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11 March 2021

Nothing comes close for real-time ad optimization, claims

We are starting to see signs that the digital advertising economy is not just rising from the ashes of early 2020’s adpocalypse, but returning stronger and smarter than before.

Brands keeping ad dollars close to their chests has given broader advertising markets time to reset, rethink, and return with more advanced technologies riding on the coat tails of pandemic trends. So, when the terms artificial intelligence, ad tech, social media, and The Walt Disney Company flashed up from a product announcement this week, courtesy of unknown vendor, we smelled disruption in the water.

In turns out our senses weren’t wrong. Paragone was a new name on our radar for good reason, because the company was formed only moments before Faultline began picking the brains of Shai Alfandary, GM at the fledgling firm, this week. To elaborate, the company itself has been around for a decade, masquerading as MakeMeReach before rebranding to Paragone only days ago, a message that was buried beneath the launch of its Actionable Performance Monitoring (APM) technology, which is what we are really here to talk about.

With the branding conundrum settled, we quickly learned about New York-based Paragone peddling a holistic SaaS platform based on AI technology that provides brands and ad partners with a unique, well-rounded view of social ad spend across all networks and platforms.

Breaking APM down, the Actionable component relies on Paragone’s penchant for real-time analysis. Competing platforms aiming to give a similar holistic view cannot possibly compete with Paragone for real-time analysis, according to Alfandary. Others might have the best data scientists in the business on the case, delivering unparalleled results based on data that is weeks old by the time the shiny platter arrives back on a client’s desk.

The Performance part of APM relates to predictive performance monitoring, where the platform informs users where they are succeeding, where they are failing, and ultimately how they can optimize. “We try to tell you if you will hit a wall or succeed,” said Alfandary.

Finally, but actually firstly, comes Measurement – which Paragone executes by monitoring social media campaigns in such a way that allows customers to add new social channels at a rate that is “second to none,” according to Alfandary.

Paragone’s APM aims to address inherent issues of fragmentation in media, claiming that existing tools required to track, optimize, scale, and drive engagement of campaigns are substandard. Its cross-platform approach connects audience insights with campaign management across multiple social networks to ultimately show brands in plain sight how their ad dollars can be better spent.

You may be wondering when the AI in Paragone will make an appearance, which is never if you stopped reading beyond the press release. Faultline learned that Paragone inherited its proprietary AI algorithms from the acquisition of a company called Captain Growth, which is still operating independently judging by the website.

As Faultline fished for AI info, Alfandary explained that Paragone can push out valuable insights without colossal amounts of data. It can apply data science to small amounts of data to improve its core algorithms, while at the same time allowing users to analyze massive data sets precisely and quickly. Paragone is purportedly more predictive in nature than anything out there on the market, guiding marketers to where ad dollars will be best spent across the minefields of social media networks. It can plug into existing campaign monitoring systems like Google Analytics to enhance its own insights and forecasting models.

“The technology is tuned to social networks’ specifics and needs of marketing managers. For Significance and Probability features we apply industry-leading approaches such as XGBoost, Random Forest, and other cutting-edge algorithms in our own implementations,” continued Alfandary.

We jested whether, had Paragone’s APM been launched in late 2019, it could have predicted what was about to happen to advertising budgets? Alfandary chuckled unknowingly, of course, before explaining that the way Paragone will sell its new toolkit is by dissecting and connecting social media accounts, opening up the past 3 months or so of data, and figuring out places where its AI can highlight opportunities for improvement. Figuring out how to quantify performance upticks has been a perpetual thorn in the side of marketers seeking clarity, which could lead us down a rabbit hole about standards, but we’ll save that for a rainy day.

With social media being Paragone’s specialty, and video becoming an increasingly integral part of social networks, the company perceives video ads as data points.

“Video is just an ad creative which you invest in and expect some results from, so we are able to apply all our AI technologies to this element of your data set to help you better understand possible outcomes and guide you to improve performance of video ads. For metrics, we can pull in what’s available through the channels. Common ones include video views and specific completion percentages like 25%, 50%, 75%,” we were informed.

As a rule of thumb, Paragone’s gauge ranges from 1% to 20% performance improvement, in terms of money saved. A seemingly nominal 1% improvement on a massive budget will make a sizable difference to a company on the scale of Disney, which runs several campaigns concurrently via Paragone after deciding it needed one central system to keep tabs on its various ad activities.

Looking at the competitive landscape, Alfandary and the team behind Paragone initially thought its technology would disrupt the business manager types at Facebook or TikTok, by automating their roles and cutting out the middlemen. However, the vendor soon decided that a side by side approach was more beneficial, positioning APM as a sidekick application, not a replacement, for these in-house tools.

Of course, competing directly with in-house tools offered completely free by giants like Facebook would only devalue your offerings. Ad tech firms must learn how to complement freely available tools while offering proprietary technology that adds value. This in turn allows companies to reduce their reliance on traditional ad agencies, bringing more of their social media monitoring techniques in-house. “Brands need to take control of their social advertising,” echoed Alfandary.

That said, Alfandary identified customer experience management platform Sprinkler as one of Paragone’s primary competitors.

We should note that Paragone’s parent company, Perion Network, operates a number of brands, with Paragone forming one pillar of a significant ad tech powerhouse.