In recent years, marketing technology—or simply “mar tech,” in industry parlance—has gone from fledgling to flourishing, growing from a niche that once included a few hundred players to a vast universe of 5,000-plus companies. Their offerings include software for social media, email, search engine optimization, e-retail targeting, video, consumer rewards, campaign measurement and creative workflow, just to name a few. But behind all this magical cognitive content are brilliant, forward-thinking women and men who are rapidly reimagining marketing and advertising technology (since major cloud players are increasingly blurring the line), pitching a new world order where CRM and digital ads work hand in hand. Here, Adweek salutes the leading figures and trailblazers in the burgeoning field of mar tech.
Due to huge AI ambitions, IBM Watson seems to be omnipresent. Last year the Armonk, N.Y.-based tech giant debuted an innovative system called Watson Ads, which lets consumers ask questions by voice or text and receive answers. What’s more, Peluso and her team have IBM utilizing machine learning to run its own programmatic campaigns, reducing cost per click by as much as 70 percent at times. “Michelle is relentless in her focus on clients and what they need, and she is a tireless evangelist who helps teams understand market opportunities,” says Kathy McGettrick, IBM’s vp of market development and insights.
Svp, Oracle Data Cloud
Oracle has worked overtime in the last month, releasing new AI and chatbot products and forging an over-the-top targeting deal with smart-TV ads player Simulmedia. But the biggest move had Roza’s fingerprints all over it, acquiring notable data measurement firm Moat in mid-April for a reported $850 million. Heineken, Dr Pepper, U.S. Auto Parts and Black Box Wines are among the company’s brand clients, while his division has been busy building on partnerships with Facebook, Snapchat and Pinterest. Gunnard Johnson, Pinterest’s head of measurement science and insights, says Roza’s team has helped his platform show it can drive online and offline sales and “prove that Pinterest is a great place for advertising to happen.”
Moat aids digital platforms like Facebook, Google, Pinterest, Pandora and Snapchat in weighing the results of online brand campaigns. It’s become a go-to vendor for such measurement needs in recent years. The marketplace clearly sees value in Moat, given its $67.5 million in funding and, most importantly, having been acquired in April by Oracle. What’s more, it offers marketers a strong look into how ads perform according to sight, sound and motion. Who deserves credit? Industry insiders say it’s Fichter. “Moat has grown its attention analytics business by over 100 percent in the past year,” notes Oracle svp Eric Roza.
In a marketing world that’s increasingly focused on brand safety, Kassoy’s vast network of mobile apps offers advertisers a strong level of where their messages appear. AdColony reaches 1.5 billion global consumers across the world’s top 1,000 apps, which the company claims is second only to Google. But marketers like UFC particularly love the way Kassoy offers the one-two punch of top-tier segmentation and high-definition video advertising. “[His company] allowed us to align with a wide range of viewers’ passion points and drastically increase our overall reach and frequency,” says Kristen Bankosz, UFC’s content marketing manager.
Competition among social data companies can be intense, but Mehta seems unstoppable, having increased Spredfast’s revenue by 50 percent last year while adding blue-chip clients like Warner Bros., General Motors and Exelon. Hawaiian Airlines has grown its social audience by nearly 30 percent thanks to his constant product development, directly engaging consumers who are preoccupied with honeymoons, anniversaries and other special occasions. “[It’s proven] the importance of social media as a marketing channel, a customer-care conduit, and also as a way for PR to see and react in real time to what’s happening,” says Asiana Ponciano, Hawaiian Airlines’ consumer affairs manager.
Mendels’ digital media company, which specializes in video, saw revenue rise 12 percent in 2016 compared to the year prior—often by working with publishers. By pitching location-based data, Brightcove also has attracted an impressive array of clients such as Lowe’s, Dunkin’ Donuts, McDonald’s and Hugo Boss. Lowe’s at times has seen viewers watch an average of 12 minutes per video with Brightcove-powered campaigns. Meanwhile, shopping site AO.com is expanding how it uses Mendels’ system. “We’re looking at how we can use video and multimedia to create an entire video-based home-buying experience,” says Dominic Starkey, director of marketing at AO.com. “We’re also working on integrating interactivity, helping us to expose content in a completely different way, so each video is part of something bigger.”
John Ball and Richard Socher
Svp and gm, Einstein and chief scientist, Salesforce
Ball and Socher are the brainiacs behind Salesforce’s artificial intelligence platform, Einstein, which is super serving clients such as Dunkin’ Donuts, Aldo and online retailer Fanatics. With its small team of five, Fanatics achieved 20 percent email click-through rates while delivering 3.5 billion personalized messages in 2016. Jonathan Wilbur, director of CRM at Fanatics, calls Ball and Socher’s handiwork “a complete game-changer.”
Under Sivaramakrishnan’s stewardship, Drawbridge has revolutionized cross-device data targeting, partnering with Lyft, Oracle, Adobe, M&C Saatchi, Cardlytics, WeatherAlpha and Foursquare. Drawbridge saw 650 percent customer growth last year, expanding its team by more than 70 percent, while adding three times as many programmatic partners. “When you think about a leader, you want someone that can come in and actually create a vision for you, because you might have great ideas, but you don’t know how to take that forward,” says Bhumika Dadbhawala, Drawbridge’s head of business development. “I think that’s what Kamakshi does really well.”
Founder, chairman, CTO, Looker
Lloyd Tabb might be the perfect name for a guy who wants to help marketers with too many tabs open, and he’s doing just that with his workflow management software. Dollar Shave Club, Casper and DigitalOcean are communicating with colleagues and partners via digital channels without all that information getting lost in the translation. Tabb’s Looker gathers data from multiple marketing systems and consolidates it so that the stats can be used to search for trends and insights. “Looker gives us the freedom to do more with our data,” says Robert Olson, director of data and analytics at DigitalOcean. “It enables our teams to achieve their goals, with better results, more efficiently and faster.”
Schwartz’s team adheres to a super-curated approach to digital, and a recent campaign for the band Imagine Dragons seems to underscore Undertone’s philosophy. In the ads, consumers could listen to 20 seconds of the group’s “Believer” single, or click to stream the entire song on Spotify. Users had the option of sharing their own “beliefs,” along with a selfie, on Twitter and Facebook. The ads were extended to sites like MTV, VH1, Spin, Vibe and Refinery29. “Rob has built a culture of innovation and collaboration,” says Mike Pallad, chief revenue officer at Undertone. “Team members are encouraged to push the limits and quickly apply learnings to the business. The result has been consistent best-in-class results for our brand and agency partners.”
Cheryl Chavez and Shaun Klopfenstein
Group vp of product management and CTO, Marketo
Klopfenstein and Chavez have been instrumental in making this San Mateo, Calif.-based marketing software company such a formidable player, introducing core products like the Marketo Engagement Marketing Platform and its Ad Bridge solution and garnering a wide variety of clients. Using the company’s online marketing software, the WNBA’s Seattle Storm increased sales by 20 percent for single-game tickets in 2017 and achieved an 86 percent season ticket renewal rate. “In the first six months after transitioning to Marketo, we grew our database by 25 percent,” adds Kris Kolehmain, director of research and direct marketing for the Storm.
Evp, Nielsen Marketing Cloud
Zagorski shaped many behavioral data practices nearly a decade ago while an exec at eXelate, which Nielsen bought in 2015 and made it a core product of Nielsen Marketing Cloud. Since then, he’s guided a growing mix of TV, digital media metrics and artificial intelligence for his practically iconic employer. Recently, his team inked an ecommerce stats deal with RichRelevance and extended an agreement with National CineMedia to further theater audience data reporting, giving Nielsen customers like The Company of Others, Scripps Networks and Neogama/BBH an uncommon set of tools. “We now benefit from shared intelligence from multiple channels, which brings greater integration to our full-service offerings,” remarks Luiz Gini, director of general media at Neogama/BBH.
Evp and gm, digital marketing, Adobe
When Adobe bought analytics software firm Omniture in 2009, it raised eyebrows among those paying attention to the then-nascent marketing cloud arena. With that noteworthy purchase, Adobe also, more quietly, obtained the talents of Rencher, who was Omniture’s svp of business operations. Since then, Adobe Marketing Cloud has become a force to be reckoned with in digital marketing and advertising, with machine learning that has attracted customers like Philips, Royal Caribbean, Kohl’s, Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile. “We’ve been able to deliver personalization at scale, which is a huge breakthrough for us,” says Nick Drake, svp of digital at T-Mobile. “So now every customer is getting a unique experience.”
Wong has been celebrated as an ad-tech wunderkind since founding Kiip in 2010 at the age of 19. His ambitious mobile rewards-based ad network is the real deal. Kiip’s network offers viewers timely rewards that tie into its ads, garnering 79 percent video completion rates across a mix of 4,000 mobile apps for gaming, fitness and entertainment. Wong has taken Kiip from $7 million in 2014 revenue to $21 million last year, while more than doubling his team to 70 staffers. You want to talk targeting? Brooke Shapiro, Clorox’s group marketing manager, lauds the Kiip network’s ability to leverage “in-app language data in order to reach Hispanic competitive trash bag purchasers during positive mobile moments of the reward.”
Foursquare was starting to become yesterday’s news, a once-ballyhooed app that just couldn’t scale. But then Glueck took the reins in January 2016 and—with the help of company co-founder Dennis Crowley and president Steven Rosenblatt—turned the New York operation into a hot data service for retailers. With the ability to measure and predict foot traffic with products like Attribution by Foursquare, Glueck’s regime has recently added clients such as Target, Whole Foods and Office Depot after they heard testimonials from the likes of TGI Fridays and coupons player SnipSnap. “[There’s] no need to manually configure thousands of geofences or provision each campaign—instead we were able to know when you’d entered a location and get you the right coupon offer, via a notification front and center,” comments Ted Mann, founder of SnipSnap.
Chairman and chief scientist, 4C Insights
To some, 4C is best known as a social insights company. Choudhary and his team, however, are at the forefront of ad targeting not just online but also via TV. They recently ran a campaign via Turner Broadcasting channels for a major Hollywood film and got three times better engagement when compared to other TV buys. On Facebook, Nice ’n Easy used 4C to sync television spots with Facebook video in the U.K., and the CPG brand got 40 percent more video views than usual at a lower cost per engagement. “Campaign setup and management was intuitive with training and support provided to ensure a seamless activation,” says Oscar Romero, head of biddable international at Performics, which worked on the Nice ’n Easy effort.
CEO and co-founder, Sitecore
Seifert boasted 20 percent revenue growth in 2016, marking the sixth consecutive year that his content management and customer experience player scored double-digit percentage sales gains. One client, Danone Nutricia, achieved a 75 percent sales jump thanks to Sitecore’s technology, while Chester Zoo gained a whopping 200 percent increase in mobile conversions. Electronics giant Toshiba is also a fan of Seifert’s company, which provides a framework to create discovery-friendly websites. “We can do more with the site than ever before,” says Andrew Levy, marketing manager, Toshiba’s business communications division.
Founder and CEO, The Trade Desk
The Trade Desk has been the rock star of ad tech by being ready to provide intel and insights that are perfectly suited for the mobile-and-video era. Green is clearly enjoying being on the cutting edge, after seeing 2016 revenue exceed $203 million, a 78 percent year-over-year lift. With 566 clients and a 95 percent customer retention rate, the future is bright for Green. “I can call him 24/7 with questions about all facets of his global business,” says Steve Katelman, evp of global strategic partnerships at Omnicom Media Group, a Trade Desk partner since 2013. “He understands implicitly how our partnership is a two-way street, and [we] view him as a tremendous asset to the digital industry.”
Dean Abbott and Michael Osborne
Chief data scientist and CEO, SmarterHQ
SmarterHQ recently landed accounts for Santander Bank and Lord & Taylor, bolstering an already impressive customer list that includes Bloomingdale’s, Eddie Bauer and Finish Line. What’s all the fuss? Osborne and Abbott’s AI-fused digital campaigns—that’s what. The tech twosome blends machine learning with other data for real-time customization that take those brands’ ecommerce efforts to the next level. “We didn’t have to spend time getting our data usable for SmarterHQ—they collected it on their own,” says Sean Duffy, vp of customer loyalty and contact strategy at Bloomingdale’s. “Within no time, we were seeing an increase in conversions, and our behaviorally automated campaigns have only grown more sophisticated over time.”
This New York-based email company’s nimbleness is well known among its ecommerce brand clients such as JustFab, merchandisers such as Dr. Martens and media players like Business Insider (and Adweek). Lustig has evolved Sailthru to also offer personalized customer experiences across a brand’s website and mobile applications, though email remains his calling card. Case in point: JustFab.com’s email conversions have recently improved by 50 percent. “[It] has really been the first company that has been a true partner to us,” contends Monica Deretich, vp of CRM at JustFab. “Sailthru has given us the ability to achieve our goals with personalized marketing and to more effectively retain customers and increase customer lifetime value.”
Research firm Gartner has characterized Zawadzki as one of programmatic’s original trailblazers, and he continues to take a leadership position in the marketplace. When brand-safety concerns on YouTube in recent weeks gave automated ad buying a black eye, MediaMath quickly announced it would refund marketers if their ads “run on previously determined unsafe inventory” with a system dubbed Curated Market. New clients Coca-Cola, Jet.com and Luisa Via Roma surely applauded that move. Ernesto Almada, digital marketing deputy director for Coca-Cola, says that Zawadzki and his team were helping the beverage brand “evolve and invest resources in programmatic.”
Michael and Andrew Katz
CEO and CTO, mParticle
Four-year-old mParticle works closely with brands like NBC, Jet.com/Walmart, Bleacher Report, Lilly Pulitzer, Airbnb and Spotify to manage their identity-based customer data across channels for more holistic consumer segments. It does so because the Katz brothers have been wise enough to partner with the likes of Adobe, Salesforce, Facebook and Snapchat as well as more niche-oriented data providers like Appboy, Iterable and Leanplum. On the marketing side, the familial executive tandem recently saved Lilly Pulitzer 80 engineering hours while helping increase push notification opt-ins by 40 percent. “Within weeks of implementing mParticle, we saw a faster, more stable app as a result of removing individual vendor code,” says Kim Czopek, Lilly Pulitzer’s vp of digital commerce.