PCG building content marketing engine with government grant

New platform to help marketers improve their social and content marketing campaigns as they go

Performance Content Group has received a grant from the National Research Council to develop a self-service platform that anaylzes consumer data and provides real-time recommendations for content and social marketing.

The Toronto-based analytics startup, founded last year by serial entrepreneurs Mike Girgis and Deborah Hall, consults with brands and agencies on custom content for earned and owned media channels. By analyzing first party and social data, PCG is able to identify brands’ target audiences, and figure out what they’re showing interest in at any given moment. Based on those interests, it recommends topics for marketers to build content around.

“One of the struggles that media agencies and brands are having is, what content should they provide? What’s their audience interested in, and what’s relevant and engaging for all their different audiences and brands?” said Jake Neiman, CFO, COO and co-founder of PCG. “Our algorithm crunches a whole bunch of different factors and variables to determine what content and information best engages with that audience. We take a scientific approach to content production.”

Earlier this summer, the company landed Vision7 as a client and, last winter, worked with Starcom Mediavest and AOL to develop a content platform for Mondelez brands on Toronto’s subway communications network.

Now, the company plans to use its technology to build a standardized, self-serve content recommendation engine that anyone can license. Marketers will be able to choose an audience and channel, and it will identify people, places, activities and events that those audiences are interested in, based on real-time data it collects.

Once a campaign is underway, the platform will evaluate the performance of the brand’s content based on consumer interactions like social shares and conversions. Neiman said the combined recommendations and analytics will create a “feedback loop” to help marketers improve their campaigns as they go.

To build the platform, PCG realized it would need to invest heavily in talent — but rather than seeking venture capital, Neiman took the unusual approach of applying for government funding. Last week the company was approved for a grant from the NRC’s Industrial Research Assistance Program (IRAP), which supports small-business innovation.

Neiman said the application process is complex and requires some finesse that can only be gained through experience, which may be why more marketing tech startups haven’t taken that route. He and co-founder Girgis gained familiarity with the process at their former startup, Onestop Media, where they applied for and received similar research grants.

“We had to prove to them that the technology we’re building is proprietary, patentable, and commercially viable,” he said. “It’s an extremely sophisticated process,” similar to being evaluated for VC funding, he added.

The company must meet strict ongoing requirements, including regular financial disclosures, and can only use the funding for staffing costs, rather than capital expenses.

PCG can’t discuss the exact amount, but Neiman said the money was “invaluable” for bringing in the computer engineers to build the platform. So far PCG has used the funds to bring on two full-time engineers and a project manager, and Neiman said more hires are in the works. The platform is expected to launch later this year.

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