The Monday Stack: 3/27/2017

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The Monday Stack: 3/27/2017
The Monday Stack: 3/27/2017

Roaming the cavernous halls the Sands Expo/Conference Center last week, for Adobe Summit, one of a number of interesting conversations was with Nathan Golan, VP of worldwide sales at Insert, an in-app marketing platform which seems to be addressing growing pain-points for brands with major focus on in-app marketing.

Golan points out that there are a range of tools for creating, testing, executing, and optimizing web-based campaigns: He mentioned Marketo, Eloqua, and Hubspot, among others. Generally speaking, that agility isn't available to app-based campaigns without the involvement of developers, and in the worst case, without uploading a new version of the app to the app store — not a realistic proposition if real-time engagement with app users is the goal.

"We give marketers ownership of in-app campaigns," he says. "We give them speed," precisely by freeing them from development cycles. The Insert solution "sits above the app," Golan explains. In fact, it sits on the AWS cloud, and manifests itself to users as a console from which (non-tech) users can make changes to the in-app experience, based on customers' in-app behavior: For example, determining when offers or other calls to action are shown, and when to launch specific screens or buttons. Insert doesn't rewrite the code, so there's no re-versioning of the app involved.

This would just be a neat trick, but Golan emphasizes: "We really see this as a campaign tool."  Why? "We have created a set of APIs that allow us to ingest data, and provide campaign data to other systems." In other words, Insert can ingest audiences and data from Adobe, for example, and match it with in-app behavioral data, so that marketers can meet users in the context of their engagement with the app, but also knowing who they are. (Insert will align with other clouds with some set-up work — it's about to hook into Krux for as big banking client, Golan says — but it's fully integrated with Adobe.)

With many marketers still focused on getting their automation ducks in a row for web campaigns, Insert (founded at the beginning of 2015) is still looking for early adopters. Interestingly, the two main opportunities right now are start-ups with app-first moves, and larger enterprises with full-fledged cross-channel strategies. That has meant adding some people who get the mobile-first start-up mentality to the sales team. "It's a culture thing," says Golan.

I also got to spend some time with Adobe's Tammy Le, formerly director of product marketing with TubeMogul, the programmatic ad platform which now sits at the heart of Adobe's new advertising cloud. TubeMogul started out as a video DSP based around desktop, but  branched into mobile, social, and programmatic TV. Adobe's existing tool, Media Optimizer, had been focused on display and search, she says. It remains part of the Advertising Cloud as Dynamic Creative Optimization and Media Optimizer Search. TubeMogul becomes Media Optimizer DSP, which is, Le says, about "how media gets activated."

The TubeMogul founders, she says, had not been interested in owning media or data; The service was neutral, agnostic, and independent. Adobe takes the same standpoint. The Advertising Cloud leverages data within Adobe, of course, but can ingest if from Salesforce Krux or for proprietary DMPs (which a lot of brands, she says, still have).

The DSP functionality includes bidding for inventory with premium publishers and exchanges (it can also process direct, "private" deals between brands and publishers). Data segments imported from DMPs support personalization; the DSP is proactive in screening for quality placement; and it has mechanisms to detect and avoid negative contexts (hate speech, adult, etc). Is there any AI here?  Of course: As soon as a campaign starts running, algorithms kick in to optimize ad delivery based on client-specified engagements (clicks, viewability, and so on).

In other news, I wrote about Rocket Fuel back in February, and how an established programmatic media-buying platform was reinventing itself as an AI-driven predictive marketing solution. Something in the air back then, but announced officially last week: Rocket Fuel has embedded IBM Watson capabilities into its solution. Rocket Fuel's specialism lies activating large quantities of data to score potential ad placements based both on context (time of day, weather, etc) and data about the target consumer. IBM Watson enhances Rocket Fuel's capabilities through real-time surfacing of important keywords and brand sentiment signals. There are many shades of AI out there, and they're just starting to work together.

And some final data to chew on. A new report from Openrise, a marketing and sales data automation provider (which therefore has some skin in the game) claims that, although 67% of marketers at small companies are satisfied with their data providers, less than a third of their enterprise counterparts are happy. The most satisfied customers tried four or more data providers before finding their good place.

Still, it's better than spreadsheets, right?

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