Visual IQ CEO Mathew Sees Quality And Amount Of Client Data As Critical To Accurate Attribution Models

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Visual IQManu Mathew is CEO of Visual IQ, a channel marketing intelligence software company.

AdExchanger.com: Let's start with the name Visual IQ - what's the idea there?

MM: The name Visual IQ represents the two high-level concepts behind the hosted software products that comprise our IQ Intelligence Suite – the first being the world’s most accurate cross channel marketing insights and intelligence (IQ), provided by the second, which is a powerful user-friendly, interactive interface (Visual) that makes it very easy and practical for marketers to recognize, understand and act upon that intelligence.

Your website sums up various challenges Visual IQ is solving for the marketer. Which is the most difficult to solve in your estimation?

I think that collecting, normalizing, formatting and integrating marketing data from the many disparate sources where it exists within and outside our clients’ organizations is at the top of the list.  This is extremely heavy lifting and can be very daunting to marketers, but we lift much of that burden by utilizing systems and processes we have in place so they can focus on being marketers rather than data integrators. Our data adapters can consolidate data from any source: broadcast, ad-serving, search, social media, direct mail, email, CRM systems – throw any media or customer data at us and we will plug it in.

How do you view the competitive landscape?

There is a lot of noise in the marketplace right now – and a lot of companies claiming to do attribution because marketers are realizing that the “last click” attribution model is seriously flawed and so are asking their agencies how to solve that problem.  The make-up of the landscape ranges from tagging solutions that focus on the “click”, to business-rules based “select your own flavor of attribution” software, to media mix modeling consulting.  What’s unique about Visual IQ is that we’ve perfected an algorithmic solution that looks at every attribute of every marketing touchpoint that’s experienced by every converting and non-converting individual across any online or offline marketing channel and delivers our attribution results within a highly repeatable, productized, hosted software model.  This drives scale and also allows marketers to use our products to make attribution actionable from a spend and user engagement perspective.  Marketers and their agency partners can also use these attribution insights and optimization recommendations based on their audience target and predicted impact to the campaign and their organization.

What's your target market?  Are agencies a part of the target?

We target brands that spend a minimum of $5 million dollars annually on digital media – or the agencies who manage the media spend for those brands.  Now that’s not to say that we limit the attribution our products provide to solely digital channels, because that’s not the case.  Our products attribute credit across both online and offline channels with equal skill.  It’s just that most clients start the attribution process with two or more digital channels, as they are the most measurable, and therefore are the ones they can use to most easily justify the investment in attribution and the highly quantifiable increases in ROI that it will produce.

Are you seeing more traction for display in marketer's spend? Any other client trends that you can share?

Buyers of online display media tend to LOVE attribution, as it typically demonstrates how much more credit display should be receiving for conversions -- and how much higher ROI it is actually producing – once you move away from a “last click” method.  Because of this, display spends tend to go up when attribution is performed between display and search, especially for considered purchase product categories.  But beyond that, media buyers are also using the insights uncovered by attribution to see which publishers are producing the best return, which publishers are assisting other publishers to generate conversions by audience, which sequence of creatives drive the best performance, and which ads produce searches on specific keywords that result in conversions.  It’s a real multi-dimensional goldmine of intelligence for planners and buyers of display media.

Please provide an (abbreviated) use case.

A telecommunications client spending $25 million annually across display, search and email channels used a combination of the tools in our IQ Intelligence Suite to identify optimization opportunities in 3 areas – channel sequencing, creative sequencing, and cross-publisher impact.  As a result they moved email from an “introducer” to a “closer” tactic, implemented re-targeting to generate the most productive sequence of creatives to which users were exposed, and reallocated spend to those publishers that were producing the greatest return.  As a result of these changes, the company produced an 18.2%% in return on advertising spend on three channels and saw a year over year increase in customer lifetime value of 15%.

Ideally, what kind of talent needs to be in place on the client side to make the most of Visual IQ’s offering?

It certainly helps for our clients – or their agencies – to have some sort of marketing analyst skills resident within their staff.  There will always be a need for some sort of interpretation of findings and creative “what-if” thinking in order to push the envelope of what can be done to improve marketing performance.  Visual IQ does provide consulting servies as an overlay to our product suite for clients that want more help in this area.  But increasingly, the level of user-friendliness and sophistication of the recommendation engine that exists within our product suite is making it relatively easy for the average marketer to clearly see the most appropriate actions they should take to optimize their media.

How close to actual, accurate attribution models can a marketer expect given the complexity of the channels on and offline?  Do you expect this to get a lot better in, say, 5 years?

It’s really all about the quality and amount of data that the client can provide.  The more of it, the better, and frankly once you have good data it doesn’t really matter what channel it is from.  At that point data is data. And based on our experience of having our software create models, then continually test and adjust them as the client’s subsequent performance data is pumped back into a continuous loop, the attribution we produce is very, very accurate.  Offline channels where summary-level, rather than user-level data is being used pose more of a challenge, but if a client can provide enough historic data from these channels or provide it with high enough granularity by geo, by week, etc. -- or develop this data going forward – this attribution can be very accurate as well.  In five years more providers may be performing attribution more accurately, but I don’t necessarily know that the state of the art is going to be considerably more accurate than what we are performing today.  What will improve is the ability to tie cross channel data together at the individual user level, as well as the speed and efficiency of bringing client data into the attribution process.  Well within 5 years I could see this being done real time.

Is the company profitable? Any plans for additional funding?

We were profitable in 2010 and have been so for some time.  We made a strategic decision last year to take on more funding to fully take advantage of our leadership position and the huge opportunity we saw and continue to see in the marketplace.  Our current emphasis is on growth and rapid traction with strategic clients – and we are investing heavily in 2011 towards that aim.  Our funding partners are 100% behind our aggressive multi-year growth plans and have committed to provide more capital as required for accelerating organic growth or funding strategic acquisitions.

A year from now, what milestones would you like the company to have accomplished?

A year from now we would like to have cemented our leadership position in the attribution and media optimization category, not only by having the most robust client roster but also by having delivered the most robust, measurable results for our clients and their agency partners via a repeatable product platform.  We will also expand the breadth and depth of our product suite by integrating more campaign management and audience analytics features.

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