Polygraph Media is Disrupting the Advertising Industry through Data and Analytics

Chris Treadaway, founder and CEO of Polygraph Media courtesy photo.

Chris Treadaway doesn’t chain smoke or drink cocktails all day at his office at WeWork at the Domain.

But he is living a Modern-Day version of Mad Men, the AMC TV series that dramatized the lives of ad men in the 1960s at a fictional New York advertising agency.

Today, Treadaway is involved in the rapidly changing advertising technology industry. He founded Polygraph Media, with the idea of bringing transparency through data to advertising in 2011. The company today has 10 employees and it helps large brands execute massive advertising campaigns on Facebook.

Previously, Treadaway worked as group product manager of Web strategy at Microsoft. And he was a co-founder of Startfor, a global intelligence firm, based in Austin.

In this interview on the Ideas to Invoices podcast, Treadaway discusses how Polygraph Media has created Internet advertising technology that drives traffic and revenue via Facebook advertising for customers like McDonald’s, Fox TV and Six Flags.

The company, which started out at the Austin Technology Incubator, is bootstrapped and raised a seed round of funding from friends and family. It is profitable, according to Treadaway and plans for dramatic growth in Austin. It is hiring, particularly software developers focused on advertising.

It hasn’t been all smooth sailing for Polygraph Media. The startup put in 11 applications to get access to the Facebook Ads API before it got access, Treadaway said.

Next, Polygraph Media put in eight applications to become a Facebook advertising partner. Facebook acknowledged the company as an advertising technology partner in December of 2016. It is one of 81 companies in the world. It is the only one that hasn’t taken institutional capital, Treadaway said.

“We’ve been able to achieve some very big things thus far and so now we’re growing the business very rapidly,” Treadaway said.

Along the way, Polygraph Media has pivoted a few times. Its first product was a local advertising system, aimed at small to medium sized businesses. It signed six newspapers as customers.

“We kind of got whacked by Groupon,” Treadaway said.

Groupon came into the market with a simple and elegant minimum viable product for customer acquisition, Treadaway said. So, Polygraph Media redefined its product around data and analytics. That pushed the company into the path of advertising and that’s where it found where it fits in the world, Treadaway said.

Its flagship product is called Commander and it is an interface into a data platform that enables large scale advertising campaigns on Facebook for big customers like McDonalds, Cheddars and others.

Through its Commander product, Polygraph Media helps brands go from spending $1 million a year on Facebook ads to $10 million a year, Treadaway said. Its platform handles all the complexity involved with that, he said.

Last year, Polygraph Media powered 3,200 stores worth of advertising for McDonald’s.

“People do not let us into McDonald’s very easily or another similarly sized company,” Treadaway said.

Polygraph Media must provide a lot of value to service those large customers, he said.

“These are investments to these brands” Treadaway said. “Advertising is no longer about throwing money at the wall and hope something sticks.”

For the past few years, Polygraph Media and Treadaway have focused on having an investment mindset. Treadaway must quantify how his company provides better returns than what the company might achieve on its own, he said. He’s able to do that through the company’s proprietary data platform, he said.

“Us entrepreneurs if you can think from an investor perspective about your decisions and to frame things that way you’re going to be in a better place,” Treadaway said.

Facebook has thousands of targeting permutations, Treadaway said. Polygraph Media can test different versions of an ad and find the right customers for the right companies to produce outsized returns, Treadaway said. That means more customers in the doors of stores buying their products and generating more revenue.

Facebook has 17 ad types that Polygraph Media taps into today, Treadaway said.

Being platform dependent on Facebook is a risk for Polygraph Media, but the company is actively pursuing ways to mitigate that risk, Treadaway said.

For more on the interview, download and listen to the podcast. Please rate and review the podcast on iTunes.

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