The Mad Men of the internet
You know what I love? Pop-up ads that assault my retinas with neon, flashing letters screaming I’m the 1,000,000th visitor and I just won a vacation to the Bahamas.
Said no one ever.
Online ads are the scourge of the internet. Using it as an advertising platform is still a relatively new concept compared to traditional channels, and publishers are still working out the kinks. Global internet connectivity is steadily on the rise, and even with the flood of eyeballs monetization has proven to be harder than expected because apparently while online humans have shorter attention spans than goldfish. (True story.) Certain publishers are more effective than others just from the sheer volume of data (cough, Google) while other giants like Facebook are still struggling to figure it out.
Enter Insticator. Founded in 2012, Zach Dugow started Insticator as a premium advertising experience. Insticator allows a fully customizable widget that easily embeds into any publisher’s site as interactive content. The front end can be customized to blend seamlessly with the native site, quietly luring in traffic with a quiz or poll -- and BAM -- cookie dropped, data collected, ad served. It’s pretty hard to argue with 44% user engagement and 160% revenue increase on publisher’s sites. Lately, Insticator has been at the top of their game, already crushing 2017 with three exceptional announcements. First, they were recognized by digital media investment firm LUMA Partners for being a top publishing tool. Then, Zach Dugow became the youngest executive to win a Red Herring North America Top 100 award this year. As the cherry on top of this delicious success cake, they scored a $5.2 million Series A to keep doing the good work of ridding the web of intrusive and irrelevant ads. We, the people of the internet, salute you.
I got the chance to chat with Zach Dugow and hear more about the dream team.
How did you decide this idea was worth pursuing as a business?
I was actually watching Mad Men and made a $5 bet with a friend that Don Draper would get divorced by the end of the season. I had this lightbulb moment and I realized I could create an online trivia platform for fans like me who wanted to predict the outcome of their favorite shows. I established Insticator in 2012 as a B2C company whose purpose was to provide live entertainment predictions. Fast forward a couples years, like most businesses, our business model changed and we pivoted to B2B after realizing our product could solve a major problem in the B2B space.
What has been the company’s biggest challenge? How did you overcome it?
Validating the market fit was a big challenge. I wasn’t sure if this would work at all, or be successful. But ultimately, the early team members were so convinced it would work, and that helped us push forward no matter what. The main difference between successful or unsuccessful companies or entrepreneurs is purely perseverance, you know? Anyone who said “that’s not possible” just made it easier to say “watch us.”
Describe your proudest moment with the company and what it meant to you.
It was probably about two and half years ago when we monetized for the first time. It was on cheeseheadtv.com and it was the first time we proved our model worked. We only made five cents, but it worked! I remember we were jumping around and cheering in the office.
Where do you envision Insticator 5 years from now?
We’re really pushing to be both an advertising and data company. It’s all about driving meaningful content experience and all of our engagement turns into market research and data, which then can be turned into more valuable experiences.
If you’re interested in adding content-driven ads on your website, contact Insticator here. We’d all appreciate it.