This Advertising CMO Weighs In On The Holy Grail Of Marketing


Matt Ackley

Marin Software

Marin Software CMO Matt Ackley.

This post is sponsored by Marin Software.

Marketers have the ability to collect a lot of information about their target audience: their age, location, favorite sports team, and whether they've been searching for athletic shoes.

But what should they do with that data once they have it? How can marketers use different channels to reach consumers most effectively?

We spoke with Marin Software's CMO Matt Ackley - a "math guy" drawn to the data-driven aspect of marketing - about cross-channel marketing and how marketers can optimize their strategies around audience data. He discussed the evolution of audience-based marketing, the company's recent acquisition of Perfect Audience, and what every marketing organization should be doing.

Interview conducted by Business Insider Studios and edited for clarity and length.

BI Studios: Tell us about your background.

Matt Ackley: In 2005 I took over online marketing from eBay - that was running all of SEM, SEO, display advertising for eBay - and then that turned into a global role. At the same time I also built eBay's advertising business. After I left eBay I went to Google as a product marketer and spent a couple years running the business for Google's marketing programs. After that I took a little hiatus from ad tech, worked on a startup that didn't go well, and then I joined Marin in the spring of 2013.

Were you always interested in marketing?

I was never a marketing person. I used to code for a living, and when eBay put me in charge of marketing, I honestly almost quit. I don't own a black turtleneck. I don't sit around and talk about ad creativity and all that kind of stuff. I'm a math guy.

If that's the case, what gets you excited about marketing?

Solving all these problems in this "micro" way with algorithms, data, and programs - that's the kind of stuff that gets me excited. That's what gets me out of bed in the morning. That's what I loved doing at eBay, that's what I loved doing at Google, and that's what I love doing at Marin.

Now that Marin Software bought Perfect Audience, what does that mean for the company?

Well, I would point out that Perfect Audience specializes in display marketing. Marin expanded from just focusing on search several years ago to also focusing on Facebook as it began to offer more programmatic ways to buy its ads. The addition of Perfect Audience to our search and social capabilities now gives us the ability to programmatically buy all channels of advertising using a single platform.

With this Perfect Audience acquisition, not only do you know who these 18- to 25 year-olds are in search, but you know the same list is available on Facebook, and the same list is available on display. So you can choose to bid up or down based on this list, on every channel that you operate in.

Let's talk about the different channels. What exactly does "search marketing" mean?

Search marketing is the process of using data to buy ads on search engines like Google, Bing or Yahoo, and essentially understand how users interact with keywords and how they convert. It's taking the ability to optimize that advertising so that advertisers are spending their money efficiently.

It's determining what types of keywords they should be buying, what types of creative they should be using, where users who click on the ads should land - and then measuring how much revenue those users generate.

How does that help you figure out who your audience is?

Now I can see somebody in search, see that same person in social and on display. I can essentially triangulate who that person is and understand how they interact with each piece of advertising, and then use that information to determine what to do next. I like to call it "microtargeting."

I can understand now what type of keyword a user comes to a site with, and I can use that information to determine what creative I'll use in my next social ad or how many ads I want to show them on display. Let's say I'm Apple and a user searches "Apple iPhone." The fact that the user searched "Apple" indicates that there is a lot of brand awareness.

How does audience data affect search marketing? What can an advertiser do with that information?

Search marketing has always been great about providing what the customer is searching for, but if you can layer in who that customer is, that will unlock the next phase of search marketing.

Google launched Remarketing Lists for Search Ads (RLSAs), which allows you to place the Google RLSA pixel on your site so that when a user visits that page, the pixel fires. You add that person to a list of users who have seen this page and then you can combine that list with a group of keywords. So the next time you see somebody search that keyword in the group - let's say "soccer shoes" - you can choose to change your bid or show different creative. As an advertiser, you'll think, "Wow, this person has been to my site. They've looked at soccer shoes on my site, and they're searching for soccer shoes again. You know what? I'm going to bid higher for them."

Where do you see the marketing industry heading?

Audiences are the new keywords. Everything is going to evolve into audience-based marketing, which has been the holy grail of the CMO. I watch a lot of college football but do not drive a Ford F-150. But because I watch football and it's associated with people who drive Ford F-150s, I see ads for that over and over again. If an advertiser knew that I was a 46-year-old father of three girls who likes to play golf, they might show me different ads.

That's why Facebook is so powerful, right? They know my birthday, how old I am, that I'm a male, and that I'm interested in golf. This allows marketers to target audiences in more precisely - that's the promise of online marketing.

What advice would you give marketers who are new to cross-channel marketing?

The biggest thing from a marketing standpoint is combining organizations. Most marketing organizations today are still pretty siloed. You have your display people here, search people there, and your social people in New York, yet at the end of the day these are all programmatic endeavors. You need to combine these organizations to start to realign these efficiencies.

If your display people aren't talking to your social people, you could be delivering excess ad views or different messages to one user. The real challenge is to look at your organization and figure out how you start to combine all the programmatic departments into one.

Matt Ackley is the chief marketing officer at Marin Software.

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