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AdTech Reboot

Trust Web Times Interview Series: Richard Sobel ; Marcato Solutions

Marc Goldberg

Marc Goldberg

Author at The Trust Web Times
Marc Goldberg

Marc Goldberg

Author at The Trust Web Times

Marc Goldberg is a contributor for the Trust Web Times. Marc is also the Chief Revenue Officer of Method Media Intelligence an MRC accredited ad verification and measurement company.

Richard Sobel is Founder and CEO of Marcato Solutions

Richard and I exchanged emails for this interview and it has been slightly condensed and edited.

Marc Goldberg: Richard we met when you were at Publicis. Can you tell us a little about your journey?

Richard Sobel : I started my career actually doing investigations into employment discrimination for the State of Massachusetts, which led me into corporate diversity work. From there, I got into HR reporting & analytics on Wall Street, which led me to HR systems and business improvement projects for the Walt Disney Internet Group (RIP), Kaplan/The Washington Post Company, and Time Inc. At Time Inc., I loved using data, automation, and platforms to improve the way the company did business, but I got tired of the HR slate of projects. So, proactive as I am, I reached out to several Time Inc. executives I had relationships with, and was able to transition over to the corporate digital sales team in the fall of 2009 – which was just as programmatic was starting to become a thing.

I then spent a few years in business development and setting programmatic standards at Time Inc. before moving to the platform side at PubMatic, where I oversaw product marketing and eventually the publisher account & services team. After building the latter out with full-service technical and strategic support, I felt the inevitable pull of the buy side and went to VivaKi to help lead their transition from a centralized trading desk to central support for programmatic across the Publicis Groupe agencies managing the ad tech partnerships, capabilities, and standards to support the individual agencies.

Just over three years ago, I struck out on my own and launched Marcato Solutions as a boutique consulting practice focused on the intersection of data, media, technology, and customers.

Most of my engagements are focused on helping brands navigate a transition from channel-specific marketing (CRM, paid, earned, etc.) to a more customer-centric marketing approach, complete with all of the technology and data that is required to engage with customers on mutual terms.

MG: Marketers data has been a problem for years. How to collect , store and use. So you can help marketers transform into a well oiled machine, but that machine is going to change soon. How are you preparing people for what is next?

RS: To be honest, marketing data is the challenge that will never go away. Collection, organization, analysis, decisioning, and application will always change as businesses evolve. To compensate for that persistent evolution, a data infrastructure needs to be flexible and designed to be able to address challenges that you haven’t planned for. The historical battle between Marketing, IT, and Finance is part of the problem in addressing the data challenges. 

My approach is to ensure that all sides of that triangle understand the business needs and goals, so that it’s not independent requirements, but collective business requirements.

Nothing beats strong discovery, solid business analysis, and well facilitated prioritization.

Businesses will need to use their customer data for marketing via their owned channels (email, website/app, catalog, in-store), paid channels (digital/search/social, TV, radio, print), and earned channels collectively as they go forward. That won’t change, but understanding and planning for variable use cases will allow companies to select the right platforms and prepare their data to meet their goals.

MG: We discussed some of your customers use retargeting as a tactic. On behalf of all users on the Internet, can you advise them to use frequency caps! Seriously, will retargeting change with these changes?

RS: Being at home during quarantine, frequency caps have become my biggest complaint about my marketing & publishing colleagues.

Retargeting/remarketing is always going to be an issue. There’s no way around it. Abandoned carts deserve follow-up, so it’s the “how” not the “what”. But, with the elimination of 3rd party targeting (starting with cookies and in iOS all “brokers”), brands can’t just pound away retargeting/remarketing campaigns.

They’ll need to be more surgical about how they follow-up with their customers (prospective, existing, and lapsed), but the solution needs to fit each set of retargeting/remarketing use cases.

It’s not one size fits all, which is what so much of what we’ve become accustomed to experiencing.

MG: Attribution will be impacted with all of these changes. Digitals achilles heel has always been to some degree from the beginning as we became an accountable medium. How will attribution change?

RS: The rise of CDPs to aggregate all customer touchpoints and behaviors allow brands to see more granularly than ever before, but that granularity is about to get fuzzy. Now you have to ask a customer if you can track them everywhere. Barring every person giving consent to that, the best path forward is tried and true research mixed with advanced statistical performance models. 

MG: Will it impact budgets moving forward?

RS: Is there anything that doesn’t impact budgets?

What we’ve seen over the last few years is that marketers have been doing a better job of showing how marketing impacts business performance. Removing individual-level granularity doesn’t necessarily change that, but it does require data-driven decisions and strong analytics & insights practices. Any marketer who can go toe-to-toe with their finance team with analytics is always going to be in a strong position to retain budgetary volumes and control.

MG: Assuming you have a home office, where is home ?

RS: I live in Manhattan, uptown in Harlem, but I actually don’t have a formal office at home. Having been working from home for two years prior to COVID-19, I was doing most of my work at my dining table. However, with the explosion of video conferencing, that’s moved to my couch. The way I laid out my apartment is that my living room has the best lighting, so I’ve had to go where the light is to deal with the joys of Zoom.

MG: So imagine a world where everything is back. I know you are a fan of Broadway, what would want to see first?

RS: Normally, between Broadway, Off-Broadway, and the Metropolitan Opera, I see about 35-40 shows a year. BroadwayHD and the Met’s streaming app have been life savers.  When things are back, I’m looking forward to seeing a musical again. The day Broadway went dark, I had tickets for Six which is a girl-group pop concert style musical about Henry VII’s six wives. So that, the gender-flipped revival of Stephen Sondheim’s Company starring Katrina Lenk & Patti Lupone, or an opera at the Met are pretty evenly running for first choice when we can see live performances again in theaters.

MG: How has quarantine life been for you? Professionally and personally.

RS: Working from home for the two years prior, being home all day wasn’t the transition – it was going out, eating out, and spending time with other people. I bought and have been able to keep plants alive through quarantine, which is a record for me. I did the usual barrage of streaming, but what the downtime has allowed me to do is force myself to reach out and keep in touch with friends, colleagues, and everyone in between. And I’ve been upping my mixology game so that when I can finally entertain people at my apartment again, I’ll have a slew of interesting options for people to drink.

MG: I enjoy adult beverages, will be over when I am allowed!