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Within 5 years, Datorama has become an industry leader, working with more than 2000 brands, 300 agencies, publishers, and tech firms, and counting L’Oreal, Foursquare, and Godaddy among their clients. We spoke with Ran Sarig, Datorama CEO & co-founder, about his company’s meteoric rise.

Tell us about your company’s beginnings. What did you see (or not see) in the market that led you to launch?

Founded in 2012, Datorama was born out of my co-founders and my own recognition that there was white space for a marketing-specific solution that could drastically reduce the complex data problem suffered by marketers of all stripes. As all three of us had experience in the marketing horizontal — in various capacities at advertising technology (AdTech) providers and at advertising agencies — it was abundantly clear through professionals’ daily struggles that there was a need that wasn’t being addressed. After spending some time doing discovery and exploration, it became very clear to us that artificial intelligence (AI) would be the critical technology that would enable us to surmount the emerging and evolving data woes.

What were some of the biggest challenges that your team faced at zero stage?

Probably the hardest part of starting a company is taking that initial leap of faith. Obviously, there’s a tremendous amount of risk involved from a fiscal and career perspective. For each of the three co-founders this was not an easy decision to make as we all had enjoyed strong trajectories and were reaping those benefits. Ultimately, it was clear that our idea was so powerful it needed to be pursued, especially as it would present an opportunity for Datorama to be a first mover in the marketing technology (MarTech) space.

It seems so long ago that we took that initial step but since then Datorama’s grown significantly. We tripled and are now doubling revenue and headcount for four years now. After the first half of 2017 we are on track to do it again. Now our biggest challenge is keeping pace with our momentum. Scaling the business while maintaining our unique culture and focus on innovation is not easy to do. While we’ve made some mistakes, we’ve been quick to course correct and refocus. I am very proud of where the company is today with a global footprint of 16 offices. Since inception we’ve always had a global presence but now at this scale we’re a truly diverse, multi-cultural organization.

Let’s look at the science behind your product. What makes it different from other offerings in this space?

As today’s marketers are burdened by a plethora of point solutions, they are now adopting an integrated approach that connects marketing performance, outcomes and investments across all of their channels, programs and stakeholders. Customers using Datorama’s marketing intelligence platform as the backbone of their marketing organization produce a single source of truth to power better decision making and collaboration. To this end, Datorama provides marketers with smart, assistive AI machine learning technology, out-of-the-box data modeling and automated insights to connect, unify, analyze, visualize and act on their data immediately — at any scale — with high performance.

Essentially, this provides our customers with the ability to leverage AI to collect, cleanse and mash all of their marketing data together, which can reveal all-new insights not previously seen before. The end result is a straightforward way for marketers to analyze their efforts to determine their return on investment and make better decisions going forward to improve campaign performance.

As far as I am aware, Datorama is the only company to: 1) Apply machine learning to data integration; 2) Have flexible data models that adjust on the fly with user’s needs; and, 3) Leverage AI technology to elevate critical business insights in real time. All of this is delivered in a productized way, which differs from many businesses that provide AI solutions but require lengthy service engagements.

How do you translate your brand’s message in a way that gets you heard above the noise?

One of the greatest challenges operating in the MarTech space is standing out from the crowd. To put things in perspective, in 2011 there were about 150 organizations in the different MarTech landscapes. Today, there are around 5,000. Due to this saturation, there is a lot of confusion in the marketplace and overlapping messages. And we haven’t even gotten into the problem of AI companies overpromising and under delivering — don’t get me started.

For us, the plan was simple. Early on the team’s focus was to onboard as many customers as possible. We sought to prove our value by gaining customer traction and delivering success for them. Now, as a company that’s considered the benchmark in marketing data integration, it makes telling our story easier. The reactions we’re seeing from journalists, third-party research companies like Gartner and Forrester, and from other industry-focused influencers makes it clear that we’re leading the pack with our platform. This is further substantiated by the impact we’re making with our install base, which obviously wouldn’t be possible without a truly cutting-edge solution that delivers on our value proposition.

Let’s talk about brand values. What means the most to your company besides industry success?

At Datorama we’re completely obsessed with our customers. The biggest thing each Datoraman is focused on is ensuring our client’s success. In fact, this has become so central to our mission that we’ve made it a point to measure our very own success based on our customer’s performance working with our platform.

There’s always been this rivalry between Silicon Valley and NYC in tech. What are some tangible benefits to being based in NYC?

While that may have held true several years ago, I don’t think that a rivalry exists anymore as we’re more connected than ever and certain regions specialize in specific industries. New York City’s Flatiron district, for example, has become home to many of today’s leading AdTech and MarTech companies, which is why we decided to put our global headquarters there. For Datorama it’s important to be in New York because it’s, arguably, home to some of the greatest advertising and marketing teams on the globe. As this is our core customer, we find it beneficial to be so close — literally and figuratively — so we can work in partnership with them to deliver greater product innovation and the best customer service possible.

Name one place in your company’s NYC neighborhood that you and your team just can’t live without.

Datoramans are a bit spoiled now that we’re a few doors away from the flagship Eataly, but that’s only the start. Our New York-based team has always been a fan of Dos Toros, so much so that a group carved the logo into a pumpkin during a Halloween get together. I think it’s safe to say it’s always on their minds — just kidding. Personally, I have been a big fan of Eataly’s La Birreria, which is the market’s rooftop microbrewery and restaurant.

Learn more about Datorama here.

This editorial was originally published in 2016.

 

Viacom’s latest debacle, from one view, is a Snapchat-era remake of 1980’s primetime soap; there are lots of tears, eye-rolling, dramatic exits, glorious hair, fuming selfies, and, naturally, an immense, disputed generational fortune.

Viacom’s financial timeline, however, would make an excellent chorus in a Greek tragedy—if it were not so convoluted and, at times, tawdry.

One of the world’s most powerful media conglomerates, Viacom has been in decline for more than a decade, and yet few in the press went so far as to question the logical fallacies behind its troubled, profligate history until two mistresses started a catfight over the 95-year-old boyfriend’s will. That is the tawdry bit.

A story of miscalculation, outsize ambition, and heart-stopping risk, Viacom has become an unfortunate spectacle for national amusement—a circus of bit players providing a distraction from a distinctly American cautionary tale.

The company’s current troubles—sliding revenues, profits, and stock prices—have been complicated by myriad missteps, but most significantly by an insistence on the maintenance of a nearly 50-year-old business model despite all indicators which would advise the contrary– including its own fall in fortune.

The slow, painful descent of Viacom from the realm of the unassailable to that of a common and vulnerable media conglomerate cannot be laid squarely at the feet of its board of directors, Sumner Redstone, or his string of demonized and/or failed messianic CEOs.

It is the preservation of Viacom’s legacy—which came to be seen as indistinguishable from its business plan—that has subverted newly every opportunity that the company was offered to move ahead, rather than follow, the industry.

No one, not even Wall Street’s most venerable soothsayers, predicted the age of PewDiePie—when user-generated content on YouTube would begin to supplant broadcast television with ad hoc self-promotional videos reaching as many as one billion page views.

There appears to have been few, if any, early allowances made for the competitiveness of the digital world or the caprice of a market which is now turned towards an unending search of tech unicorns, not old-school broadcast TV conglomerates.

The roster of its holdings, however, look magnificent—Paramount, MTV, BET and Comedy Central are under its wing— but the industry, its analysts, and focus groups know that MTV, for example, is not the edgy, slice of cool that it was in 1981.

Yet, it is not merely the lack of MTV’s hipster cred, the recent string of duds released by Paramount or the “cord cutter” revolt among consumers of virtually every demographic that have caused Viacom’s stock prices to falter over the years.

“(Viacom) stock,” wrote analyst Michael Nathanson in a report entitled “Huis Clos” (no exit) quoted in a New York Times article, “was cheap for a reason after significant earnings cuts.”

“We have clearly put too much trust in the old playbook; the game has changed, ” Nathanson wrote.

Fixing what is wrong with the company requires more than shifting board members and making various heads roll. Realizing that no global brand is invulnerable—not in a global climate which has seen startup AirBnB inspire an outright war between itself and the world’s largest hotel chains– is only the first step. The company must not only match its competitors with its pace of innovation; it must overtake them.

Viacom, however, as powerful as it is, seems unable to pull itself away from its own reality show.

 

 

This editorial was originally published in June 2016.

There is a certain architecture to every salacious news story, at least the more attractive ones. There is a bit of shock, a hint at promises broken, a foundation of betrayal (preferably of an innocent party) and an appalling lack of judgment— creating a solid structure of hard-earned and well-deserved public humiliation.

Those who toss away privilege, power and very often the public good for an unnecessary shag or two are fair game in the minds of many, but Nick Denton’s Gawker seemed unfettered by any idea of who merited a public thrashing.

Gawker regularly, and seemingly with great enthusiasm, went too far in the eyes of many—ethically, journalistically and in sheer tastelessness—underscored by one editor’s hard-to-stomach child porn jokes during a deposition.

For its alleged sins, Gawker has rather frequently found itself in court, the most recent appearance ending with a company-killing judgment of $140 million.

It is not that the magazine—which is now up for sale—is so much worse than Perez Hilton or other similar publications in regard to the genre of merciless celebrity voyeurism but rather that it often turned its lens towards regular folks—or rather regular rich folks—whom would have none of this rumored sexual shenanigans reporting.

Gawker is (for the moment) in some ways a throwback to vintage muck-raking journalism: the heydays of  The National Enquirer and The Star before reality TV made everything odd and stomach-churning open source.

The blog—perhaps in a rush of millennials-driven “everything-old-is-hot” euphoria—began at its outset publishing op-eds and gossipy featured posts which made 1970’s ideas– that what people do in bed, for instance, is really shocking and interesting—The New Edgy.

It tried, that is, but even millennials do not believe in the mythology of edginess anymore.

Muck in the post-Clinton era is quasi-serious muck—it slathers tales of personal proclivities with enough sugary, pseudo-analysis frosting that it seems as if it is a delectable slice of Americana rather than a bit of stale soft-core porn.

The 30-year slow creep of tabloid journalism—such as in-depth musings on the cultural signification of Kim Kardashian’s pouring champagne on her bum—has tainted some of the most respected publications, now forced to think about click-bait as financial strategy.

There is such a thing as a Kardashian Effect—a state within which the pursuit of social media memes overtakes all other pursuits by a publication—including meaning.

This recent devolution from infotainment brings inanity to transcendent levels.  Having created a new digital genre of evangelical mindlessness, it buries any remnant of cultural significance beneath an endless cascade of celebrity rants and Instagram pics.

There is, of course, another pseudo-genre of reportage; the modern form of yellow journalism. Hysterical and highly partisan, publishers use an easy-bake recipe of terror, shock and conspiracy theories (along with a bit about ethnicity) in order to hint at a “big picture” which is most often never revealed but which can be whisked quickly into Twitter-friendly quotes.

It is perhaps inevitable—in a world in which CNN and The New York Times must compete against Twitter and Comedy Central for mere survival—that things would get a bit sleazy.

Using political commentary and family values dogma as a modesty curtain for readers hoping to get a “pain porn” glimpse of a humiliated, teary-eyed political wife, even the most illustrious publishers have waded into the muck, hoping to find stories that are intellectually palatable, relevant but nonetheless steeped in celebrity culture.

Kanye West’s recent insistence, however, that celebrities are a population subject to wholesale persecution by the press (with the invasion of privacy as the penultimate hate crime) is perhaps a bit much.  Many stars—including West—openly discuss their sex lives and seemingly endless other intimate personal details in social media and therefore might not have much to support a claim of privacy invasion when nothing of their lives has been hidden from the public eye.

This brings us to what Gawker—and its impending sale—actually means.

In a world in which there are so very many scandals waiting to be plucked from pre-existing political, financial, and Hollywood dramas—Gawker has no need to focus on who gave it to whom, or who is or is not gay.

Adding to the needless suffering component of the fall of House Gawker is the fact that unlike early days of tabloids, today’s celebrities have become brands and those brands have become causes.

America’s rich and powerful are now not merely celebrities but revered cultural icons, self-anointed with the privilege of ruthlessly protecting not only their reputations but their ability to employ their coffers to rise above mud-slinging and even accurate reporting.

Gawker’s fall was perhaps long overdue in the eyes of some, but its chilling effect on the Other Half of journalism cannot be underestimated.

A demise which was in part due to Gawker’s knack for making influential enemies has– -justifiably or not—unleashed an exemplary, well-funded ground war quite likely to encourage more celebrity grudge matches.

Most publications, even venerable cash-cows, would not survive a $140 million damage judgment, or even one for a third of that amount. Gawker was not punished but obliterated—a precedent which could weave its way into the canons of still—evolving digital privacy laws.

Using this model, an offended party such as a Donald Trump might reasonably use a virtually inexhaustible pool of wealth to dismember—at least the editorial wing—of disobedient publications using the Gawker rout as a legal foundation.

The stories that matter, including culturally significant revelations about public figures—such as Bill Cosby’s long, complicated history of sex crime allegations which were ignored for decades—may be overlooked by leading publications simply out of a need to remain solvent.

Fluff journalism—fawning profiles and light, invariably sweetened analysis—requires no risk, involves negligible research and above all seduces, rather than enrages, rich, powerful friends who own rich, ad-buying companies.

Gawker is effectively gone—at least in its current incarnation—but it has changed the playing field for gossips, culture pundits, and investigative reporters permanently. The awful choice—to produce an endless stream of sugary treats for the powerful and omnipresent or face an equally endless barrage of lawsuits—is perhaps one which has already been made for everyone.

 

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Publishers call for rethink of proposed changes to online privacy laws” was written by Mark Sweney, for The Guardian on Sunday 28th May 2017 23.01 UTC

An alliance of news publishers has called on European regulators to rethink proposed changes to online privacy laws, arguing that they will potentially kill their digital businesses and give Google, Apple and Facebook too much control of advertising and personal data.

More than two dozen leading publishers – including the Financial Times, Guardian, Le Monde, Spiegel, Telegraph, Daily Mail and Les Echoes – have signed a letter to the European parliament, which is deliberating proposals to tighten up how data is gathered and used by web companies.

The publishers argue that new regulations relating to “cookies” – small files that remember users’ digital habits therefore allowing the targeting of relevant ads – could cut off their ability to build digital revenue.

Currently, when users visit an individual website or app they are asked if they will consent to a cookietracking them. Under the European commission’s plans, consumers will in the future instead be asked to make a single choice to accept, or reject, cookies from all websites and apps only on one single occasion on their phone or browser.

Publishers argue that creating a single “switch” will most likely result in consumers taking the simplest route of opting out of all cookies, leaving them with scant information to support their targeted advertising models.

In turn, this would leave the few digital giants used by most consumers to access the web, and those like Facebook that have their own giant data mining capability, in control.

“Given that 90% of [digital] usage across Europe is concentrated in the hands of just four companies: Google, Apple, Microsoft and Mozilla, this [proposal]… has the potential to exacerbate the asymmetry of power between individual publishers and these global digital gateways,” the letter says.

“The current ePrivacy proposals will result in the data of European digital citizens being concentrated in the hands of a few global companies, as a result of which digital citizens will become less protected. It will give those global companies a tighter grip on the personal data of European digital citizens.”

Under the proposals, publishers would be allowed to lobby consumers to go into their settings and unblock individual sites and “white list” them, but news organisations believe that in practice this would prove to be an extremely difficult task.

The proposal has been compared to the ad-blocking battle in which publishers ask the increasing number of those who use the software to turn it off, or add their businesses to a white list, explaining how advertising is essential income for many digital news businesses.

The proposals are likely to further exacerbate the huge issue publishers already face as Google and Facebook sweep up as much as 90% of all new digital display advertising.

“The practice of serving relevant advertising to readers is now an established norm in the advertising industry, and is essential to ensure that publishers can compete with Google and Facebook who already control 20% of total global advertising spend,” the letter says.

“If as a result of these proposals news publishers were unable to serve relevant advertising to our readers, this would reduce our ability to compete with the capabilities of dominant digital platforms for digital advertising revenues, ultimately undermining our ability to invest in high quality journalism across Europe,” the letter says.

In recent months, Google, which owns YouTube, and Facebook have faced a barrage of criticism for allowing ads to run next to inappropriate content such as extremist videos.

The companies have also faced a number of issues that have hurt their previously unquestioned ability to accurately target ads, such as brands being charged for ads viewed by “bots”, computer programmes mimicking an internet user, and Facebook admitting to a number of measurement errors.

“The Commission’s ePrivacy proposals will make it more difficult to ensure transparency … and remove any distinction between publishers who place a high value on trust of their users, and those who do not,” the publishers’ letter says.

However, the bad press has so far failed to dent their popularity with advertisers with Google and Facebook enjoying a near duopoly of control of the £11bn UK digital advertising market.

Publishers say that they support the overall objective of the draft “ePrivacy” regulation, which they say has the “potential to clean up the digital economy”, but they need to compete on a fair playing field.

“Citizens are rightly concerned about the use of their personal data by third-party companies of whom they have never heard, and have no idea about the role that they play in their digital lives online,” the letter says. “[But] the commission’s proposals threaten to prevent news organisations from delivering basic functionality such as the marketing of products and services, the tailoring of news products to the needs and desires of news consumers, and relevant and acceptable advertising.”

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Paul Rossi’s magazine The Economist is a success story in a world strewn with the corpses of publishing icons. This story appeared in The Advertising Technology Review in 2013.

There is a fine line, in publishing, between the accessible and the vapid: this is a line that The Economist does not intend to walk, says Sir Paul Rossi, the magazine’s publisher.

The Economist, now in its 170th year, must solve a contemporary marketing puzzle, said Rossi, “not a content problem.”

That puzzle—the ever-looming specter of a savage contest between content and revenue— is one which has been tangled with by the likes of The New York Times, The Washington Post, and fatally, the print version of Newsweek Magazine, which ceased publication in 2012.

However, long before it was famously trumpeted that print was dead, The Economist had developed a forward-looking business model which would preserve the integrity of its brand across multiple platforms while pursing an aggressive, ROI-driven growth strategy.

However, long before it was famously trumpeted that print was dead, The Economist had developed a forward-looking business model

“One of the things which has become increasingly obvious is that because of Big Data and the abundance of inventory we are living in a world of declining CPMs,” said Rossi in 2012.

“Where your business is wholly dependent on advertising, ” Rossi continued, “you will have to keep adjusting your business model to keep the revenues going- in the long run, that’s not particularly sustainable.”

Unlike publishers laboring under a click-centric business model, The Economist focuses on driving subscriptions with content that is data-driven in its curation— the old-fashioned way.

“We’ve always had a business built around paid content,” said Rossi, so the focus of the magazine online and offline has always been about user experience and sustaining user engagement.

Unlike publishers laboring under a click-centric business model, The Economist focuses on driving  subscriptions with content—the old-fashioned way

Relevant, quality content, according to Rossi, is naturally targeted towards a high-value audience: open-minded, intellectually curious readers willing to explore new ideas and products regardless of how or on which platform that content appears.

He sees no need to switch to a celebrities and shock model that has become the rule of the day in many British publications.

This is not to say that The Economist does not cover pop culture. The Economist’s take on everything— ranging from pop stars to unfortunately named politicians with a predilection for cyber-stripping— attempts to bridge the gap between the mirthless world of critical analysis and the pop-candy-strewn world of gossip and celebrity tattle tales.

That content strategy has built The Economist’s readership and online audience into a formidable force of 1.5 million paid subscribers as of March 2012, with an average net worth of $1,666,0000 and a household income of $250,000.

The company’s strict emphasis on high-quality content, however, creates its own dilemma when multi-platform distribution brings the brand in direct competition with online publishers prone to put sizzle and shock at the forefront of a headline-driven, click-obsessed marketing model.

Rossi stated that the magazine’s formula doesn’t change across platforms—there’s no vacillation on the magazine’s compilation of the weekly parade of “50 things that matter” which details each news item’s broader relevance to the readership.

“We won’t change the brand or the value proposition according to technology,” said Rossi. “We like that there is significant value in what we do, especially in the age of mass information overload.”

The company’s strict emphasis on high-quality content brings the brand in direct competition with online publishers prone to put sizzle at the forefront of a headline-driven, click-obsessed marketing model.

Naturally, publications with a vociferously loyal and growing fan base need not worry about watering down content to the familiar online formula of a universally palatable soup of quips and gossip. The magazine, instead, says Rossi, should be viewed as a resource for the “intellectually curious.”

That emphasis on intelligent inquiry molds the magazine’s marketing strategy as well- ranging from print to online to  digital-out-of-home advertising.

Rossi stated that America represents a major marketing push for the brand. A large part of their marketing plan, developed by BBDO, is a blend of cheeky British humor and an open appeal to the audience’s sense of adventure.

Rossi states that rather than battle the notion that The Economist is a journal which, true its name, draws its topics solely from the realm of finance, The Economist’s campaign focuses on the magazine’s all-encompassing overview of world affairs- challenging potential readers to take their brains “out for a spin.”

A large part of their marketing plan, developed by BBDO, is a blend of cheeky British humor and an open appeal to the audience’s sense of adventure.

Unfortunately, for many venerable publications, good content is often not enough to stay afloat, never mind grow paid subscriptions.

The Washington Post, for example, struggled for decades before being bought by Jeff Bezos. Donald Graham, the Washington Post’s CEO conceded in a public letter that the company’s slow growth and even attempts to innovate online were not enough to defeat the drag of its troubled print business.

Despite the risks, The Economist’s marketing strategy attempts to kindle a national debate about the value of debate itself.

The idea that America is an intellectual wasteland save for a few hamlets near Ivy League universities and major cities is laughable, according to Rossi.

The Economist’s marketing strategy attempts to kindle a national debate about the value of debate itself.

There is a market in America for rich, curated, intellectual discussion, Rossi believes, and The Economist aims to unearth it.

Despite the fact that America’s airwaves are replete with ideologues and flesh-baring reality shows, Rossi is confident that America’s reputation as not being as open to intellectual inquiry as France, for example, is undeserved.

“Americans are intellectually curious, they are open to new ideas,” one cannot, said Rossi, accept the stereotype that cerebral analysis and international affairs are exclusively the interests of American scholars and politicians.

Rossi believes that The Economist’s average consumer engagement time online has near parity with their reported offline reading times because the content isn’t metrics or ad-centric.

There is a market in America for rich, curated, intellectual discussion, Rossi believes, and The Economist aims to unearth it.

“The technology is a bookend,” Rossi said, noting that the goal, whether through the app or the blogs, is to offer a “lean-back reading experience”. “We want to be really clear about the reader engagement proposition- why people pick the magazine up and spend their money for it.” Readers subscribe to content, Rossi said, not platforms or formats.

The Takeaway:
Publishing brands build engagement and lasting readership growth through lean-back content, not headline-driven clicks. A sustainable business model for any publisher requires that the company’s value proposition remains effortlessly obvious: content should be original, valuable to the reader, and of sufficient depth to bring the reader back a second time.

Brian Lesser was Global CEO of Xaxis in 2013. This article originally appeared in The Advertising Technology Review in 2013.

Brian Lesser is Global CEO of Xaxis, a leading digital media company experiencing explosive growth in the 26 markets it services across North America, Europe, Asia Pacific and Latin America. Brian sat down to discuss his company and the future of programmatic buying in an uncertain ecosystem.

Are we on the precipice of an ad tech implosion? Many journalists and even a few VC have said that the ecosystem, as it stands, can’t continue. What needs to be done?
Big Data and programmatic provide increased benefits to advertisers, so spending in this discipline will continue to rise. It will ultimately drive increasing numbers of investors and tech entrepreneurs into the ad tech space. As agencies, we need to serve as the trusted advisers, holding the client’s goals as the focus point and helping to shape the landscape accordingly. Not all ad tech companies offer unique services or proprietary data and these simply do not need a spot at the table.

There is a saying that today it is “Math Men” vs “Mad Men”—ignoring the exclusion of female creatives and engineers from that statement—is there an inherent conflict between Big Data and Big Creative that can’t be resolved? Is this about budgets, culture, warring ideas, or something more?
With the growth of programmatic, art and data are actually more closely connected than ever before. Technology and data analysis allow advertisers to reach only the most relevant consumers wherever they happen to access media. Putting the right message in front of those audiences makes this equation even more effective. However, the right data and execution can make up for most creative shortcomings. That isn’t to say that we look at them as two distinct entities. In an ideal relationship, we see it as an opportunity for collaboration – creatives are able to get feedback that’s much more specific and useful to clients, allowing them to refine their approach to get the best returns. Relying exclusively on creative or technology is never going to be as successful as a combined approach.

Some voices are stating that Big Data is simply too overwhelming for many marketers—from local marketers to CMOs. How can we reduce the fear factor for marketers without oversimplifying the rich complexity of data and its importance in building solid strategy?
Big Data – the raw material describing hundreds of billions of interactions – is only as useful as the ability to pull actionable insights out of it. The barometer marketers need to apply is actually very simple. Namely, can I use this information to drive better results? And the answer, as shown by the explosion of companies utilizing Big Data to drive their advertising campaigns, is a resounding “yes.” Xaxis helps its clients make sense of the mountain of information referred to as Big Data, analyze it together across sources, and drive more successful advertising activities. It’s not a question of looking at every single data point – it’s using the power of large numbers to draw useful conclusions. And it works.

How has this year been for Xaxis considering the ecosystem’s general uncertainty?
2013 has been an extremely strong year for Xaxis and for the programmatic industry in general. While there’s still a learning curve, we are seeing an increasing comfort level from both buyers and sellers when it comes to incorporating audience buying into their overall strategies. Publishers in particular have become much more open to audience buying technologies, which has led to a proliferation of private publisher exchanges. We see no value for our clients to play in the auction space, so we have worked directly with publishers and media owners to create private exchanges that are only open to Xaxis and GroupM clients. These advertisers get preferential access to premium inventory at scale; and publishers see increased performance for their ads. Specifically, Xaxis is continuing its expansion in international markets, seeing growth of its client list to more than 1,500 advertisers and introducing several exciting new products. This May, we launched operations in Latin America, introducing the first, fully featured audience buying solution for reaching the region’s more than 300 million connected consumers. We’ve also opened offices in Taiwan, Thailand and Hong Kong and are on track to be operating in 28 markets by year’s end. On the product front, Xaxis had a number of exciting firsts in bringing audience buying to new digital channels. In the US, this includes Xaxis Radio, the first programmatic audio buying product for the digital radio market, and Xaxis Places, which allows brands to sync their online and mobile efforts with their digital-out-of-home campaigns. More recently, we debuted Xaxis Mobile, the first solution to allow brands to sequence and analyze their mobile ads in full coordination with the rest of their digital spend. By year’s end, we will have served more than 500 billion impressions and expect even larger numbers in 2014. And finally, and perhaps most gratifying, we were recently named by Crain’s New York Business as one of its “Best Places to Work in New York City” for 2013. The knowledge, skill and dedication of our people are what makes Xaxis great and we look forward to what the next year will bring.

Brian Lesser is Global CEO of Xaxis, a leading digital media company

Josh Karpf was Director of Digital Media at PepsiCo in 2012. This story originally appeared in The Advertising Technology Review in 2012.

Brands are most often at the mercy of Silicon Valley and Madison Avenue in digital advertising, beholden to the major agencies and advertising technology companies to build their brands online as well as to provide the measurement of their campaigns’ success.

Yet brands are just as frequently unsatisfied with the performance of their advertising technology solutions as well as their inability to make big ideas blend seamlessly with the ever-growing volume of big data.

Although brands are steadily increasing their investments in online advertising and in existing advertising technology tools, a significant number of major brand CMOs have in recent studies stated that digital advertising still presented many barriers to deeper investment.

Brands are just as frequently unsatisfied with the performance of their advertising technology solutions as well as their inability to make big ideas blend seamlessly with the ever-growing volume of big data.

Those barriers include uncertain measurement standards, the complexity of the media-buying process, and the inability to customize solutions easily to meet brand objectives.

A radical solution is to create a training ground for new, untested ideas in digital marketing and put them through their paces, allowing startups in to compete on the basis of performance and long-term merit.

PepsiCo10 attempts to do just that, expanding PepsiCo’s two-year-old technology startup incubator program from the U.S. and then Europe to Brazil and India this year. While this approach is a novel turn for a major brand such as PepsiCo, the relevance to advertising technology as a whole is a much larger story.

Silicon Valley’s sheen as the world’s largest incubator of bright ideas will endure in perpetuity, but the idea of brands building their own advertising technology providers from the startup stage is a new one.

It is also perhaps a future challenge to the old order, which has allowed major agencies and the caprice of Silicon Valley’s biggest investors to prescribe the course and the speed of brand-focused advertising technology development.

Brands would naturally if given the chance to create their own tools, develop advertising technology that is performance and branding-oriented. The ability to carve nascent technology to best serve brand objectives is a concept that goes to the heart of what digital advertising is supposed to do: drive results and foster connections between the brand and the consumer while providing data-rich insights.

It is also perhaps a future challenge to the old order, which has allowed major agencies and the caprice of Silicon Valley’s biggest investors to prescribe the course and the speed of brand-focused advertising technology development.

Joshua Karpf, PepsiCo’s Director of Digital Media, believes that the company’s PepsiCo10 project is significant for the digital advertising landscape as a whole, as it is an attempt to bring the brand closer to the best new ideas before they hit a cluttered landscape.

“What if PepsiCo had spotted Facebook earlier than anyone?” , asked Karpf in an interview with the author in 2012. “We want to be the place where new technologies come to breakthrough.” Karpf stated that being present at the creation of cutting-edge technologies is a competitive advantage that PepsiCo is committed to pursuing globally.

The company isn’t attempting to rile either Silicon Valley or Madison Avenue, but rather create a role for itself that perhaps a brand might perform best; as curator of the advertising technology and digital marketing solutions that it might need in the future.

“What if PepsiCo had spotted Facebook earlier than anyone?,” asked Karpf in a 2012 interview.

There are several factors that make PepsiCo10 more than a revisiting of that 90’s favorite, FirstTuesday, a venture capital free-for-all which famously helped fund some of the decade’s biggest flops and successes.

PepsiCo, as a powerful global brand, has the inherent power to turn a plucky startup into a viable competitor in the advertising technology space virtually overnight.

The company has a wealth of brands, vast amounts of consumer data to utilize along with the ability to single-handedly launch any new advertising format, for example, that a bright-eyed startup crew could imagine, to a world audience.

PepsiCo, as a powerful global brand, has the inherent power to turn a plucky startup into a viable competitor in the advertising technology space virtually overnight.

PepsiCo’s digital strategy has been alternately heralded and questioned over the past several years, yet this year the company is boosting its overall advertising budget by more than $600 million, with a particular emphasis on digital marketing.

PepsiCo is taking its ad spending seriously, and as a part of that push, it is actively looking for new ways of driving ad performance, optimizing its social media efforts and connecting with new audiences online globally.

This entails a subtle rethinking of PepsiCo’s role as a brand in digital. Although PepsiCo’s core business is certainly not shifting to technology, the company views itself now as a catalyst for practical innovation in marketing and consumer connections.

PepsiCo is taking its ad spending seriously, and as a part of that push, it is actively looking for new ways of driving ad performance, optimizing its social media efforts and connecting with new audiences online globally.

This requires a deeper look at the way those connections are formed, the way advertising is delivered, and new ways of looking at online marketing.

Those future-focused new ideas are percolating in places like Brazil and India, as they are in Silicon Valley and Europe.

The significance of PepsiCo’s role as a driver of digital marketing ideation is that it offers a third way, between submission to the shiny new tools of Silicon Valley and the reticence of Madison Avenue, to plunge further into the shocking of the new.

Those future-focused new ideas are percolating in places like Brazil and India, as they are in Silicon Valley and Europe.

Brands don’t necessarily need to be protected or coddled in exploring the digital universe. Advertising technology, as a landscape, may indeed be cluttered with mediocrity, but brands savvy enough to create an open door for new ideas to compete based on merit may have found a way to make the landscape evolve into a performance, not PR-driven system out of necessity.

PepsiCo, by finding their own new ideas and letting them compete on the world stage can effectively force older, more established companies to think more seriously about performance and innovation simply by default.

Josh Karpf was the Director of Digital Media at PepsiCo in 2012. This story originally appeared in The Advertising Technology Review that year.

Tom Phillips was CEO of Dstillery in 2014. This story originally appeared in The Advertising Technology Review in 2014.

Advertising technology company Dstillery, formerly Media6Degress, has raised $26 million in funding and worked with more than 400 leading brands across the globe. CEO Tom Phillips and Chief Scientist Claudia Perlich discussed key principles marketers need to keep in mind when looking at Big Data in a post-cookie world.

There’s been a lot of talk about a post-cookie world.  How likely is it that this would occur sooner rather than later? How will it impact marketers?

The post-cookie world is already here, and is evident by the rise of apps, as well as browsers that limit the use of third-party cookies. Companies have already started deploying alternative approaches that use a “recipe” of tactics to find and target audiences. In addition, numerous companies are looking to provide a true multi-screen marketing solution for advertisers trying to engage with consumers, who are moving seamlessly between devices wherever they go. The cookie represents a declining part of the recipe, as other tactics such as statistical IDs, registered user data and location-based targeting gain traction. However, as much as most people think in terms of absolutes i.e., the “death of the cookie,” the reality is that the cookie will be around for a long time. The biggest challenge for marketers and ad tech vendors is to get non-cookie-based identifiers synched with the tools that measure performance of advertiser campaigns. If analytics providers and ad servers measure only cookie-based conversions, the impact of non-cookie-based targeting technology will be understated. For instance, today’s ad servers measure post-view conversion results using cookie-based technology. In most cases, post-view conversions on a Safari browser go uncounted. This problem has been recognized but considered on the fringe for some time now given the low penetration of Safari. Consumer adoption of non-cookie-based devices and digital media is making this an issue that needs to be addressed more urgently.

We hear so much about data these days, many marketers have become data-blind, believing that any data is good data. What do marketers need to look for when determining which data is relevant to crafting strategy? How should they address the data quality issue?

Claudia Perlich, Chief Scientist, Dstillery

There is an overload on the term ‘data.’ In the world of data science, data is the beginning, the raw ingredient. Imagine making a cake. Data is simply one ingredient — the flour. In order to turn the flour into a cake, you need a baker -a data scientist- and a recipe, which is the algorithm along with other ingredients. The marketer’s strategy is to offer your future mother-in-law a cake. Now it is true that if the flour, the data, is bad, the cake won’t be great. But the right cake may require a whole different recipe. Raw data is just a recording of facts about the world. For instance, did someone go to a website, did they click on an ad, etc. And as such, data is not good, bad, clean or dirty; it simply is. When it turns out that the data doesn’t lead to the results we expected, we consider it low-quality. For instance, what technically might qualify as a click, may not actually be a person that deliberately clicked on the ad in order to check out the offer. It may just be that the computer system recorded something that by technical definitions was a click. Software that has infected the browser could have generated that click, giving someone far away with no interest in the ad power to control the browser.

That relates to what we actually mean by “data,” it seems.

Most often when non-data scientists question the quality of the ‘data,’ it is really a question about something derived from the raw data, something considered an ‘insight.’ When we move to insights, or more generally any form of derived data, things start to get really tricky. At this point a lot more manipulation has gone into it, typically done by someone else. Now you have to figure out whether that means what you think it does. For instance, if someone gives you a number and tells you it’s the average of the age of your customers’ cookies taking action on your site, the number they’ve shared almost surely doesn’t mean what you think it does. It depends on many factors like the percentage of traffic coming from a specific device or browser, the percentage of cookies disabled, whether one removes the zero ages or not, etc. Any number between one hour and 90 days is plausible, but only one is consistent with what you think it means. So the only solution is a strong push for data literacy. Everyone using data has to really know what it means and buying data or getting data from a third-party makes this nearly impossible.

How will the possibility of more screens, increased privacy regulations and the growing importance of content marketing impact traditional models of behavioral targeting? What is Dstillery’s value proposition in reference to the changing needs of marketers in an uncertain ecosystem?

Dstillery CEO Tom Phillips

Traditional models of behavioral targeting help bring scale and relevance to campaigns, regardless of the screen. Traditional advertising models use estimates to try to get a message in front of appropriate audiences. And while mass communication is one tool for building brand awareness, intelligent use of data can create much more efficient solutions for marketers, who are looking to build brands and drive sales. Whether it is television, print, radio or digital, marketers have focused on content as a proxy for trying to find the right audience. Fragmentation of media has helped push endemic advertising. But there is still a huge amount of content consumption, where marketers are looking to hit high compositions of an audience because it’s the best that they can do. In other words, if you’re trying to reach cooks, it’s a lot easier to hit your target audience by advertising on The Food Network rather than American Idol. Understanding consumer intent through tracking and then deploying advertisements through digital means allows marketers to connect with the right prospects for their brand more effectively. This has been done in the desktop space for some time now. Mobile efforts are growing rapidly, and soon we’ll see significant growth in digital TV, radio and outdoor. This shift is resulting in more data, and with it a more complete window into the consumer beyond anything that previously existed. At Dstillery, what we have built for the past five years allows us to capitalize on this shift and effectively activate the data on behalf of marketers. We find ourselves at an exciting time in marketing, one that is great for the marketer. And with the right balance of innovation and respect for consumer privacy, it will be great for the consumer as well.

 

Brian Kane was COO of LiveRail in 2012. This story originally appeared in The Advertising Technology Review in 2012

Brian Kane is the new COO of video advertising technology company, LiveRail. Mr. Kane was formerly COO at Admeld, and Google’s Director of Publishing Services prior to joining Admeld. Mr. Kane spoke with The Advertising Technology Review about LiveRail’s standing in the video advertising field, the risks of adopting the GRP and his belief that the infamous ad tech bubble might just be a myth.

Are we truly in an ad tech bubble? How far does ad tech have to go to convince the masses that it can deliver enough value to justify shifting more ad spend online?
First, as it relates to the idea of a bubble, I don’t necessarily think that we’re – meaning ad tech as a whole- in a bubble. It does seem that there are a number of companies which appear to be a bit more focused on their valuations, their raises and planning for their exits versus providing solutions to the market. The number of companies which are placing a value in excess of $1 billion on their companies is staggering. The fact is that those companies are talking about their exits, raises and valuations before they talk about sustainability of operations, and the value they are bringing to their customers. That’s the interesting piece. So that’s my definition of a bubble; it’s the state you’re in when you start worrying more about the exit then about creating something of real value. I’m pretty sure many would’ve said that at the time of Google’s acquisitions of Youtube or DoubleClick – that they were indicative of “bubble-like” conditions. Certainly not in retrospect. Increased numbers of acquisitions doesn’t equate to a bubble. Players were focused on exits rather than solutions; those are the cases where individual companies may be in a bit of a bubble. As for what we need to do to demonstrate to brands that there’s justification for moving more spend online, I think that as an industry its obviously important to continue to provide them with interesting and actionable sets of data to enable them to understand the ways in which their campaigns are impacting consumers. Online holds significant advantage in this area over every other medium, and our ability to educate brands on this is still – all these years later – central to our work. More importantly, we are recognising that as an industry we’re driving a huge amount of change in how things have been done for a long time. It’s not just “flick-a-switch” kind of change, but cultural change – the kind that takes longer to work through – the kind that causes people to do things and look at things very differently than they have in the past. I think it’s critical that in ad tech we recognise that we’re still moving people along a very rapidly moving continuum of deep change. Serving as trusted partners to these organisations, enabling them to make sense of technology which is complex and changing so quickly, has to remain core to what we do.


Video advertising is far more effective than traditional banner ads. Is this arena the next frontier for innovation in ad tech?

There are a handful of factors at play that make video advertising a particularly important area of ad tech innovation. In the early days of online advertising, one of the largest gating factors to bringing advertisers online was their relative lack of comfort in creating compelling creative in the absence of video. On the buy side of the ecosystem, all these years later, video still remains the format that advertisers gravitate towards and understand best. On the supply side, the number of video- enabled impressions has grown exponentially, and there’s a good amount of recent data that suggests that the proliferation of connected devices and tablets is going to have a substantial impact on the numbers of these impressions that will become available over the next few years. Equally important though are the technology solutions that have come to the market recently which have given advertisers and publishers really powerful tools to transact programmatically, at scale. Advertisers now have the ability to buy video placements via RTB leveraging really rich audience data – and publishers can now feel more confident and comfortable in selling their video inventory through these channels while maintaining tight control over who can buy and at what price. The advent of private exchanges has also brought a new buying model to bear, enabling premium publishers to lob off slices of inventory which are sold in programmatic fashion to a select pool of buyers. This innovation is the here and now. The next phase, which I think is really most interesting, is what will take place as more televisions become connected, and as tablet usage continues to explode. While it certainly is not the most scientific study, I’ve got 3 kids between ages of 5 and 7. Their first screen is their iPad, their second screen is their iMac, and the TV is last on their list. We’ve got a bit to go, but this trend will press our industry to create new ways for advertisers to connect with audiences and new ways to measure the success of those engagements. This has been substantiated recently in studies from Nielsen which found some significant shifts over the last few years as to the reduced importance of TV as the primary media consumption device. This is, to me, an exciting not-so-distant future state.

LiveRail manages more than 3 billion impressions per month, about 25 percent of all video ads. Based on your knowledge of the what major brands want, what trends do you see emerging in video ads?
I think there are two significant trends that are substantially shaping the video advertising industry today. The move today is towards audience-buying via real-time-bidding and the continued shift of consumers to devices apart from the television. This is prompting advertisers to focus significant effort on multi-platform buying. As real-time bidding and programmatic buying technologies advance, we’re seeing more large publishers and buyers adopt this technology. For publishers, the appeal of RTB has typically been the creation of more efficient ways to manage the non-guaranteed sales channel, in video, we believe that we are going to see more and more guaranteed deals executed via this new technology as agency trading desks build their video businesses, and as publishers begin to implement new models like private exchanges, for exposing this video inventory to buyers. Multi-platform is the other significant trend that’s driving substantial change across the video advertising space. As more content being delivered and consumed via tablets, and to a lesser degree, connected TVs, publishers and advertisers are looking for more efficient ways to manage advertising across these platforms. The other thing that is getting a good amount of attention is the focus on gross rating points (GRP), and whether this traditional media metric can be brought over into the online world as a measurement tool. As more TV buyers transition to the online space, GRP represents a familiar and useful metric for both planning and measurement, but the fear is that it doesn’t capture many of the nuances that differentiate online from other formats. The concern is that if our industry fully embraces GRP, we risk devaluing much of what makes online advertising unique. There are merits to both sides here. Stepping back from the granular details, development of an appropriate set of standards that deliver effective cross-platform insights to traditional TV buyers, while still respecting many of the unique aspects of online, would be a positive step forward for the industry.

Privacy and data are two big concerns for consumers and brands. How does LiveRail tackle these issues for clients?
Since we work with participants across the entire ecosystem– publishers, ad networks, DSP’s, trading desks, and agencies) we understand the complexities and concerns that come with privacy compliance and audience data from various perspectives.  Earlier this year, we worked with the leading technology vendors that specialise in these areas and created the Video Brand Safety Alliance. All members have native integrations in our platform and with one click, our clients can use TRUSTe and Evidon to address privacy and Exelate, Proximic, comScore, and AdSafe, and DoubleVerify to address audience data.


Brian Kane was Chief Operating Officer for LiveRail, a leading video advertising company.

Murthy Nukala was the founder and CEO of Adchemy in 2013. This article originally appeared in The Advertising Technology Review in 2013

Mr. Murthy Nukala is CEO of Adchemy, a company that uses proprietary intent-mapping technology to help companies like Macy’s, Verizon and Overstock.com optimize their digital campaigns around consumers’ intentions when they search online. Mr. Nukala believes that digital marketers need to help refocus the advertising technology industry’s emphasis around helping advertisers make money, not simply selling more ads.

Have we failed to communicate to brands and marketers how data really works to connect digital campaigns to real world sales?
I think leading marketers already know that online consumers who are ready to buy convert into sales, both online and offline. For example, Macy’s recently announced that every dollar it spends online leads to $6 of purchases at stores within the next 10 days. The online advertising industry just can’t be focused on selling more ads at higher prices – the industry needs to be focused on helping advertisers make more money.

Why is there so much confusion about Big Data in ad tech? 
This is a typical “boil the ocean” problem. Just because the online advertising industry generates a lot of data doesn’t mean all the data is actually of value. There’s a lot of energy spent building enough capacity to physically store all of the data, moving the data to the same place, merging and cleaning the data, and then having the right tools to analyze the data – all with the presumption that there’s got to be something of value in the haystack. The industry needs to be more hypothesis-driven. What’s driving value in online advertising?  What data will actually help marketers derive more of that value?

How do you define consumer intent in a Big Data dominated industry?
Consumer intent is a consumer’s objective – what he or she trying to achieve at any point in time. One way of looking at the online advertising industry is it’s dominated by Big Data – tracking every single click of each consumer, combining that intelligence with demographic data, and then trying to make good inferences about those users. However, another way of looking at online advertising is that it’s really dominated by intent. The majority of dollars spent in online advertising is really spent in channels where consumer intent can be clearly inferred, whether that’s paid search, on a media or e-commerce website, or a mobile app.  Channels where consumer intent can’t be inferred are of less valuable to advertisers since they don’t allow for the level of personalization that consumers have come to expect. Obviously, the channel where consumer intent is stated most explicitly is paid search. However, as we see more and more people come onto the web using mobile devices, we’re going to see consumer intent become more implied, based on the app they are using and the their location.

How do we shift the focus from keywords to intent?
Before explaining how we shift from keywords to intent, it’s first important to explain why the shift matters in the first place. Because different people who are actually looking for the same thing use different keywords in their search queries, it’s not uncommon for a search marketer to acquire and manage dozens, if not hundreds of keywords for a single product. For large brands, this translates into having to manage literally hundreds of thousands of keywords— a very expensive, time consuming and ultimately sub-scale task. Moving from keywords to intent is not just a cool new way of looking at your SEM campaign – it’s a way to make more money. A lot more money. As a result, many very large advertisers have already begun to make the transition from managing their paid search campaigns around keywords to managing around intent. By managing campaigns around the underlying intent of a consumer’s search query instead of keywords, our customers are simplifying their campaigns by 1,000 fold and reaching more prospects with more relevant ads. Marketers, according to our case studies, who have used Adchemy IntentMap technology to shift from keywords to intent have increased their ad spend by 90 percent or more, on average, while meeting or exceeding their ROAS goals.

What’s the difference between a “point solution” and a true improvement on the existing ad tech ecosystem. Where do you believe that Adchemy fit in?
At Adchemy, we’ve seen how point solutions can really introduce choke points in other parts of the customer acquisition funnel. For example, in display, showing a banner ad that says, “Which of these celebrities is Paris Hilton?” might generate a lot of clicks – because everyone knows who Paris Hilton is – but the same banner is going to cause your landing page conversion to plummet. Looking at paid search, Adchemy has found that, for some of our clients, using the verb “Buy” in ads has a much higher click-thru rate than other verbs, but post-click conversion is actually very bad and, from a system-wide ROAS perspective, other verbs are better than “Buy”. Any solution that optimizes just one level of the customer acquisition funnel is a point solution. Any solution that looks to maximize ROAS, or maximize revenue while meeting or exceeding a target ROAS, is a true improvement to the ad tech ecosystem. Adchemy offers the latter.

Murthy Nukala was the founder of Digital Jones, which was acquired by Shopping.com, a $130 million company that was the best-performing IPO of 2004. At Shopping.com, he held the position of senior vice president of enterprise products, overseeing the company’s strategic initiatives and businesses. Mr. Nukala has also held management positions at Composite Software and Sand Hill Group, where he guided the firm’s technology research agendas and investments.

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