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Martech Series: Gil Sommer, VP of Product, Connatix

Read full article on (by Sudipto Ghosh)


Interview Excerpt:

Q: Tell us about your role and the team/technology you handle at Connatix.

I am the VP of Product at Connatix. My team is responsible for creating and prioritizing a roadmap for various product lines, including our Online Video Platform, experiential video formats and in-house revenue engine.

Q: How much has the Mobile Advertising landscape evolved in the last two years?

There have been many advances in Mobile Advertising in the last two years. From a marketer’s standpoint, mobile video has become a much larger focus. Many new formats have emerged and the advertising world has been following suit by adjusting the creative to be short (e.g the emergence of the six-second video ad) and memorable. From a technology standpoint, there have also been many advances.

The IAB Tech Lab’s OM-SDK standard has solved one of the biggest roadblocks for further adoption of Video Advertising on mobile, which is the third-party measurement. The recent ads.txt standard will help fight the massive fraud operations that exist in mobile. These days, the major challenge that remains is the ability of advertisers to merge their segmentation data that is Cookie-based with Device-ID-based targeting.

Q: Tell us what you think about Apple’s recent announcement to curb fake news and clickbait content.

Providing a better experience for users and combating the abundance of fake news should be a priority for all companies in the digital publishing ecosystem. Nonetheless, I tend to be a bit suspicious of announcements like this one, because of the nature of the incentive structure in the content space.

When you look at clickbaits, for example, the financial incentive comes from the moment a user is on your site, and you earn money through advertising. This incentive will not change fundamentally and as long as there is money associated with viewing content, in one form or another, this type of content will exist. The fake news incentives are counterintuitive. In this case, the main incentive is to have people read and engage with fake content. The monetization aspect is secondary and many times non-existent. As long as there is an outlet to discover this type of content, it will exist.

The only real way to “combat” the phenomena of fake news is through rigorous editorial work that is set to look for “high-quality” content. However, running such an operation would be costly and would require editorial expertise. I doubt Apple is built to do this, or would even want to do it. In the setup they announced, Apple News will be dependent on the work (and brand) of highly respectable publishers. Therefore, I would look at this as another power grab by Apple that is meant to control the users, and thus control more of the value chain.

Q: Why is Apple’s SEO a new disruption to Content Marketing?

Every time a new industry has an aggregator that controls discoverability through some sort of algorithm, people learn how to “optimize” for the new algorithm, which means better financial results. This dynamic quickly turns into a new type of marketing service, and an adjacent industry develops. This is likely to happen in the Apple News case as it did with Google and Bing Search, Amazon Marketplace Search and Facebook among others.

Q: Which businesses would be greatly affected by this announcement?

The largest impact by far will be on publishers. They could lose even more of the little power they have currently, and should proceed with caution. Rather than adopting a short-term view of this problem and going for immediate gains, they should take a step back to think through how this might diminish their future competitive advantage. To a lesser extent, this will impact advertisers by driving even more control of digital advertising to Google and Facebook. And if the last bit of market competition is lost, advertisers will, in turn, lose a lot of the power they have today.

Q: What role would Connatix play in providing programmatic technology for targeting the customers?

Connatix is a publisher-first technology provider and as such, our focus is to help publishers provide great content to their readers and maximize the monetization opportunities they have. We believe providing tools that are better integrated — from the end users to the advertisers — will increase transparency, competition and performance and reduce inefficiencies throughout the value chain.

Q: What are the major trends and predictions do you see in the video content space?

While there have been many advancements, we are still on the ground floor in regards to video content. It is still expensive to produce and there is a scarcity of content. So first and foremost, I believe many additional solutions will be focused on solving this inventory problem in an inexpensive way. Second, I see video content as not only a tool to summarize your article, but a tool to help writers convey their narratives in tandem with other mediums such as imagery, graphics, text and audio.

We will see better tools supported by Natural Language Processing (NLP) and Machine Learning (ML), which will help editors deliver better videos for each article and each narrative. Lastly, we will see much more interactivity in video, allowing users to gain more from what they are seeing on the screen.

Q: How do you see AI and Location Data further disrupting the era of Mobile Programmatic growth?

AI will further help us connect the dots and provide users with relevant advertising at the right time. This, in turn, will provide a better experience for the user. Research has shown that when users feel advertising is helping them solve a problem or need, they tend to react better to it. AI will help us get there faster. Having said that, we shouldn’t underestimate the importance of the quality of the content or ad creative. While data and AI will help with targeting, advertisers will still need to convey a message, interact emotionally and elicit a reaction from the user. Regardless of the advancements of AI, this is the one area where human creativity will still remain the winner and advertisers who invest in it will yield better results


Learn more about why Volition invested in Connatix


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