focusing on enhancing the consumer’s experience, through providing information relevant to the content he or she is engaged with, we can address all those issues.

Otilia Otlacan: Can you explain a little how Swoop works and what differentiates it from traditional contextual advertising platforms such as Google AdSense?

Ron Elwell: Swoop is differentiated from these traditional contextual platforms in three ways. First, traditional contextual ad platforms gain an understanding of the content on the page. They are answering the question: “What is this page about?” So in the case of food they may know the page is about a Chicken Recipe. Second, they look at the ads they are paid to display and find the one that best matches “Chicken Recipe”. Finally, they put those ads into the standard ad units that users have learned to ignore. Now compare that to Swoop. First, while we understand the context on the page, we are seeking to discover moments of intent and interest at a much more elemental level. So rather than “Chicken Recipe” we may know that the chicken is on sale at your favorite market, that a coupon is available for the canned tomatoes and that greek yogurt is a healthy substitute for sour cream. Next, as we understand each of these things, we surface the best information we can find to enhance the user’s experience. Most of this content is not ads, it is simply useful information that we have discovered and surfaced for the consumer, and we optimize around the best possible user experience, rather than the most possible revenue. Finally, we inject our content into the content stream so that the information and offers flow in context with the user experience, rather then a traditional ad unit.

Otilia Otlacan: What pricing models and metrics should an advertiser expect to see in Swoop?

We operate on a pay for engagement model. We invite the user to engage with the brand and give them a “hint” of what it is we want to tell them. If the consumer accepts the invitation and engages with it, it is at that point that the advertiser pays. We work with the advertisers on engagement rates, time spent, and actions completed, things like video plays, e-mail captures, social media interaction and whatever best fits that particular interaction.

Otilia Otlacan: What ads are very well integrated into the web content, it is thought that they’d attract a higher amount of invalid clicks and engagements. What is your experience around this issue, and do advertisers raise such concerns?

Ron Elwell: We agree that in context ads that expand on rollover result in a significant number of unintended engagements, and even worse, detract from the overall user experience. Even if the user were interested he or she would have no way of knowing what the ad is going to be. In our model we provide the user with a “hint”, an icon or a brief description of the content we have for them, such as a healthy heart icon or “save locally”. In this way the consumer can make the educated decision of whether or not to engage. If they choose to engage, the marketer knows they have real engagement from a consumer who has accepted an invitation to learn more.

Otilia Otlacan: Tell us about your typical publisher, who would that be?

Ron Elwell: Our first vertical is food, so currently any site with a recipe section would immediately benefit. We have made the implementation so easy that a publisher can go to www.swoop.com/localoffers/ and sign up on our self- service portal. It takes less then a minute!

Otilia Otlacan: What’s next for Swoop?

Ron Elwell: We’ll continue to enhance our food offering, rolling out e-commerce offers and coupons in the short term, with more enhancements to follow. We will also begin to expand to other verticals where we believe we can bring information to consumers, in a way that improves their browsing experience.

Otilia Otlacan: Is there anything else you would like to share with us?

Ron Elwell: We hope your readers will agree with us that advertising doesn’t have to be interruptive and invasive; that by working together with marketers and publishers, and by focusing on the overall user experience, we can bring engagement to marketers, content, better user experience and new revenue streams to publishers, and the serendipitous discovery of useful and timely content for consumers. Please visit us at www.swoop.com, or on Facebook and Twitter at swoop123.

About Swoop

Swoop is a service that seamlessly integrates relevant information about products and services – at times in the form of sponsored content or advertising – into the content that consumers are engaged with online.  Swoop is able to discover a consumer’s intent and interest based on a deep understanding of the content they are engaged with, providing advertisers with the opportunity to have deep and meaningful engagement with consumers.  Founded by a team with deep experience in web publishing, advertising technology and consumer marketing, Swoop is located in Cambridge, Massachusetts.  Swoop is venture backed by US Venture Partners, Valhalla Partners, and General Catalyst.  For more information, please visit www.swoop.com. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

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