Walk any mall and you’ll see hundreds of people advertising their favorite brands, on their shirts, jackets, backpacks and wrists. Rodolfo Saccoman has found a way to monetize that.
Calling his company the Robin Hood of Advertising, Saccoman says AdMobilize creates a new kind of outdoor advertising network. It’s based on using walkers or drivers, what he calls AdMobilizers, to be the moving billboards for the brands. AdMobilize’s technology tracks the metrics, and the AdMobilizers, who initially can choose to use their cars or their iPads for the ads, get a monthly check — about $100 — as well as exclusive offers from the brand.
“We created this concept of crowd advertising where people get paid to advertise. We already do it but we don’t get paid for it. Polo Ralph Lauren is not paying me to walk around with a little horse on my shirt. If I am going to be advertising your brand, you should be paying me and giving me all these value-added benefits. For the advertisers, they are getting brand ambassadors who are becoming very connected to their brand,” said Saccoman. “We are ready to disrupt the industry.”
Business Plan Challenge judges thought so too. AdMobilize placed second in the Community Track.
Saccoman can spout out stats about the size of the potential market (suffice it to say there are 251 million cars and 80 million tablets in the U.S. alone, and a lot of hungry college students) and why advertisers need effective options. But he says his secret sauce is AdMobilize’s technology that tracks the effectiveness of outdoor advertising — an industry first. In the future, it could be used to manage and track all kinds of outdoor advertising venues in any location, he said.
That’s what really excites Mok Oh, a serial entrepreneur and former chief scientific officer at PayPal who is on the advisory board of AdMobilize. “Offline advertising hasn’t changed for 50, 100 years. Nobody measures anything. It’s like half of your advertising dollars work but you don’t know which half. What Rodofo is trying to do is measure in real time the activity going on offline,” said Mok, adding that the result could be geographic targeting in the offline world.
Miami Beach company Rokk3r Labs, a hybrid accelerator that launches disruptive companies, is an AdMobilize equity partner and the team behind the software. For the hardware, Saccoman partnered with LeafLabs, an MIT spinoff in Cambridge, Mass.
It took about a year, but Saccoman and his teams have finished the hardware and software as well as the initial branding, focus groups and marketing strategy. AdMobilize plans to launch this week with its first two clients — European Wax Center and Invisalign — and is ready to push hard on attracting more brands and growing its base of AdMobilizers. On these fronts, he has had a spate of recent progress.
Several hundred college students have already signed up to be AdMobilizers during a tour of Florida campuses. And Invasion, a London organization with a million student members, has expressed interest in partnering. When the students come to the U.S. for summer internships, they will become AdMobilizers, Saccoman said.
On the distribution side, two big media agencies agreed to promote AdMobilize as an advertising option for their clients.
“Think about the opportunities for a creative agency with AdMobilize: You could have BMW advertise on Toyotas that say my next car will be a BMW. You could have AdMobilizers around Manhattan pushing one particular store or being part of a scavenger hunt,” Saccoman said.
Saccoman, who is half Brazilian, half Argentinian, lived in Chile and Ecuador before heading to Cornell University for his undergraduate degree in hotel management. He worked at the Breakers in Palm Beach as online marketing director for 10 years and also launched My Therapy Journal, a site for keeping personal journals and charting progress that is still operating today. After that he went to the University of Miami for his MBA and worked at Morgan Stanley Smith Barney as an investment advisor for a year and a half.
That’s about the time the idea for AdMobilize was crystallizing: “I couldn’t stop thinking about it. And then I said enough corporate.”
So far Saccoman has raised about $500,000 in seed capital. He said he needs to raise at least $1 million in funding to hit the market hard, fund business development and hire more people. But Saccoman is not a stranger to asking for money: He and his brother successfully pitched My Therapy Journal on the first season of TV’s Shark Tank.
AdMobilize has also been looking globally, and Saccoman said he has had interest from Mexico and Colombia for his car advertising model. He’s also planning to launch in London, and AdMobilize was selected as one of 25 companies to present at UKTI Future of Wireless International Conference there in July.
“Rodolfo is one of those guys who is 200 percent in. He is eating, breathing and sleeping this idea,” said Mok Oh. “It’s all about execution and I believe he can do it.”