The Monday Stack: Rolling Thunder

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You need to know:  Victor Wong (Thunder)

We wrote about his creative management platform in 2015, when it was a start-up called PaperG. He won our Marketing&Tech Innovation award for his work in programmatic in March 2016. Later that same year, we named him one of our 40Under40 marketers to watch.

And in February 2018, the CEO of the company now known as Thunder, dropped in to talk about a broad and mature new offering, the Thunder Experience Cloud. The solution has three component parts: the Creative Management Platform, which has been central from the beginning; a Dynamic Creative Optimization tool; and Experience Measurement capability.

One thing on his mind was our recent coverage of Tapad's new CDP. The Thunder guys had kicked around the CDP label -- currently very much in vogue -- "But we decided for ourselves that we're not a CDP." Unlike Tapad, which is drawing on a deep well of probabilistic data (via its identity graph) to target ads, Thunder is working exclusively with deterministic data (confirmed PII) to support content optimization. The focus is on "people-based marketing" -- knowing who those people actually are -- and the ad experience. 

Here's how Wong explains it. "We think advertising is the largest unsolved problem in the customer experience. When people come to your owned media, you can control [their experience]. We've all come to expect a lot more outside of that." In other words, confronted by paid media from brands on channels the brands don't own, consumers still want a relevant, consistent, worthwhile experience. The advertising experience just is another brand experience; indeed, for CPG, Wong pointed out, ads are often the most frequent touchpoint for consumers.

Breaking it down, people are looking for:

  • Consistency: the same message to the same person across different channels
  • Relevancy: the appropriate, correctly targeted creative experience
  • Frequency: not too much exposure and not too little (Wong emphasizes the importance of lifetime frequency over placement frequency), and
  • Safety: avoiding placements alongside offensive or threatening content.

How do the two new components of the Experience Cloud support these aims? Dynamic Content Optimization is personalization by another name, leveraging deterministic household data (not just addresses and log ins, but also, for example, the ability to identify devices using the same household WiFi router). Experience Measurment asks: "What did they see? Where did they see it? What did they do with it? What did it cost me?" Performance metrics plus attribution, in other words. Thunder does reach into the social walled gardens, as well as across the open web, although Wong acknowledged that "every [social] partner has different limits and restrictions" on the data Thunder can touch.

For Wong, this focus on the ad experience is key. For most brands: "More people touch your advertising than your product." And whereas traditional advertising, in the days of mass consumerism, was often geared to creating demand where it didn't previously exist, today's ad environment is about capturing and stimulating latent demand. As Wong says, it's about "spending the least amount of dollars to reach in-market customers."

Now with a portfolio of products, Thunder also announced last week the appointment of B.J. Fox as VP of Product. Fox, who spent five years as director of software development at Microsoft, will help "get the company to the next level," Wong said.


While you're worrying about GDPR, consider the complications which might be introduced by a case up for decision by the U.S. Supreme Court. To put it in the most simple terms: Does a data controller or processor (in this case, Microsoft) need to comply with a U.S. search warrant if the data sought is located on overseas servers? Microsoft says no: the federal government says...well, you can guess. If the government prevails, international corporations might be faced with a class of responsibilities. GDPR doesn't contemplate -- at least as far as we can see -- personal data of European subjects being transferred out of Europe without specific controls. Keep watching these skies.


Finally, here comes conference season. This month, you'll find DMN writers at the following events. Come and say "Hi": Lesbians Who Tech (San Francisco), Shoptalk (Las Vegas), Topo (San Francisco), Episerver Ascend (Las Vegas), LiveRamp's RampUp (San Francisco), ON24's Webinar World (San Francisco), and the Adobe Summit (Las Vegas). Here come those air miles.

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