This NYC Startup Reaches Consumers by Giving Them What They Want: Free Stuff



Gift Connect is performance-based gifting and here’s how it works:  Gift Connect alleviates the ad exhaustion we all experience, translating the conversation into commerce.

It must be working: the company itself is working with brands like Discovery Channel, Uber, Under Armour, Papa John’s, Domino’s Pizza, and even the Baltimore Ravens to give something back to their customers while recruiting a new pool of potential clients for the brand-across all channels, including print, video, online/social, and TV.

Brands only pay for performance if/when the gift is redeemed, and Gift Connect offers them a trove of social data that they can apply to future campaigns.

With social media advertising revenue in the US expected to exceed $11 billion in the next two years, their timing couldn’t be better, and Gift Connect is creating converts all around.

CEO Mark Levin talks about how translating conversation into commerce will be a crucial part of the tech conversation in 2015 – and well beyond.

Tell us about the service.

Gift Connect is the first and largest performance-based advertising network centered around branded gifts. Through our data-driven marketplace, we’re opening the door for brands, publishers and anyone with a following to redefine the way that they reach their audience: through a totally free gift! Now that may be a $10 gift code for a free pizza or a free ride with a car sharing service – but it’s a completely free reward that can be accessed simply by clicking.

More than anything, we’re bridging the gap between advertising and gifting through what we’re calling “gift-izing.” We’re leveraging media agencies, celebrity talent, and publisher networks as partners to distribute digital gifts from brands through digital, print, broadcast, live event signage, social, and mobile.

We’re an omnichannel advertising solution to the cross-channel advertising problem, that works by getting rid of the traditional advertising forms like banner ads or even incentivized brand coupons. Gift Connect will work with a brand and publisher to deliver a free gift to consumers – both to reward existing fans and to recruit an entirely new pool of consumers.

Mark Levin

Mark Levin

How is it different?

We are turning the traditional direct response model on its head in two distinctive ways:

  1. We’re working with various media and social networks and brands to offer a free, no-strings-attached gift to consumers instead of the traditional ad
  2. Brands only pay for performance/engagement if/when the gift is redeemed.

In that sense, we’re uniquely positioned to be a mutually beneficial network – we’re considering the brand, the publisher, and the end user in every campaign that we drive.

And it works: our campaigns have a market penetration that provides six times the average conversion rate for social media promo code campaigns, helping to yield a 600% ROI to brands

Rather than trying to mine dry wells with traditional advertising models, we’re actually creating new revenue streams through existing networks. Say you have a brand or celebrity with 1 million+ Twitter followers. That’s an extremely powerful set of consumers who all have one very common interest, And even further, they’ve publicly expressed that and regularly interact in the hopes of strengthening that connection. Why not leverage that by offering them a $15 gift for new workout gear, or for a free flower delivery? That’s what we do.

Gift Connect actually works to utilize this crucial pool that’s simply sitting there. We work to monetize that audience so that the brand, the network, and the followers are all happy.

Even further, we’re able to dive into the intricacies that power advertising decisions. Through our unique analytics engine, Gift Connect offers deep, real time analysis of 75 million consumer data sources daily, interpreting media value, consumer preference and intent in order to provide a quantitative analysis for sponsorship and advertising opportunities.

What inspired you to start the company?

Advertisements are as certain as death and taxes: they exist and we can’t get rid of them, so our thought was to actually make them work for the consumer.

In today’s world, there’s no such thing as a singular solution. Because of the way technology has advanced and what people have come to expect in their daily lives, advertising has to grow with its targets and become as sophisticated, interconnected, and persuasive as the people it targets and that’s what Gift Connect is.

How will translating the conversation into commerce be a crucial part of the tech conversation in 2015?

We all know how fast conversations begin and end today. Finding a way to capitalize on those types of six second micro-dialogues, for example, will be essential for any brand who wants to thrive in the future.

Monetizing social behavior has been a point of contention for brands and, now more than ever, is the time that media and social networks will look to turn those comments and likes into dollars. Gift Connect is a platform that works to amplify those conversations and elevate them above the general advertising chatter.

What market are you attacking and how big is it?

As I said before, we’re an omnichannel solution and work across digital, print, television, and social. The market is essentially anyone who sees a screen and is able to operate it! It can be as small as a regional sector of mommy bloggers or as large as an entire television network audience. Gift Connect works across networks and is entirely scalable.

What is the business model?

The business model is based solely on performance. We charge brands for engagement and activation of the gift.   Users tweet, click through a gift link and ultimately redeem the gift that is being offered, and we get paid each time they do.

What are the milestones that you plan to achieve within six months?

We currently have more than $100,000,000 worth of gifts to give away, and our goal is to have $500,000,000 within the next six months.

What sorts of gifts have been offered, to date?

We’ve already cultivated an extensive media network of vertical influencers that adds up to more than $100 million dollars in gift inventory available for consumers, with participating merchants like Uber, Domino’s Pizza, Duracell PowerMat, and Getty Images (Photos.com)

Which are most popular with consumers that you’ve noticed?

As you could guess, a free gift is popular with everyone so essentially all of them!

If you could be put in touch with one investor in the New York community who would it be and why?

Fred Wilson. I think he’s a true visionary and understands new business models faster than most.

Why did you launch in New York?

Whether it’s Wall Street, Madison Avenue or Broadway, New York is unsurpassed. This city is home to the biggest names in business, advertising, talent and influencers, so it was the only place that could serve as the hub for our network.

What’s your favorite New York craft beer?

I don’t drink beer-never acquired the taste for it.


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