Transforming video ads into vehicles for giving back
Mike Cassidy is the co-founder of AdWap, a media platform he runs alongside his cousin, Matt Sawyer, and their friends, Jack Carey and Sherrod Davis. AdWap—an acronym for “Advertising With a Purpose”—allows individuals to give to charities and causes simply by watching video ads on their devices. Each view triggers a donation, as well as an entry into a daily cash giveaway, further incentivizing people to use the platform every day.
EDWIN WARFIELD: Tell us about the company and how it got started.
MIKE CASSIDY: AdWap is an acronym for “Advertising With A Purpose,” so it’s both a destination app and website that allows users to watch a couple of video advertisements each day; in exchange, every time they do, we send a donation to their charitable cause of choice. It’s a way that we can make these advertising dollars a little bit more meaningful.
One of the other co-founders, who’s actually my cousin, went to St. Joseph’s University outside of Philadelphia. He graduated a couple of years before I did, had the concept—again, we had full-time positions, so we were working on it evenings and weekends, and realized that they had some opportunity, and had some potential. From there, we went down and I spoke with my college roommate, who went to Wake Forest University, and introduced the concept to him. He was just finishing grad school, and he liked it. He liked the idea of an entrepreneurial experience, and that type of opportunity associated with it. From there, he joined the team. Since then, we added another teammate who went to Davidson undergrad and then Wake Forest University for grad school.
Q. How does the company make money?
A. Our business model’s structured in a couple of different ways. You can think of us as a destination app and site, and where we really anticipate AdWap growing is into a licensable product. The idea is you have another website—whatever website that a user might go to traditionally—we’re not asking them to go out of their way and have to type in “adwap.com” all the time. We might ask them, “Hey, we know you’re going to website x-y-z anyway. Still go to website x-y-z and when there’s a popup ad, or a video, watch it all the way through. It will say “powered by AdWap” in the bottom right corner—you can be assured that if you watch it all the way through, we’re kicking some money to a cause you care about.” That way, we can add a lot of value for the publisher or the website because they can then in turn tell these advertisers, “Look, our ads are being watched from start to finish.” Everywhere else you go, people skip through it as soon as they can—everybody knows. We did too—that’s why we got into this. If there was an X in the top right corner, I didn’t hesitate. Now, where there’s some reason to watch it all the way through, and on top of that we’re not asking users to deviate from their normal routines, it’s sort of a home run for everybody involved.
What we do with our destination app is we attract a bunch of different advertisers. We do that by going to agencies. We go to programmatic ad exchanges. They provide us with all the inventory that we need—tons of commercials, that’s what it really comes down to: a bunch of video commercials. They run them on our platform. They really like our platform because we are saying, “Look, we promise that a user not only has to watch it all the way through; it has to be on their screen and visible all the way through, and most importantly, they have to verify the engagement.” We have a proprietary confirmation screen at the end of each ad that you have to click as the user to prove that you watched the ad all the way through. They like that. Obviously, that’s added value knowing that their advertising dollars aren’t vanishing or being even attributed to robots, which is a real thing these days—there’s a bunch of money that’s wasted on ad fraud. Here’s a way that we can say, “We guarantee you this is the best return on your money.”
With that—not right now, but the ultimate goal is to charge a little bit of a premium on that, which ultimately we’re just going to kick additional revenue to the charities as well. Right now, our model breaks down that a minimum of 33% of all advertising revenue goes to charity. It’s higher than that. Right now we’re actually running at about 60%, and any additional premium we’re going to just keep continuing to kick to the charities, because the margins are big enough where we can still maintain our operations, and ultimately we want this to be a great fundraising tool for everybody.
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