Let’s say you’re on Twitter listening to your favorite pop star waxing poetic about a new pair of shoes, and before you know it, you’re at the mall buying those very same shoes.
You’ve just been persuaded by the power of celebrity and social media, the nexus of which Walter Delph is fast becoming the master.
Delph is the 38-year-old CEO of social media advertising technology firm Adly, which builds credibility about brands by getting celebrities to talk about them or share pictures on social media channels such as Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
“What we’re doing is not rocket science,” says Delph, sitting in a conference room at Adly where the walls are filled with social media jargon scrawled in dry-erase ink. “We are a leading ad-technology toolset that works with brands and influencers.”
The formula is relatively simple: Brand “X” wants to engage a particular target audience, so Adly finds celebrity “Y,” who then strikes up a conversation on Twitter to generate endorsement “Z.” The challenge is “X + Y” doesn’t always equal “Z” when dealing with jaded millennial audiences. For example, how believable is Justin Bieber striking up a conversation on Twitter about that awesome new drill he bought at Home Depot? Or how credible is Miley Cyrus tweeting about the crisp new Oxford shirt she purchased at Brooks Brothers for women? Not very credible at all.
The key to Adly’s success is finding celebrities that fit the personalities of brands organically
and vice versa by using the power of technology. That’s where Walter Delph’s industry experience and penchant for innovation factors into the equation. The Harvard Business School graduate comes across more secretary of state than social media maven. For starters, he tucks his shirt in and is (relatively) clean shaven. He is also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and quick to reference Nelson Mandela as the person whom he most admires. In many respects, Delph is a diplomat of sorts trying to help brands and celebrities leverage each other’s respective strengths.
“We are ‘in stream’,” says Delph, describing how Adly uses Twitter and other social media to generate “native” content in the context of the user. “There’s a lot of nuance to what we do. You can’t just create a conversation that says, ‘buy this.’ It doesn’t feel authentic. It feels schlocky.”
What doesn’t feel schlocky is Delph’s resume. Before joining Adly in March 2012, he was a senior vice president of News Corp.’s media division, managing the company’s mobile business units. He also was a vice president of strategy and corporate development of Fox Interactive Media, in addition to sitting on the advisory boards of several technology and Internet-related companies. Despite a near flawless resume, Delph says his time hitchhiking through Africa after college remains among his most valuable experiences.
It all ties back to the global community that he is trying to build at Adly. “Social media are inherently global. They enable you to have real-time interaction with anyone in the world,” Delph says. “And these are the early days of social media, which is why thinking about what this world is going to look like five years from now is very exciting.”
For now, Delph is focused on transitioning Adly from an emerging startup into an indispensable resource for brands looking to connect with consumers. Last summer, the company worked with Visa on a Twitter campaign to get celebrities to tweet and post Instagram posts about their favorite places to shop. The project netted tens of millions of impressions and significantly drove down the cost per impression that Visa would normally pay using traditional platforms.
Delph is careful not to disclose the names of celebrities he is working with, even though the chalk paint walls in Adly’s main office in Los Angeles are awash in strategies incorporating A-listers’ names.
Delph is also guarded about what he envisions for Adly in the next five years. The nexus of celebrity and social media is vast and evolving rapidly, but regardless of where it ends up, it’s a good guess that Walter Delph and Adly will be there.