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Innovation & Job News

West Tampa startup Dabbl launches consumer-friendly advertising app

Susan O'Neal is founder and CEO of Dabbl.


Consumers no longer sit still for advertisements. Instead of watching TV with ads, they watch on demand or use ad-free services like NetFlix. Or they opt out of advertising, or employ an ad block.

“The digital media industry is doing the best that they can to deliver what their sponsors need,” says Tampa entrepreneur Susan O’Neal. “The game has changed. The world has changed.”

Enter Dabbl. The Tampa-based digital ad company takes a new approach to that old challenge of how to engage customers.

“There’s always been a demand for consumer attention, but most of the time companies are buying consumer attention from a third party,” explains O’Neal, Dabbl’s founder and CEO. “Dabbl is the first time that a consumer is able to skip that part.”

Instead of relying on a broadcaster to provide a free show, advertisers connect directly with their audience through a campaign on Dabbl. They may ask their potential customers to view a video or take a survey, for example. In all, the interchange may take something like 23 seconds.

The kicker is the consumer gets paid.

“At the conclusion, money goes into your Dabbl wallet,” O’Neal says. “Once you get $10, you can choose any number of gift cards from our partners.”

While it’s not intended to be a job, it is a way to make a little extra while you’re waiting at a doctor’s office or the airport. That few seconds may net you .30 a clip, which amounts to $46 an hour.

With the average person spending some five hours a day on their Smartphone, this is a better way to use their downtime, O’Neal says.

“I don’t want anyone to make this his or her full-time job,” she adds.

While people of all ages and socioeconomic backgrounds like to interact this way, the ideal user is likely someone who buys groceries for the household, has a little bit of extra time, likes to learn about new products, and likes spending downtime on his or her Smartphone.

When they are paid for their time, consumers are more likely to be focused. “Most of the time you are going to give me your full and genuine attention,” O’Neal says. “The message that the brand was creating has a chance of doing what it was intended to do.”

O’Neal believes the advertiser/consumer relationship has matured. “We have to interact with consumers as partners, as peers,” she says. “Dabbl is the only place currently where as a marketer you can do that, and consumers respond honestly and enthusiastically.”

It creates a conversational experience in a digital space, rather than a gaming experience in a mall or retail space like the St. Petersburg-based Priatek does with Wheel of Fortune and JEOPARDY!

In the United States, companies spend $1 trillion on marketing, about $8,000 per household, according to the Association of National Advertisers. It’s been hard for companies to measure its actual value.

Digital ads may not even be seen because they may count as a chargeable impression when they are only partially visible for two seconds, O’Neal says.

“Digital advertising in particular is very broken,” she asserts. “Ads that aren’t seen can’t work.”

Dabbl, which opened in August, has some 30 to 40 advertisers, plus an undisclosed number of users who had some 6 million engagements in the company’s first 45 days of operation.

O’Neal founded Dabbl after an aha moment where she recognized marketing methods weren’t consumer friendly. “If I tried to use them in my personal life, I would probably not have friends,” she explains.

Headquartered in West Tampa in an old cigar factory at Armenia Avenue and Spruce Street, Dabbl has 35 employees, 20 in Tampa. They are looking to hire software engineers and sales personnel, possibly marketing support.

“There’s quite a bit of talent in this area that knows how to think about consumer relationships,” says O’Neal, a native Floridian from Fort Myers.

Their challenge is to grow both the advertising and consumer sides at about the same pace. “It takes awhile to change the way an industry thinks about how they interact with their audience,” she points out.

Dabbl is available from Google Play for the Android phone, or online at this link.

Read more articles by Cheryl Rogers.

Cheryl Rogers is a freelance writer and editor who enjoys writing about careers. An ebook author, she also writes Bible Camp Mystery series that shares her faith. She is publisher of New Christian Books Online Magazine and founder of the Mentor Me Career Network, a free online community, offering career consulting, coaching and career information. 
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