Imprint, by Sidelines, is the world’s most engaging native advertising solution, powered by original user-generated content.
It’s simple, really: Ads suck. Imprint makes them awesome.
When we say Imprint makes the world’s most engaging advertising, we mean it — and we have the numbers to prove it:
Interested in learning more about how we’ve cracked the code on creating awesome, engaging user-generated content at affordable, scalable prices? Read on to learn more about Imprint, and don’t forget to request access to the Business Plan side of this profile for more insight on what’s up next for Sidelines and how you can get involved!
Since Imprint’s beta launch in February 2015:
Some of the world’s leading brands have already used Imprint to reach their audiences in new, innovative, effective ways.
We’ve created hugely successful campaigns for Disney, ESPN, Amazon, The Honest Co. and Com2uS, just to name a few, and companies like Taco Bell,Target, and Sony Pictures are set to join us soon.
And investors like us too: we’ve gotten early investment support from Techstars, 500 Startups, Social Starts, and The Walt Disney Company, all of which recognize Imprint’s potential to completely revolutionize digital advertising in the years to come.
So what has everyone talking about, using and investing in Sidelines?
We’re glad you asked.
In order to truly understand what makes Imprint so groundbreaking, there are a few things you need to know about the way digital advertising works today.
Let’s face it: users hate ads. Advertising has become a cat-and-mouse game between advertisers and users, where advertisers try to trick users into viewing their ads online, and users do their best to avoid them.
But here’s the thing: it doesn’t matter how you dress it up—as a banner ad, a pre-roll video, a native placement—users always see ads coming. And when they do, they run as fast as they can in the opposite direction.
Only 14% of users even look at digital ads. And when you’re starting at 14%, well, we’ll leave the clickthrough rates to your imagination.
It’s time to stop dressing ads in content’s clothing and hoping viewers won’t notice — and start making content that users actually care about.
Media outlets like Buzzfeed have pioneered the frontier of sponsored content, and proven that if users find genuine value in a piece of content, then they will want to engage with it — and with the brand that brought it to them.
The switch to content advertising brings with it its own set of challenges — specifically:
Let’s not mince words: producing sponsored content is expensive. A typical piece of content will run you anywhere from $10K-$500K. Then, once the content is created, its shareability is pretty much limited to the site where it was created — and maybe 1-2 partner sites, if you’re lucky.
This may go without saying, but $10K-$500K for a single piece of one-trick-pony advertising — that’s not what anyone would call a scalable business model.
As a result, advertisers are constantly being forced to choose: scale OR engagement. They can go regular display or video ads and get scale, but lose out on user engagement or they can go with traditional sponsored content and get the engagement they’re looking for, but sacrifice scalability and affordability.
Why force advertisers to choose between affordability or effectiveness, scalability or quality?
With Imprint, Sidelines has solved the quality vs. cost conundrum once and for all, and created the world’s first content marketing solution that checks all the boxes when it comes to what advertisers—and the users they are trying to reach—are looking for in a content advertising solution:
People don’t want ads: they want content about topics that interest and entertain them.
So that’s what Imprint gives them: original content, formatted as a discussion, created by our very own network of smart contributors with expertise in subjects that viewers actually care about, from parenting to gaming to fashion to sports to entertainment and more.
The content within Imprint is developed on the Sidelines Content Platform, which is a full-fledged social media platform with its membership restricted to people with strong writing skills and expertise in a domain such as parenting, education, sports, gaming, movies, music, and fashion. These are real influencers — people the brand’s audience can identify with, rather than celebrity influencers who are expensive to maintain. The content comes in form of bite-sized posts – one contributor kicks off the discussion based on a topic, and others jump in and add their opinions.
When an advertiser selects a post developed on the Sidelines Content Platform for a campaign, it gets injected into an Imprint unit, along with the advertiser’s promotional assets that are placed between the post’s multiple opinions. The algorithms powering Imprint place these units on thousands of pages being read by the advertiser’s target audience. Imprint automatically adopts the look and feel of the page it’s placed on, and usually appears just below the main article on the page. Hence, the reader is led seamlessly from the primary article on the page into the Imprint experience without disruption, and starts reading the branded post within Imprint.
You can’t argue with the numbers: At 80-160 seconds of audience engagement per ad, compared with the under 15-second average of most ads, Imprint is 10X as effective as standard digital advertising.
But here’s the key — we’re able to deliver all of that, at scale, at prices that have all of our competitors in content advertising scratching their heads.
As we’ve already mentioned, typical sponsored content on sites like Scripted, Contently or Buzzfeed will run you $10K-$500K for content creation alone — before you factor in distribution.
With Imprint, Sidelines can create and distribute content — all for just $4.
Sound too good to be true? We’ve got the data to prove it. The goal of a campaign that we ran for one of our top clients, Walt Disney World, was to target parents and grandparents and inform them that Disney World has something to offer all members of the family, including grandparents, toddlers, and tweens.
In other words, the Walt Disney World campaign outperformed even our expectations in pretty much every metric we threw at it, and proved beyond a shadow of a doubt: the Imprint approach gets results.
Here’s a quick overview of how an Imprint campaign works:
The advertiser tells us their key goals, messages, and target demographic for the campaign and provide any promotional assets — videos, images, social posts, infographics, etc — they want distributed.
We send the advertiser a steady stream of posts in the form of discussions on topics that are relevant to their brand’s messages, created by Sidelines’ expert influencers, for review and approval.
Approved posts are programmatically packaged with the brand’s promotional assets into Imprint units, and placed natively on thousands of pages targeting the campaign’s demographic.
We analyze and optimize content performance, user behavior, and demographic data collected by the Imprints to optimize throughout the campaign, with custom comprehensive reports delivered back to the advertiser regularly.
So let’s add another point to the list of ways that Imprint reimagines advertising for the year 2015: not only does Imprint make content marketing scalable, affordable and engaging — we make it easy, too.
Not bad for a day’s work.
There’s no denying that Sidelines is onto something — and there’s much more to come!
Interested in learning more about what’s on the horizon for Sidelines and Imprint, and how you can be involved? Request access to the Business Plan side of this profile, and let’s talk!
Imprint and Sidelines are helmed by a world-class team of MIT, Berkeley, Penn, Hopkins and Michigan grads with years of experience that includes:
Building the storage architecture for Microsoft’s Hotmail service from the ground up.
Engineering the development platform for the Xbox 360, and managing the platform’s the content and marketing portfolios.
Developing innovative digital marketing strategies at Twitter.
Leading brand strategy for the Audience, the world’s largest influencer agency.
Teaching Language and Anthropology at the Carnegie Mellon University.
All of that experience comes into play at Sidelines, as they work to build Imprint into the next great digital advertising solution.
Arka Ray – Founder & CEO
Arka graduated from UC Berkeley with a BS in Electrical Engineering andComputer Science, and was recruited by Microsoft right out of college to work at Xbox within Microsoft, where he worked for 5 years. Arka started off as a Program Manager/Evangelist working on the Xbox Live SDK, before eventually transitioning to running a Business Development team, where he pitched and negotiated deals with several publishers. including Activision, Ubisoft, WB,EA, Rockstar, 2K and Sega, to make their games and DLC available on Xbox Live. Arka also designed and led the implementation of a system to ingest and distribute content to any Web-connected device over Xbox Live, which was originally designed to purely service the Xbox console. This resulted in a yearly revenue increase of > $20M for XBL.
Marios Assiotis – Founder & CTO
Marios graduated from MIT with a BS in Computer Science and Electrical Engineering. He joined Microsoft as part of a small team that scaled Hotmail’s storage infrastructure from a few thousand servers to 100K+ servers, allowing Hotmail to compete with Gmail by offering 2GB+ of storage to their users instead of just 25MB. Marios also developed an adaptive throttling mechanism that would force background maintenance processes (e.g.garbage collection) to back-off if a surge in higher priority activity(e.g. users) was detected. His algorithm would adapt on theenvironment it was running, so it could be deployed on heterogeneous hardware as-is. The result was 20% reduction inpeak loads, and Marios received a Microsoft Innovation Award for developing the algorithm.
Andrew Baumann – VP of Business Development
Andrew is a graduate of Michigan and Georgetown with a resumé that includes positions at both Twitter and theAudience. He is an experienced brand strategist with extensive experience in campaign management, product development and original content across digital and social media.
Patrick Zimmerman – Director of Content
Patrick is a former Associate Professor at Carnegie Mellon University, specializing in languages and anthropology. He earned his undergraduate degree from University of Pennsylvania, and his PhD from Carnegie Mellon.
Asa Beal – Director of Distribution