The click-through puzzle, solved

Should your banner be blue or red? Revcube crunches the data to serve up the perfect ad.

By Susanna Hamner, Business 2.0 Magazine writer-reporter

(Business 2.0 Magazine) -- The holy grail for online marketers is software that can tell what kind of ad is likely to appeal to a given user in a particular medium -- and instantly serve it up.

Revcube, a 27-person startup composed of Web application designers, math Ph.D.s, and rocket scientists, claims to have found it. Revcube's technology looks at 5,000 attributes in ads from across the Web -- everything from color to keywords to image sizes.

Identifying surfers by their IP addresses, it can grab details such as gender, age, and political affiliation. These profiles are then analyzed by Revcube's proprietary system, allowing the San Francisco startup to predict which text ad, banner ad, or marketing e-mail is most likely to make each potential new customer click. (See correction).

With client LiveCareer, for example, Revcube designed about 100 different banner and text ads and 40 landing pages (where customers are sent after clicking on an ad) and tested them against thousands of demographic and environmental attributes.

In this case, nothing mattered as much as the day of the week. A green banner and a photo of a woman was most popular on Sunday; a man on a blue background worked best on Monday. Overall, Revcube's campaign more than doubled LiveCareer's revenue.

"If you analyze data once a month or even every week, you miss something," says Revcube senior engineering vice president Bill Schaefer, who formerly designed Tomahawk cruise missiles. "We analyze data every 30 seconds." Since coming out of beta in January, the company has landed 10 major clients; it expects to sign up at least 30 by the end of 2007.

Because Revcube automates a process that typically involves multiple focus groups and mountains of spreadsheets, its system is seen as the future of Web marketing.

"There's high demand for optimization across online media, which creates new opportunities for startups," says Andrew Frank, a research vice president at Gartner. "Revcube is positioned to correctly solve the problem."

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly suggested that Revcube has deals with Tacoda, Revenue Science and Quantcast to collect personal information about Internet users. Revcube does not have deals with any of these companies. Return to story. Top of page

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