Empower Partners with Main Street Ventures
Cincinnati’s Largest Ad Agency Grants $10,000 to Recipients

CINCINNATI— (April 27, 2022)  Main Street Ventures has announced their partnership with Empower. Main Street Ventures is all about empowering the next generation of entrepreneurs and Empower encourages all of their employees to inspire each other and live an empowered life. Empower has granted MSV with a #LiveEmpowered Grant that in addition to funding, Empower will support Main Street Ventures grant recipients in a variety of ways. This support includes mentorship, speaking opportunities, and connections.

  • Mentorship: Empower is offering a series of office hours that allows recipients to tap into the experts of Cincinnati’s largest advertising and marketing firm. This kind of support is mutually beneficial. Emerging entrepreneurs get the advice they need to progress their business while Empower employees get inspired by new ideas and innovations. It’s a good cross pollination of knowledge sharing.
  • Speaking Opportunities: Empower hosts a program called “Outside In” focused on bringing in outside perspectives into Empower to help educate, inspire and energize employees. Empower looks forward to inviting grant recipients to share their stories and business ventures with Empower. This will also serve as good practice as recipients head into future investment pitches and business meetings.
  • Connections: Given Empower clients cover a range of industries like Food, Home, Retail, CPG and Health & Wellness, Empower also views this as an opportunity to help make meaningful connections for grant recipients.

“We’re committed to supporting Main Street Ventures and view this as a mutually beneficial opportunity to connect our talented team with emerging entrepreneurs – all in the spirit of knowledge sharing, making meaningful connections and nurturing the ideas of tomorrow,” says Jim Price, CEO at Empower.

Empower’s been a long-time supporter of start-up businesses and previously partnered with the Brandery on a disruptive media fellowship that has helped the likes of RoadTrippers, Martin and AdAdapted achieve great success. The #LiveEmpowered grant dovetails right off of this.

This partnership will be woven into the Main Street Ventures Level Up Program which has a goal of providing MSV Grant Recipients with what they need to help ensure their long-term success and maximize their impact. The support Empower is providing around mentoring, speaking opportunities, and connections will help connect MSV Grant Recipients to even more of our cities greatest assets, our people.

“We are beyond thankful for the support we have received from Empower. Their dedication to our Grant Recipients is a perfect representation of how our local business community can support the next generation of entrepreneurs in our region.” Kelly Bonnell, Executive Director of Main Street Ventures.

About Main Street Ventures

Main Street Ventures launched in 1999 with a focus on providing tech companies with a physical structure and wifi network. In 2010, MSV launched The Brandery, a seed-stage startup accelerator that leverages the expertise of the Cincinnati region – namely branding, marketing, and design. As the needs of the entrepreneurial ecosystem have evolved, Main Street Ventures launches new initiatives to meet the challenges of the future. For more information, visit mainstventures.org.

About Empower Media 

America’s largest woman-owned media agency

Our advantage is simple: Clients first – not shareholders.

From the day we opened our doors in 1985, Empower has always challenged the media status quo.

Empower is a highly awarded and respected media agency. We are a multi-year recipient of “Agency of the Year” from MediaPost and Campaign US with honors from Ad Age and Adweek.

Our senior and experienced integrated team of Communications Strategy, Media Innovation, Media Planning and Buying, Creative, Marketing Scientists, Influencer Marketing and Data-Analytics work in collaboration on our client’s business daily.

Empower’s client tenure rate is unmatched–3X the industry average. Our clients include Tempur Sealy, Wendy’s, Brooks Running, Fifth Third Bank, Gorilla Glue, O'Keeffe's, E.W. Scripps, Jack Link’s, VTech, Bush Brothers, Zaxby’s, GNC, Famous Footwear, Ashley, LIXIL, O-Cedar, Rust-Oleum and RoC Skincare.

Empower Media is woman-run (67% female) and woman-owned – making it the largest woman-owned media agency in America.

Our offices are in Chicago, Cincinnati, Atlanta, New York, Houston and Palm Beach.

Find us on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, and online.

The Metaverse: What We’ve Learned So Far

In fall of 2021, Facebook revealed its new name as Meta, which kicked off a rebrand of the company along with its commitment and vision to bring the “metaverse” to life over the next several years.

The metaverse is the next generation of the internet where Augmented and Virtual Reality are key components of the ecosystem and consumer experience. To better equip advertisers and businesses for this new generation, Meta kicked off a three-part webinar series earlier this year to help partners better prepare for this shift while also exploring what brands can begin doing today.

Part 1: The Metaverse: Accelerating Businesses’ Leap into the Future

In Part 1 of the series, Meta explains the marketing opportunities that the metaverse will offer today and in the future. Stacy Malone (Director of NA Marketing) and Caitlin Lacy (Head of AR Business Marketing) review what this new frontier means for advertisers and business while providing an overview of solutions that will help prepare for the shifts from online to offline and beyond.

The first step to get brands ready for the metaverse is to begin pivoting how we think about the consumer journey overall. Meta highlights the need to shift focus from the “real world” to a more virtual experience. Right now, consumers don’t see a difference between online and offline channels–it is just “shopping.” The goal as a business should be to provide the best overall experience, whether that is in-store, online, or virtually. Meta points out that we have officially entered an era of hybrid shopping where we advance beyond the concept of brick and mortar stores.

In this hybrid shopping era, the lines are blurred between online and offline, creating a need for a more interconnected consumer experience. Solutions that offer efficient ways for consumers to pay and checkout, including facial recognition or mobile based digital wallets, make for more customizable experiences. According to a Facebook commissioned study by HarrisX called the “Transformation of the In-Store Experience,” 1 in 4 shoppers surveyed already use automatic checkout with facial recognition, while 68 percent of shoppers said mobile-based payment methods within stores would make them more likely to return.

When thinking about how to support this hybrid shopping approach, technology will play a key role. Consumer behavior is already driving this shift to lean into technology, and brands will need to be wherever consumers want to shop and adapt quickly so they are not left behind. The easiest way for brands and advertisers to lean into this notion of a customizable consumer journey with technology is through Augmented Reality (AR).

Meta’s approach to support this next generation of technology and connection will be to work with leaders in the space to help accelerate the tools needed to bring the metaverse to life through four innovation principles:

  1. Never surprise people: Provide transparency on how products would use data and clearly lay out what data is being collected from users.
  2. Provide controls: Build things in a way that puts users in control of their individual experience.
  3. Consider everyone: Develop products that are inclusive for a diverse community.
  4. Always put people first.

The defining attributes of the metaverse, from Meta’s POV, are to focus on providing users with the feeling that they are there, whether through Augmented Reality (AR) or Virtual Reality (VR). Allowing for persistence gives users the ability to have continuity between experiences. And lastly, provide interoperability to allow for varying levels of entry points across devices in consumer and businesses moments of need. Adopting these core principles will allow brands to act faster when new tech becomes available.

Part 2: Augmented Reality: Beyond the Face Filter

In Part 2, Meta dives deeper into Augmented Reality. They outline how AR is the first step towards the metaverse bridging the gap between online and offline connections. In this session, Meta’s Gabe Reilly (AR creative Product Lead, Creative Shop) explains how brands can go beyond the face filter and begin to discover and explore all AR has to offer through Meta’s current and future solutions.

To begin, Meta grounds us in the difference between AR and VR technology:

  • Augmented Reality (AR): when information is overlaid on top of the physical world usually through a phone or a tablet
    • Offers two different experiences: “People Effects” to enhance a person’s face or body or “World Effects” which transform the world around you
  • Virtual Reality (VR): a fully immersive experience provided by a headset, surrounding your senses in a virtual universe

Through both technologies, Meta would like to find ways to enhance meaningful connections and make us feel that we are present no matter the circumstances. AR is the most assessable entry point given that we can access and utilize it through a mobile device.

For brands to begin engaging with AR, Meta encourages focusing on three main principles: people, purpose, and craft. You first need to focus on the end users to build something of value that people want to engage with. It is also recommended to always think of the overall purpose of the experience and how it ties back to your brand’s marketing objectives. Meta discusses ways brands have been able to tie AR into each stage of the marketing funnel to drive successful outcomes. Lastly, Meta explains the importance of building an effective experience that leverages the best creative practices for AR. The main callouts include building for mobile, being aware of load time, and making sure the experience is intuitive and simple for anyone to use.

While brands begin to think of ways AR can enhance their consumer experience, Meta is also placing bets on three main areas when it comes to AR technology. The first area is World AR solutions, which enhances objects and environments. The second is Social AR, which is person-to-person connection through video calls. Finally, we have Commerce, which will change our overall shopping experience over time. Meta feels these are the three big areas where they can help the metaverse come to life now and in the future.

Part 3: Augmented Reality Creators: Builders of the Future

In the last installment of the series, Meta explains their commitment to invest over the next three years to build an ecosystem to support learning in the metaverse—including developing skills for the next generation of Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality creators.

Many brands today already work with influencers, but Meta is bringing to light how this role will also need to evolve to thrive within our new reality. Their goal will be to focus on a new type of creator called a “Technical Creator” to help support the development of more immersive formats using advanced skills to develop AR content. The role of a traditional creator or influencer will remain important, but this new role will help brands evolve further.

Dan Moller (Creative Strategist, Creative Shop EMEA) discusses the Technical Creator landscape where Meta is committing to provide “Meta Immersive” learning for partners and creators through a $150 million investment. This program will kick off AR/VR ecosystem learning and career development over the next three years to create more immersive experiences for brands so they can succeed.

To date, Meta has over 600K technical creators based in 190 countries and have created over 80 billion effects per month across all Meta technologies. The best way for brands to access these technical creators today is within Meta Business Partner resources to find a creator best suited for their brand’s needs.

Takeaways For Your Brand

Experimenting with AR and VR opportunities will be the first step for brands to provide the immersive shopping experiences consumers are craving. While Meta works to build a solid foundation of new technology through communities, creators, commerce, and computing platforms, their first priority will be to get this ecosystem right for people and then create an ecosystem for partners.

Incorporating AR and VR into current media plans may feel daunting, but these experiences can be used to enhance trusted tactics throughout each stage of the funnel. As marketers, our job is to determine which types of tactics resonate best with our audience to drive business results. Therefore, testing will be the key factor to finding out what works best for your brand. We as consumers also need to think about how we would like to see things evolve, as our needs will dictate how new solutions come to life. Right now, Meta offers a certification for AR, which will be a great resource for marketers moving forward to ensure they have the ability to translate an idea to an AR experience from creation to publishing to management. This is a new frontier for us all, but it should be an exciting time to see how things evolve within the metaverse, taking our everyday lives to a new level.


  1. “Transformation of the In-Store Experience” Study by HarrisX (FB commissioned online survey) – 43,863 retail shoppers (18+) AU, BR, CA, FR, DE, IN, MX, KR, TH, UK, US) Aug – Sept 2021
  2. Source Facebook IF, “AR/VR: New Dimensions of Connection,” June 2021; Meta data October 2021 (of those surveyed)


Combining Sponsored & Organic Search in a Growing Ecommerce Universe
To pay or not to pay… that is the question.

Paid search and organic search are twin fuses for an explosive ecommerce campaign and, while independently powerful, are fiercely effective when paired correctly.

On the sponsored search side, the focus should be maximizing effectiveness via keyword research, algorithmic adjustments, and SKU-specific optimizations. Success is then measured through KPIs that center around ROI and profitability.

Dollars are invested intelligently through a combination of retail ad platforms to create the perfect media mix to drive incremental sales while improving bottom-line profitability.

On the organic search side, the focus should be on content creation, market analysis, and keyword audits.

First, products that drive businesses forward are identified. Next, valuable keywords and phrases are created to generate search volume and rank higher in retail ecosystems. Finally, product pages are adjusted to seed those new keywords and phrases seamlessly within a refreshed version of the content.

Success is measured through tracked changes to organic rank, total product search volume, and overall sales of the product.

Blending these paid and organic tactics can unlock a totally new world of opportunity within commerce.

How Do You Optimize Differently Between Paid & Organic Retail Media?

Sponsored search is optimized with keyword targeting. Organic search is optimized with ad copy.

When optimized this way, the fundamental difference between paid versus organic media is mirrored. Targeting versus writing. Context versus viewer. Push versus pull.

Both are required to prove to customers an awareness of their needs online (through clear paid targeting) while also highlighting the benefits and selling points of the product (through great organic messaging in the product page).

Focusing efforts this way frees the media to act its part correctly. The two channels can then collaborate to support a single end goal: driving sales of a product.

Once the roles of each tactic are understood, paid and organic campaigns can be optimized to eliminate cannibalization and maximize incremental interactions and purchases.

The Importance of Combining Paid & Organic Retail Media

Combining paid and organic media not only leads to a well-rounded campaign that stays on-brand, but it also increases the campaign’s effectiveness. Two channels combined are greater than the sum of their parts.

Sponsored search is designed to fill in the gaps of organic. If you’re struggling to show up on a certain search, paid search can “boost” a product’s visibility initially.

In addition, organic copy must speak to the audiences targeted by paid media campaigns. Otherwise, you won’t close the sale with conversions.

This cycle of organic optimization increasing conversions and paid media identifying new keywords creates sustainable growth for any ecommerce campaign.

How Can Advertisers Maximize Retail Success?

The same Search team that generates revenue through sponsored search is also capable of building organic product pages that minimize gaps in keyword and content targeting.

Together, the two channels constantly challenge each other to improve and enable cross-functional optimizations–something often lost when paid and organic retail media are separated.

This single team can leverage profitable paid keywords to fill gaps in organic product pages, running them through commerce research tools to ensure we’re forecasting profitable campaigns.

They can then adjust sponsored search targeting to reflect adjustments to the product pages, keying in on only the most relevant buyers.

Thus, a perpetual selling system of new and returning buyers is created by doing two things:

  1. Stabilizing sponsored search by anchoring it to a high-quality, consistent product page
  2. Enabling endless growth via SEO targeting using proven, continuously harvested paid keywords

If explosive, sustainable product growth demands both paid and organic media, then their collaboration is the spark that ignites the fuse.