Adchemy CEO Nukala On The End Of Cookies

AdExchanger caught up recently with search services and ad tech provider, Adchemy, and its CEO Murthy Nukala. Nukala sees a change in the way intent will be captured in the future. Is the power of bottom-of-the-funnel search going away? Read on.

AdExchanger: What are the touch points for capturing intent in digital, in your estimation? Traditionally, people think of cookies.

MURTHY NUKALA: First, to answer, let’s step back. Imagine the web as it exists five years from now. It is more than likely that it’s going to be a multi‑device, multi‑form factor world. It’s not going to be web‑centric the way it is today. It’s going to be mobile‑centric, tablet‑centric and each consumer will have more than one device. That’s the first big trend we see happening.

The second big trend we see is that a lot of the search behavior, which today is very query‑centric – as in using a search box and typing things in – we see that becoming more implicit search as opposed to explicit search.

For example, Yelp, or Urbanspoon. You go to Yelp and you try to find a Thai restaurant in Redwood City, California. By doing so, you’re not using Google or Bing to find a Thai restaurant in Redwood City. Using Yelp, in many ways, is a substitute for using search.

These “information utilities” are very vertical specific and you find their growth exploding. As an aside, Roger McNamee breaks out the two types of search like this – “index search” for Google and “behavioral search” for these information utilities.

So, there’s momentum building around people not typing queries into search boxes in the future. They’re going to be using replacements for search.

As you see multiple devices proliferate, and as you have more and more types of intent behavior, we actually think that the whole notion of being tied to cookies becomes less and less important. Especially as you think about mobile devices, for example. Safari doesn’t now allow third party cookies and people are scrambling to find what the unit is going to be in mobile advertising.

We’re seeing the death of the cookie. Cookies cannot be your core element. You also saw the whole Microsoft DNT thing playing out as a default option. Every one of these dimensions is leading very squarely down the path of cookies are becoming less and less relevant to the age of modern advertising.

Our belief is that is going to be intent, and intent that is not tied to cookies.

So, intent that is harvested from the informational utilities?

I don’t like the word “harvested” because that is a very cookie‑centric word and means that you’re collecting a profile on the user. Think about search. How does search work? You’re building on a keyword. What that means is you’re reaching all the users who have typed in that specific keyword. But, you don’t have a longitudinal view of everything that particular user does. You just know that this group of users has typed in this particular keyword.

That’s why being unified by intent has been the hallmark of search advertising. What we’re essentially saying is that same thing needs to now be applied not just within search, but also across these other channels.

Once there is a common vocabulary about how all this intent gets expressed, then you can do some interesting things.

What’s your strategy in this intent world if you’re a publisher and don’t own Yelp property?

We don’t deal that much with the publisher world. But, even within a big publisher, you also have queries. People are searching. But those have primarily been audience‑centric, in terms of how you monetize them. Publishers will probably continue to do that, but as we’re concerned, there are other parts of the web where intent is a lot richer.

The truth is that the level of monetization of any property will be directly proportionate to the amount of intent that is exhibited at that property.

It’s been about a year since we last talked – how is your “intent map” product line doing?

We have a number of customers who are now live‑using intent maps. What we’re essentially learning is that intent is a better way to manage search campaigns than keywords are. If you are one of these customers, your current problem is that what you essentially have to do is take a product catalogue and convert it into keywords.

That’s a very problematic thing to do. What we’re saying is that you can have this translation layer of intent as a way to manage search today.

In the future, as you’re looking to go beyond search to these other information utilities, as well as other places where intent can be detected, [intent maps] will be a great way to manage in the future.

All the vision that we had laid out a year ago, the proof points, that vision is being realized today.

What about expanding into other channels beyond search?

We’re starting to look into that. We have a lot of work left to do within search. It’s a huge space. Obviously, our other focus is very heavily in retail, and we’re going to make heavy inroads this year in retail. Next, we want to move to other verticals like travel, auto, et cetera, where there is a diversity of intent challenge that we tend to solve well.

We still have a lot of work to do just within search, in expanding to do verticals, et cetera, but at the same time, we’re starting to look at how we expand this notion of intent into new channels, especially as you think about this notion of implicit search.

What’s your view on the Facebook advertising opportunity?

There’s a lot there with intent. We are not doing much social stuff right now and we’re not in the display or DSP space – ever since we started with the whole intent mapping exercise.

What are some milestones you’re looking at accomplishing in the next 18 to 24 months?

So, the next thing we’re focused on is launching the self‑serve product, so that advertisers can basically build and manage intent‑based campaigns themselves. We’re also focused on expanding out of retail into other verticals. We saw a lot of the benefits of focusing on a specific vertical, but we’re going to start working on other verticals as well.

The third big arc is to start taking this into new channels, but that’s much more of an exploratory exercise at this point.

I’m surprised that you aren’t heavily invested in display ad retargeting, considering that seems like an easy win from a search marketer’s point of view.

We see our primary value right now as much, much better search within search, not search within display. Not just retargeting. We think that a lot of great companies in the marketplace are attacking the problem of once a user has searched and come to your site, you can go find them on exchanges and other publishers. It’s crowded as a market segment. Crowded, not in a bad way, but because there’s a lot of value there.

We just think that we have a lot of unique value to provide in taking intent and mapping it into search. We’re very unique in that.

It’s a matter of focus.

What can you share regarding revenue momentum and headcount today?

I can’t share anything on those fronts, except that it’s strong. [laughs]

Last question – what is search going to look like five years from now, or even 10 years from now? You pick the timeframe.

We’re seeing breadcrumbs of the change that will happen as we speak. The rise of mobile apps is one major change. It’s a form of search. It’s an information utility just like search is.

You’re going to see some exciting things happen with trying to anticipate what people are going to look for, even before they look for it. There’s a whole bunch of markers that people can use effectively to do that.

There’s a lot of work to be done in tying together the various forms of how people express intent today. That is not glamorous work, but it’s very necessary work.

If you look today at a given advertiser and what they have to do, I have to go set up a search campaign. Then, I have to go set up a display campaign using my search campaign. Then, I have to set a mobile campaign. Then, I have to set up a display campaign on mobile, separate from my search campaign on mobile.

It’s a nightmare for an advertiser, because the number of options have exploded. You’re going to see a dramatic simplification, which is necessary before the whole market can grow again. There’s going to be a bunch of dramatic, consumer‑oriented changes, but there are also all the plumbing changes that are necessary to simplify it for advertisers.

That involves the rise of these new ETF‑like (Exchange Traded Fund), intent‑based units. It involves connecting intent across multiple channels.

There’s a lot of noise around all new forms of advertising, but I remain convinced that search and intent‑based advertising is where the growth is going to be faster than it has been in the past.

This is a golden time for people who understand search and intent.

By John Ebbert

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  1. Wayne Blodwell

    I really like the article, and the theory of moving away from a cookie and capitalising on intent (similar to search) is fantastic. I just can’t see how this can work, and would like a bit more explanation on how this can be done?

    Search is fantastic because you serve ads based on someones intent through VERY few locations. The problem is bringing all this type of intent across many platforms, many publishers, many other variables just seems unfeasible without a cookie?