The 2014 Tech Impact Awards: Marketing




Location: Seattle | Employees: 1,200

If there’s any product that must be seen physically before being purchased, it’s a vehicle. But it hasn’t stopped the internet from becoming a major force for car dealers, who turn to Cobalt to connect with the masses online.

During roughly 20 years, Cobalt, now a division of ADP Dealer Services, has emerged as the largest digital advertising company in the U.S. auto industry, largely by persuading dealers to remove their ad strategies from cruise control. Cofounder and CEO John Holt says too many dealers are over-indexed on traditional media spends and on digital advertising that is neither targeted nor effective. “Both of these patterns represent a substantial opportunity,” says Holt, who retired September 30 and handed the reins to Scott Mathews. “There’s no doubt that a dealer’s top spend should be the dealership’s website and advertising driving traffic to it.” 

Cobalt is on track to become a $1.2 billion company in coming years. In addition to the United States auto market, Cobalt has clients in Canada, Mexico, New Zealand and Australia, with active plans to expand to other countries.



Location: Bellevue | Employees: 115

Smartphones can offer a wealth of consumer data gathering for businesses, and opportunities to build brand loyalty and advertise in new ways. There’s a thin line, however, between being effective and intrusive. For 10 years, Hipcricket has helped clients walk that line, running more than 400,000 data-driven campaigns that use texts, apps, mobile coupons and more to connect brands with customers. Boasting a renewal rate with clients of more than 90 percent, it’s clearly doing something right in a very tricky market to master.

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Susan Gates, left, and Kate Isler

Longtime friends Kate Isler and Susan Gates encourage consumers to shop with purpose