Persado scoops up cash to crucify the creative process; Shakespeare spins in his grave

Cash follows an opportunity. In this case, however, I hope the investors are misguided.

News this morning that Persado has closed a $30 million Series C funding round. Usually I'm not overly interested in funding news, but when the communication that announces the round is so jam-packed with buzzwords, and the very raison d'etre of the business is to bring an end to something that separates us from the apes, my interest gets piqued and I have to comment.

So what is Persado? The company offers a "cognitive content platform." If that wasn't heady enough, apparently Persado "generates language that inspires action." I think it's safe to say that self-confidence is something that this business, or at least its marketing department, doesn't have any real problem with.

Apparently Persado is resolving a very real problem, the "random process behind traditional message creation." Apparently all of these organizations are just dying for some Persado-generated smart content to really "maximize the efficacy of communication with any audience at scale." And if that wasn't enough -- the promise of being able to deliver prose that is laser-guided to appeal to the intended audience -- Persado also promises to deliver unique insight into the specific triggers that drive action.

One paragraph in and already I'm weeping at what humanity has come to. It's like Shakespeare, Byron and Wordsworth never existed or, if they did, they would have been far better off just investing in a monthly license to Persado's platform and kicking back with their buddies while the platform delivered far better results than they ever could.

It also humored me that the first "leading brand" that Persado gives as an example of seeing success with its platform is American Express. I recently took up an offer from AmEx of a platinum card and I have frequently bemoaned, both publicly and to AmEx directly, just how bad the company's communications are -- contrasting AmEx's comms with that of its competitors feels like the difference between Morse code and live-streaming video.

But I digress. Despite the apparent utter failure of AmEx to use Persado to deliver content that is actually in any way readable, the financial services company, along with other Persado customers such as Citi, MetLife, Microsoft, Neiman Marcus, Staples and Verizon Wireless, have apparently realized $1 billion in incremental revenue and an average uplift of 49.5% in conversions across marketing campaigns through using the product.

So what does Persado do that is so incredibly valuable? In some more marketing department-generated hyperbole, Persado says that it "fuses language with data to transform people into the most effective communicators." In other words, Persado analyzes the effect of written content to deliver the words most likely to "motivate" an audience. Or in other words, the best way to ensure the punters will buy Persado's customers' products.

The company, which has reportedly delivered over 4,000 marketing campaigns for its customers to date, has picked up $30 million in funding led by Goldman Sachs, with contributions from previous investors Bain Capital Ventures, StarVest Partners, American Express Ventures and Citi Ventures.

Persado, which employs 200 across seven global offices, hasn't got this commentator convinced, but seems to have some serious investor buy-in:

"Persado has developed cognitive content generation technology that optimizes the way organizations use language to motivate action. As a result, Persado's customers have considerably more engaged relationships with their audiences across marketing channels, resulting in significantly greater revenue-generating activity," said Mark Midle of Goldman Sachs' Merchant Banking Division, who has joined Persado's board of directors. "We are excited to partner with [CEO and co-founder] Alex [Vratskides] and the entire team as we work together to capitalize on this global opportunity."

Color me skeptical, and color me sad. Persado is a sad indictment of where the world has moved. Shakespeare is certainly spinning in his grave.


Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

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