As Ad Tech And Mar Tech Converge, MediaMath CEO Joe Zawadzki Prefers Partnerships Over Acquisitions

mediamath joeIt seems every time there’s a partnership between a marketing tech company and an ad tech vendor, MediaMath is involved. Its most recent hookups: Oracle and IBM.

When working through the technical and logistical intricacies of these integrations, MediaMath CEO Joe Zawadzki takes a back seat, seeing himself as “champion and cheerleader.”

“My role is at the strategy level,” he told AdExchanger. “How is this convergence of ad tech and marketing tech going to play out?”

Since it was founded in 2007, MediaMath has built a long supply chain of addressable media, mostly through more anonymous channels of online display, video, mobile and native inventory.

But advertiser demands are changing.

“The industry wants to treat customers and prospects consistently across all touch points and stages of the customer journey,” Zawadzki said.

This change happened in increments. Early adopters experimented by applying first-party data to online advertising, using information about known customers to reach them in environments where they typically think of themselves as anonymous. That resulted in practices like retargeting or CRM matching.

Those connections are only deepening, hence the recent collision between ad tech and marketing tech. But what’s the next stage? The ad tech world is notoriously unstable, and marketing tech firms like IBM and Oracle aren’t shy about acquiring.

Zawadzki spoke with AdExchanger.

AdExchanger: You said advertisers want “seamless consumer experiences across all touch points, regardless of channel and stage of customer journey.” How do ad tech companies facilitate that?

JOE ZAWADZKI: We need to know what the early adopters ask for to create scalable, technical business processes that can be rolled out to the late majority, as the market becomes more aware of the solutions that deliver real results.

Our job is to cultivate the early adopters, do the work necessary to support them and then roll it out to the rest of the market as the market gets ready.

When you look at the confluence of ad tech and marketing tech, are we still in early adopter territory?

We’re in the crossover phase. This time next year, maybe plus six months, the ad tech/mar tech stack integration might be common practice. The time frames are compressing between when an idea is novel to when it’s best practice.

Think about [Facebook’s CRM matching program] Custom Audiences. It’s a capability that’s been around for a long time. Facebook specifically has done a nice job evangelizing and commercializing it, making it simple and straightforward. Now that notion of Custom Audiences is quite ubiquitous.

Is Facebook the main driver for brands wanting to connect marketing with advertising?

Facebook is a good bellwether in that they have good scale and can make it digestible to marketers. But you’re seeing it from everywhere.

What still needs to happen for the convergence to become common practice?

Public awareness of the benefits and a handful of the market-leading brands that are champions. Then other companies, certainly in that vertical, will want that same benefit and innovation for themselves, and they’ll ask for it. That’s how a lot of marketing innovation happens.

Retail, travel, financial services tend to be strong innovators because they’re close to the consumer. They have more need for and a willingness to quantify a lot of their efforts. Then it tends to radiate out from those core verticals into all verticals over several quarters or even years.

What will inhibit that advancement?

A lot of it is in org design. [Driving seamless experiences across all channels] has real implications into how marketing organizations and their partners work. The way social gets managed is different from the way search gets managed or the way print or display or video gets managed. You have your display acquisition team or your email retention team. Those groups don’t talk to each other and might have different goals and objectives, as well as processes and tools.

So once you’ve made the tool sets communicate seamlessly, the opportunity is around creating a business process or workflow. That takes longer. The technologies might interoperate, but the people might not.

Is that why MediaMath recently integrated into the Oracle Marketing Cloud workflow?

Yes. Then the organization needs to take advantage of it.

We’re seeing an influx of ad tech/marketing tech partnerships. Will that model hold in the future or will we see more acquisitions?

The answer right now is something in between. Most of the people the marketing tech folks are connecting with are scaled companies that themselves have connections into the world of ad tech.

I don’t think there’s a rush to own. The partnership model feels productive. Both sides can focus on the areas [where] they’re most experienced and have the most resources.

The mar tech folks started in a world of the known customer and have moved to campaign management. Only in email have they moved to execution. Whereas the ad tech community has focused on media touch point connections, but stayed away from known and onsite.

The one company that looks to bridge both worlds is Adobe, having acquired Efficient Frontier. But I think it has struggled both on the buy and build components of their strategy. The partner strategy that Oracle and IBM employs takes advantage of the fact that there are people focused on [ad tech] and have scale.

So the partnership model makes sense now. But 1.5 years on, is that still going to be the case?

I like to think so. I like the partnership model over everybody buying. The notion of an independent, best-in-class, enterprise-grade catalyst for all of those providers is a great spot to be in. It’s a role we’re excited to play.

Companies like MediaMath and Turn have been around for a while. Can you guys stay independent forever?

Yes. I look at our business in terms of profitability and growth and the number of business problems the software is tackling. It suggests a lot of longevity in the category. You’ll continue to see a natural oligopoly around these larger ecosystems and scale players. In our case, our commitment to openness and extensibility provides a robust ecosystem for innovation to happen by plugging into that.

Can we provide the grid for innovations to plug into? By doing that, does it make the core platform stronger? We think the answer is yes.


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