Amy Williams

Founder & CEO Good Loop

Using Advertising For Social Change - Amy Williams of Good Loop

Mar 9, 2019
Amy Williams

Using Advertising For Social Change

Amy Williams is the founder and CEO of Good-Loop which converts advertising money into charitable donations in a way that keeps the internet free and makes online advertising more effective, more rewarding and more ethical. 

Highlights of the episode:

  • How Amy met her cofounder
  • What is the biggest challenge for the ad industry
  • How to find your first big customer and scale
  • The importance of getting the right first customer
  • What's the catch?
  • The KitKat case study

Time Stamp:

[1:14] Ads as a positive value exchange

[4:10] 65% decrease in negative brand sentiment while and funding 300 school kids in Sierra Leone

[7:30] Starting Good Loop without a tech backgound

[12:00] Making impact and doing good

[14:00] Biggest challenge of the ad industry

[15:00] What is the big hairy audacious goal?

[18:00] What is the catch?

Useful links:

Good Loop - https://www.good-loop.com/

Amy Williams Linkedin -https://www.linkedin.com/in/amy-williams-/

Listen to this episode now:

Read the transcription: 

[00:27] Maiko: In today's episode, I talk to Amy William, founder and CEO of Good Loop, a start-up on a mission to use advertising for good. Good Loop rewards visitors of websites for watching video ads by donating 50% of revenues to charity. And that way people can donate to charity without even having to spend a penny of their own money. The ads don't only have a positive impact but also improved the results of advertisers, with significantly higher engagement on the ads presented. Amy has been selected as one of the Forbes 30 under 30 in 2018 and Good Loop now works with major brands such as Unilever, Coca Cola, and Canon. Amy, it's great to have you on the show. 


[01:06] Amy: Thank you. 


[01:07] Maiko: And many people are viewing ads as annoying or a necessary evil that some website hosts need to need to have to make money. How does your approach make ads work for both advertisers and those that visit those websites?


[01:25] Amy: So, we offer a value exchange, if you are on a website, say you're on, I don't know, the Independent and you're looking at a piece of content, we will display an ad there which if you choose to engage, you don't have to you can skip it. But if you choose not to skip and you choose to give the advertisers some of your precious time and attention. You can give 50% of the advertiser’s money to a charitable cause of your choice. So, really, it's about offering a value exchange for your time so that the user feels rewarded and they feel like they've got something out of it and the advertiser gets better engagements. So, it's a kind of a win, win. 


[02:03] Maiko: There's been a number of start-ups, trying to reward users for watching ads, I think I've seen a bunch that kind of pay you some coins or even some cash to do stuff. And it seems like nothing of that has had massive success, at least not to my knowledge. What are you doing different? People just like donating so much? What is it that drives people to actually watch your ads? 


[02:25] Amy: Yeah, I mean, the ad formats where you watch an ad to unlock levels or points, that is still offering a value exchange, so, it is a more rewarding and perhaps more respectful experience. So, this is definitely like got a place and a role and I think it's a really interesting format, where we're so differentiating is in terms of the reward being actually relevant to the advertising that you're watching. So, when you watch for say, okay, let me give you a tangible example, actually, we ran a campaign with Unilever's no advert product which is that their stock cubes and soups, and when you watch the no advert you can then choose a soup kitchen or food bank to donate to. So, the charities that you're supporting are relevant to the brand. They're reinforcing the values of the brand and creating a little bit of a halo effect so that you have a more positive advertising experience. So, I guess it's, it's kind of like the rewarded ads, but it's just a more positive and more relevant reward. 


[03:19] Maiko: And the brand's I guess, on the one hand, get to make an impact and associate with the positive impact, but also get better results. Can you talk about that a little? 


[03:30] Amy: Yeah, yes, exactly, that's it, exactly that. And that, to me is the most important thing about the business. If we were building a platform that just gave money to charity, and, you know, made us all feel warm and fuzzy inside, it wouldn't scale, because you have to be able to prove those results and you have to deliver advertising that's ultimately as effective if not more effective, versus competitors. So, we really focus on things like engagement rates, looking at the percentage of people that are watching the ads, looking also at things like brand uplift, so do people have a more positive perception of your brand after they go through this experience, and do they remember an ad that small looking at recall, and in comparison, to non-ethical advertising? So, it's really those metrics that we use to quantify the value that we're offering above and beyond the warm, fuzzy feeling. 


[04:17] Maiko: Is there any case study you can share with one of the brands that you work with that, you know, maybe they came in and they were surprised by what you were able to deliver for them? Any--?


 [04:27] Amy: Yeah.


[04:28] Maiko: Success stories there?


[04:29] Amy: Yeah, loads of success stories. Yeah, we did a really lovely campaign with Kit Kat actually. So, this was in support of something called the NASA Coco plan. So, it's a, an N.G.O sponsored by Nestle, which works with various different sustainable cocoa farming initiatives in Sierra Leone. So, it's a really positive and important part of the NASA cocoa supply chain, but it's quite dry as this topic like, it's all very, it's like a big thick PDF that the shareholders read. It's really hard to communicate that stuff in an engaging way. So, what we did was, we took the Kit Kat advert which they were running over Christmas, we ran it through our ethical player, and then the three charities we featured were three projects within the NASA Coco plan. So, you could support female farming, fetch kits, you could give to putting solar charges in community centres, or you could fund school kits. And so, all the money went to the cocoa plan, but the user chose which project they wanted to support or which initiative they wanted to support. 


[05:33] Amy: And that worked really well, we ended up getting a 65% decrease in negative brand sentiment and a 13% increase in positive brand sentiment, which was an amazing result, because it was just showing that actually, we're really shifting perceptions. And we gave something, we funded something like over 300 school kids in Sierra Leone, which was awesome. 


[05:52] Maiko: Oh, wow, that's great. Are you actually like a whole separate ad network? So, if I run a website to have to sign up and kind of have you, or do you tap into existing networks? How does it work, if people want to integrate your ads? 


[06:07] Amy: We typically tap into existing networks. So, we have a programmatic, we basically have a plug in to a programmatic exchange, which means we can buy on websites all over the internet globally.


[06:19] Maiko: All right. And that's through accessing networks out there? 


 [06:22] Amy: Yeah, exactly. I just thought, when I started the business, I was looking more at working directly with publishers, because I do think there's a lot of value in publishers improving the user experience on their sites. And, you know, lots of publishers do have really interesting charitable partnerships and initiatives. The problem I was finding when I was starting the business was that if I had to get publishers and brands on board, you suddenly create quite two sided marketplaces. And it's really hard to scale that kind of business. So, that's why we decided to focus on just buying through the existing networks, which meant that we could really focused on growing just the advertiser side of the company. So, it's meant that we could grow a lot faster and more efficiently. 


[07:00] Maiko: So, when an advertiser goes to you and says, I want to be on that website, you're most likely going to be able to put them there and have your campaign there? 


[07:08] Amy: Exactly. 


[07:09] Maiko: Great. I want to talk a bit about your story as a founder of the company. And as far as I see from my little research I've done is you started out as a solo founder, right? You had the idea, you were just by yourself. You didn't have the tech background necessary. So, how did you go about starting this? Like, did you find somebody to join you? Like, how did this all work in the very beginning? 


[07:36] Amy: Okay, so I was working in an advertising agency, and was learning a lot about the ad industry, was building my network of, you know, future potential customers. So, I had a lot of the commercials, but without anyone to build the product without anyone on the technical side. It's very hard to get that initial investment, it's very hard to get people to back you when essentially, you're just a random over the PowerPoint slides. Which is really all I was when I started out. I had an idea a lot of PowerPoint slides and a lot of enthusiasm and that was it. So, I really needed to find a co-founder I needed to find someone that could build it and could understand it as well and know what we needed. So, I, I really struggled that it's really hard to find developers who also understand the vision that you, buy into your vision and want to commit to it, and I was really fortunate, I wrote a job ad on a website called working startups.com, and this super pirate website, it looks rubbish. I never thought anything would come of it.


 [08:39] Amy: But I was desperate. So, I wrote this job ad and alongside a lot of weirdos. One person that replied was a guy called Daniel, Daniel was, he's a software developer living in Edinburgh, been building ad tech and other white label software for over 10 years. He's a really experienced entrepreneur, and he was really excited about the idea of using his skills for good. So, there was this immediate, we immediately clicked in terms of what we wanted to achieve. And he brought a really interesting angle to it because he has a PhD in AI and has been working in artificial intelligence for years. So, he kind of took my idea, which was very commercial idea, and then actually brought to it some interesting elements in terms of how the tech could really complement it. So, we started the company together only a few months after meeting which is quite daunting, but yeah, we got some investment. So, we started the business and we kind of started growing it quite quickly.


 [09:33] Maiko: Great, and besides maybe finding that co-founder, which is often a challenge for a lot of listeners as well, that are kind of having the ideas want to start a company. What's been the biggest challenge for you that you had to overcome since you started out? Is there any kind of big learning or challenge that he overcame? 


[09:52] Amy: Okay, so, there's the biggest challenge that comes to mind is getting your first customer. That is the hardest thing I've had to do, because everybody says they want to be innovative. Everybody says they want to do something new, but they also want to know the results. They want to know; how did it go? And what exactly am I going to get? And how is exactly is it going to work, which it doesn't, it defies logic how you can be the first and also want results. But that's just the way the world works. So, I'd go to a lot of advertisers who were really excited about what we were doing, but just weren't ready to take that leap of faith. And it took a long time to find a business that was just willing to support ultimately willing to support and take the risk. And the company ended up selling our first campaign to is a company called curb. Curb, they do street food markets all around London, really awesome brand, like all about supporting small businesses around the UK. And they ran. It was 150 quid’s worth of ads like, it was a really small little deal, but it was a bit like a brilliant well-known brand. It was a campaign that got us some case studies got us some results, got some proof and then we can start going into the bigger customers and then quite quickly after that we signed Unilever, who are obviously a global advertiser. 


[11:04] Amy: So, getting that first customer, finding that person that's going to champion you, even when the risks are high. That's really tough, and once you get that, it all starts to flow. 


[11:14] Maiko: You build your case study around, and you were able to show how successful everything was. And then you just reached out to some of the contacts you had before or just--?

 [11:23] Amy: That's the case, yeah, we did you reach out to the same people that said no, before, and now I say, "it's still innovative, but I also have a case study", and then they're ready to jump on board. 


[ 11:32] Maiko: Great. One question and that's like always the sweet spot of the entrepreneurs. I'm trying to invite this that, I tried to showcase companies that the more money they make, the better they do and vice versa. And obviously, that's how you're set up as a as a business. Right? So, the more advertising you do, the more money you make, the better you do through. Through the, yeah, the 50% share. Do you face a lot of people still that see this as a nice charity? That media for the first time, and they're like, "oh, that's cute". And how quickly can you convince them of, well, this is a this is a business with a great impact, do you still get that a lot? 


[12:19] Amy: Yeah, good question. It's definitely something I got more at the beginning. Now I think we are starting to prove those people wrong, and part of that just comes from us having confidence in our, in the fact we make a profit. I think at the beginning, I was a little bit apologetic about that almost, so, you know what we've got to keep the lights on. It was justifying why we make money, where is actually we're going to make a lot of money. I'm in this to build a big business, a global business that's going to get investors and we're going to make our investors a lot of money too. And that growth is going to be fuelled by the fact we do good. The fact we do good is our USP, it's the reason we're differentiated in the market is the reason our customers buy us. So, it's not that nice to have, it's not because we're good people, it's because, it's how our business model actually functions. And I love that I love that Good Loop, has those two elements really closely intertwined, definitely, for when I'm selling to customers, I've learned to focus more on the results. 


[13:21] Amy: So, your kind of when I'm going into an advertiser, I always focus on, we'll get 50 to 75% higher engagement, we'll get 65% decrease in negative sentiment, you know, those real heart stats, and then you go cherry on top. You also giving to charity, you always have to go that way around, because otherwise they will pigeonhole you. 


[13:39] Maiko: And it's really interesting. I think a lot of entrepreneurs I meet for this podcast, they say, you know, you really need to build the best product, you need to really build the best experience for your customers. And then the impact is even greater, but you know, nobody will buy your product if it's inferior to everything else out there, just because it has a positive impact. Is that what you see as well?


[ 14:00] Amy: Yeah, totally, yeah, it's almost like you're why as a founder, the reason you've built the business is not the reason they're going to buy it. And differentiating those two things is really important. Because, yeah, your motivation might be very ethical, and very wholesome. But yeah, if it's not competitive it's not going to survive.


[14:20] Maiko: If you look at the online advertising industry, I guess there's still a lot of challenges to be overcome, like people usually still block ads, people don't like ads. What is it that you think, like the biggest challenge for online advertising? And maybe how do you think you could solve some of that in the future? Or what are the things that the industry needs to change? 


[14:46] Amy: I think that one of the problems online advertising has been facing, is that it's become increasingly commoditized. It's become a race to the bottom where everybody's trying to get maximum reach for minimum cost. It's all become very cheap, and that's really driven, you know, this clickbait headlines and fake news. And everyone's just trying to get more and more clicks, and more and more likes, and more and more reach. And I think what's lacking an appreciation of human behind the clip is, you know, the actual user experience, the actual person on the internet that is suffering through your annoying adverts. That comes down to the metrics that advertisers are considering success by, if I think this is something that is evolving, but if you're an advertiser, and you think success is we reached 50,000 people today, then you're going to just get them first cheapest and as efficient as possible. If you're an advertiser who's thinking, well, we might only reach 10,000 people today, but all of them watched our ad all the way through. And actually, we're coming out of that in a positive way. You know, they didn't find it annoying, they didn't desperately rather roll their eyes and try and skip it, then you might have paid a little bit extra, but you've definitely got a better user experience and a better relationship with your consumer at the other end. So, I think the key thing that needs to shift is the way that advertisers are measuring success.


[16:08] Maiko: From a user experience, so, if if I see an ad on a website, what happens with the donation from that ad, you said a case study before with the soup kitchens is a very individual depending on the brand, or is there like a general kind of selection process for you, what kind of causes the money goes to, how does it work? 


[16:28] Amy: So, the user experience is that you would be, say you're on the Independent, you'd be watching a video and our ad would appear before it, and there'll be a skip button. But if you don't skip, if you continue watching for at least 15 seconds, and you'll see a countdown timer for 15 seconds. And then once you get past that point, you essentially unlock your donation and you'll see three buttons with three different charities or three different initiatives. And you can choose which of those three to give the money to. So, for the user, it's a choice between three, the advertiser the one who's actually paying for that donation will choose that shortlist of three. So, we'll always work with the advertiser to find charities that reinforce their values and that are relevant to their audience. And we did a campaign with Links, which is the body spray for, like young guys, and they supported charities around male mental health, depression and suicide, which is such an important issue and so relevant to their audience. And then what we did a campaign with Benefit Cosmetics supporting women's refuge shelters. So, it's always linked to the brand, which goes back to what I was saying the beginning, you're making sure that when you're rewarding the user for their time, you're rewarding them in a way that is relevant to the advertiser. 


[17:40] Maiko: But people always have a choice between a few options. 


[17:43] Amy: Yes.


 [17:44] Maiko: Great.


[17:44] Amy: Exactly. 


[17:44] Maiko: Okay. So, they can relate to what they give the money to actually. 


[17:48] Amy: Yeah, it's kind of like the branches is the shortlist and gives them money, but the user has the ultimate say. So, it's a bit of collaboration between the brand and the user. 


[17:57] Maiko: All right. That sounds great. I think we would love to see that much more across the web.


[18:02] Amy: Yeah.


[18:06] Maiko: If you think about the next 10 years with your company, what's the kind of world you're trying to create? What is the big goal that, like you'd like to contribute to the world, what are you doing? 


[18:20] Amy: Okay, the big, hairy, audacious goal is, I want to build a platform that connects brands, people and causes globally. I think that advertisers around the world are starting to think about purpose a lot more in their marketing, the big brands are now considering what they want, what good they want to do, what impact they want to have, what they stand for, for their consumers. So, purpose is becoming something that's increasingly a big part of building a brand and building a relationship with your consumers. So, I want Good Loop to be the owners of that space, I want us to be the experts in finding brands that want to talk about purpose and connecting them with people in a way that actually engages people is meaningful and results in tangible donations. Results in real impact, rather than just a lot of hot air and green washing, you know, I really want to use advertising to fund social change. And so, yeah, the big vision is building a platform that does that, at scale globally. You are running ads on Instagram, running ads on websites, running ads on Snapchat, or Twitter or wherever it is, we want to expand to, you know, we want to sit across the internet as this almost ethical layer that makes advertising fund a better world. 


[19:31] Maiko: Great. For anybody that's listening now that might work for brand. If they want to work with you. I guess they should reach out via your website it. What's the catch? Do they have to pay a bit more than if they advertise somewhere else? Do you give away just some of your margin? How do you actually finance the donation itself? 


[19:49] Amy: I love that, what's the catch question. I always get it. It's almost liked whose lunch are you eating? Who do you give this donation? And, okay, so, the way that the business model works is, we charge the appetizer on a success model. Which means, if going back to the example of you being on the Independent and you see the skip button, if you skip, we don't charge the advertiser anything, we have to pay the Independent for that space, but we don't make any money. So, we would make a loss, but if you don't skip, and you watch for at least 15 seconds, we then charge the advertiser for that engaged view. So, they'll pay a little bit more, about 10% more than they would normally. But it's because they're only paying on genuine successful video engagement. So, brands like it, because it means that they're using their money more efficiently. And our business model is essentially, because of the ethical incentive, we get more people to skip and we get more people to not skip. We get more people to watch, therefore, we get paid more often. Therefore, we can make more money on the same space. So, it's really a business model of buying inventory in bulk from the Independent, increasing the value through the ethical incentive, and then using the increase in value to make the donation. It's interesting, it's awesome.


[20:59] Maiko: That sounds very good. So, to anybody listening, please do reach out. It's great to hear your vision. I'd love to see as much more and kind of enjoy much more watching them. And yeah, can't wait to see you all over the web. So, thanks very much for joining me today. 


[21:16] Amy: Thanks for having me. 


[21:17] Maiko: Thank you.