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Behind Acadia’s Tech-Driven Approach To The Changing Nature of Digital Marketing

by Maija Ehlinger

The digital marketing puzzle is one that every scaling company has to solve. But that puzzle has only become more complex over the course of the pandemic, especially for mid-market brands, says Jared Belsky.

“I think we will look back fondly and call the 2010’s the decade of cheap clicks,” he told Hypepotamus. “The average marketer could show up and be able to make Google, Facebook, or Instagram work for them at a great ROAS (return on ad spend). But what we’ve seen in the last six months in the pandemic is a massive inflation in costs…and because of the amount of private equity and VC backing in the mid-market direct-to-consumer space, we’ve seen massive inflation in spend as well.”  Acadia’s new acquisition aims to fight back against that inflation with this additional analytics prowess.

As giant brands become more sophisticated in new marketing channels, Belsky recognized a gap for businesses and startups ready to scale. “Growth marketers at companies that raised a Series A or B have huge ambitions and huge pressure to grow. But their options weren’t that great in terms of agencies to turn to.”

Belsky, along with his co-founder Sean Belnick, launched Acadia this summer to tackle that problem in the mid-market.

As a digital growth agency and platform, Acadia has scaled quickly with the acquisition of other known Atlanta-based firms in the digital marketing space, including Imagine Media, Nicely Built, and Techwood Digital. For Belsky, these acquisitions bring experts in bid optimization, creative, testing, website, and reporting all under one roof.

Acadia has already grown an impressive list of local VC-backed clients, including Sharecare, Bark, and Grubbly Farms, along with beloved local brands like King of Pops and Arden’s Gardens.

The next big growth opportunity for Acadia: a robust, technology-based approach to analytics. And they are bringing in more Atlanta talent to make that growth happen.

Today the Acadia team announced the acquisition of Atlanta-based Lift 361, an agency focused on analytics and marketing database management, and ShopFluency, an audience segmentation and augmentation platform to help customers understand who online customers really are.

ShopFluency has helped customers like Alchemy Bikes recognize that their largest customer base was empty nesters — not the hardcore mountain bikers they had been targeting through online ads.

These acquisitions will bring the Acadia team to over 100 people, who will work in a hybrid model out of a new West Midtown office.

“With the acquisition of Lift 361 and ShopFluency, we think we can democratize and make affordable customer segmentation and audience analytics. These things don’t need to cost a million dollars when they run on a SAS-like delivery model. We can really help clients find critical information about their customer base which will let them invest their hard-earned dollars in a much smarter way,” Belsky added.

Belnick is Acadia’s singular investor, which the team sees as key to keeping Acadia as a sustainable, people-focused agency focused on long-term growth.

Belsky and Belnick bring decades of experience across both digital marketing and e-commerce to the table. Belsky was most recently CEO of 360i, an integrated creative and media agency founded in Atlanta. Belnick started his first online drop-ship furniture company at age 14 and grew it to $300,000,000 in revenue before launching Acadia.

The two are now focused on building up Acadia as an agency where Atlanta’s top digital marketing talent can grow their careers while helping clients piece together their digital marketing puzzles. Seth Hirsch, one of the leaders of Lift361 and Shopfluency added “There is already a lot of trust built between the two organizations, and we realized we would be able to do even more for our clients and employees by joining Acadia.”

The team feels confident their different approach to building an agency will help clients stay competitive in the ever-changing digital marketing landscape moving forward.

 “In order to win and be competitive in 2022, you need advanced analytics. You need first-party data knowledge and the ability to spin up a marketing database. You can’t just show up and just be thinking about keywords and bids,” Belsky said.

Featured image from Acadia: 

Left to right:

Sean Belnick, Jared Belsky, Seth Hirsch, Carol Davis, Sally Kazin 

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