Talking Ad Tech: Datonics’ Mike Benedek

Mike Benedek’s Datonics (formerly AlmondNet) is a leader in data aggregation, maintaining partnerships with advertising technology powerhouses like Traffiq, Turn and Interclick. Datonics uses proprietary behavioral purchase intent, search and life-stage data to help brands optimize campaigns and media buying. Mr. Benedek spoke with The Advertising Technology Review about his company’s approach to data and the Big Data hype machine.
What’s behind the sudden interest in Big Data in the non-trade press? How do we as an industry make Big Data seem less “scary” for the public and for brands seeking to move further into the online space?
One could adopt the view of the skeptic and say that “Big Data” is another buzzword popularized by PowerPoint-wielding, VC-fund seeking burgeoning tech firms.  I am sure that there is some of that,  but the reality is that data is being generated all of the time in all fields, and provided that it is handled appropriately, it can be used for good in such diverse fields as healthcare, education, traffic management, government, and yes, even advertising.  Regarding the brands, I believe most of them have been leveraging data for decision-making within their organizations for the longest time. The goal of our ecosystem should be to help them leverage what they already know to capitalize on and to take advantage of the data aggregation that we are undertaking for their benefit, and most importantly, for the benefit of their target consumers.

How does a company, such as yours, optimize data collection practices in an era when so much is on the line, regarding privacy, on the legal front?
That’s a great question. It is important to recognize that the consumer is king. Since our primary goal is to enable consumers to see relevant, privacy-sensitive ads wherever they go with appropriate notice and choice, we take a very proactive approach to privacy management.  We are members of the NAI and were spun out of AlmondNet, a company that pioneered the enhanced-notice concept before it was in vogue.

Great data powers the most attractive ads and apps for consumers. What’s the harm of “bad” data- and how do we avoid the proverbial “dumb pipe” of data overload?
This is a very broad topic as there are so many factors at play when it comes to targeting online ads. From a consumer perspective and from our perspective, even the best data, when used inappropriately or in an insensitive manner, might be seen as bad data. Of course, data alone does not define the consumer experience and even when the best data, however we define that, is used appropriately, it might still be perceived as bad when combined with poor creative, or when used in an inappropriate environment, or if it is overused.

Datonics works with many DMPs and DSPs- is all that data eventually going to create a new form of audience-buying/ campaign management platform as the line between DSPs, DMPs and Big Data mining companies begin to blur? If so, what might it look like?

While I’m not a fan of baseball or baseball analogies, I’m more a hockey fan, we are in the first inning of a very long and exciting game.  If you look at the offline data world you’ll see that there is room for many players in the market and that there are many variations of how data can be aggregated, classified, packaged, distributed, and sold.  I believe the same will apply in our ecosystem despite the dream of some to operate a one-stop-shop for all data and all data management needs. Without exposing our secret sauce or plans for the near-term and distant future, I’ll say that Datonics is focused on aggregating, classifying, and making available the highest quality, best performing, proprietary data sets to our entire ecosystem. This applies to our hundreds of pre-packaged segments covering all commercial categories, to our unlimited offering of custom keyword segments, to our growing life-stage data offering, and to everything else in our product pipeline.

Michael Benedek is the President and CEO of Datonics, which was recently spun off as a standalone company from AlmondNet. Benedek was most recently President of AlmondNet Data Division and joined AlmondNet in 2000 as Vice President, Business Development. His experience extends to over 15 years in the Internet, financial services and healthcare fields while based in New York and in Tel Aviv, Israel.

Silicon Valley’s $12 Million Bid to Rethink Brand Advertising

Major brands of every stripe and the platforms which employ the advertising technology used to facilitate digital advertising, like Google, are rethinking the way marketers measure the effectiveness of digital ads. The death-knell for the traditional click-through metric, which judges an ad as successful when a consumer clicks on it, has sounded and now Silicon Valley is moving towards funding alternatives.


Moat, a one-year-old software-as-a-service (SaaS) startup launched by former Right Media investors Jonah and Noah Goodhart and Mike Walrath, has caught the eye of Silicon Valley powerhouse investment firm The Mayfield Fund and won $12 million in Series B financing from the 43-year-old company. “We have reached a point where it is critical to move beyond the click and start presenting solutions to the market that can enable brand advertising growth in the future,” Jonah Goodhart said in an interview with The Advertising Technology Review.

According to Goodhart, brand advertisers need a better metric than the traditional click-through, and Google’s recent efforts in cooperation with the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) to bring user-friendly measurement tools from the offline world, like the gross measurement point (GRP), to digital advertising “is definitely part of the story.” Google’s efforts to make advertising technology easier to use for brands is a “huge validation for the space that Moat is focused on,” Goodhart stated.

The Mayfield Fund is a venture capital firm which focuses on investments in mobile, cloud, social, energy and big data. “Unlike typical ad tech startups that are ad networks, arbitrage plays or tech layer abstractions, said The Mayfield Fund’s managing partner Tim Chang, “Moat is uniquely positioned as a SaaS category leader in the space, and has the broader potential to evolve the whole industry beyond the obsolete and incomplete metric of clicks.” “This is a much bigger prize at stake here that we’re playing for,” said Chang, who will join Moat’s Board of Directors.

Moat’s approach to analyzing consumer engagement shifts the focus away from click-throughs towards diagnosing why some ads resonate with consumers and others don’t. The company has developed a patent-pending analytics platform that permits real-time attention tracking for online ads, allowing advertisers to derive insights that can inform creative and ad buying strategy on-the-fly. Moat’s first ad intelligence product, Moat Ad Search, has been used by more than fifteen-thousand businesses to track ad placements globally online. Moat CEO Jonah Goodhart said the company will use the funds to expand its development team.

Understanding Data Management Platforms: BlueKai and Hewlett-Packard

Although Data management platforms (DMPs) are used by the lionshare of America’s largest companies, there is still much confusion regarding the technical requirements for a DMP to truly do its job. Recently, HP began a global expansion of its use of DMP products with data partner BlueKai. The Advertising Technology Review spoke with Wayne Thorsen, SVP, Strategic Partnerships at BlueKai about how DMPs ought to manage their client’s data and what CMOs and CIOs need to keep in mind when evaluating a DMP. Not surprisingly, he’s quite keen on his own company’s offerings, but we won’t hold that against him.


The line between demand-side platforms (DSPs) and DMPs has been muddied a bit as both types of platforms gain popularity. What does a good DMP do for its clients?
A quality DMP not only manages, organizes and segments your data in a meaningful way, but it allows you to take action on all of your data assets, across all of your media channels. Boiling this down into functionalities, a worth-while DMP will allow easy data ingestion, for example. This means that a DMP should allow you to bring all of their audience and ad data together in one easy-to-use platform. It should be able to pull data from your site and any affiliated partners, as well as data warehouses – customers, purchases, location, demographics, and meta-data such as account worth etc – into a centralized taxonomy.

A DMP should offer media-agnostic data portability in order to maintain maximum data control.

A DMP should offer media-agnostic data portability in order to maintain maximum data control.When you work with one or more DSPs or SSPs, as well as multiple networks or exchanges, your DMP should be able to push and pull data to and from all of these sources, and then analyze this data in one place to get cross-channel and cross-media insights. The most efficient way to support data portability is to work with a vendor that has pre-integrated a vast list of media partners through server-to-server transfer technology and offers direct integration of first party data into the publisher’s ad server. DMPs should also be fully transactable, allowing you to get granular audience intelligence and then optimize inventory allocation with one click for analytics, sharing features, and third-party data purchases. A DMP should include access to third-party intent data culled from millions of users across the web, because this data is critical for building new, lucrative audiences, setting inventory pricing, and analyzing audience effectiveness. It should also offer clear insights into how each and every audience segment is performing at any given time are critical, and every DMP should offer robust data analytics. A DMP should allow you to measure how specific audiences interact across multiple properties, and generate reports showing all data attributes associated with a specific audience form all available data sources.

Publishers are at the core of the advertising technology industry, but much of the focus has been on advertisers. What do publishers need to keep in mind when selecting a DMP?
if your DMP limits your integrations, your data ingestion, or access to your data assets you will not be able to monetize and drive yield from your site audiences. An effective DMP will help centralize disparate audiences into one pool, allowing publishers to gain a much better understanding of their audience assets across all properties. BlueKai, for example, has the deepest industry integrations and partnerships, including the tightest integrations with DFP, integrations into all four Portals, top 30 ad nets, DSPs,and trading desks for data acquisition. In addition, a DMP should provide easy or built-in access to vast amounts of third party data. This is necessary to provide rich analytics and/or insights reporting.

How has the publisher’s relationship to data changed in the past few years and how do you see that relationship changing?
In 2005,  experts  reported that  the  amount  of  digital  information  in  the world was doubling every 1100 days. In 2007, that time had shortened to eleven months. A recent study by IBM predicted that in the next few years the amount of information will double every eleven hours.

This data overload has made it difficult for publishers to separate signal from noise, or meaningful customer attributes from the whirlpool of customer information out there.

This data overload has made it difficult for publishers to separate signal from noise, or meaningful customer attributes from the whirlpool of customer information out there.This complex relationship is addressable and containable within the right system. The key, is to manage your data in a non-static way, and not try to fit a square peg into a round hole. Publishers need to evolve as their data evolves, and that means choosing an agile DMP solution.

Many DSPs offer DMP-like services, what are the core differences and benefits of dealing with one or the other?
While there’s room for DSPs in the marketplace, DMPs offer complementary and endemic capabilities, and most importantly are media-agnostic. If you use a media partner such as a DSP or another network as your DMP, your data assets may be stranded, with that media partner, or difficult to use with competitive media partners. We call this a data tomb. Your data is locked in there forever. We believe in portability, and having a DMP that facilities this portability to any partner so clients can work with whoever they wish. Even though your DMP should be media-agnostic so that the platform isn’t incentivized to get you to spend more, all your decisions should be data-driven. Many platforms say they have the most access to data, but the reality is most have to buy it, and they have a small percentage, usually ten percent. It is important to note what type of access a DSP or DMP has to a data exchange in terms of source, type, and amount.

Rethinking Digital Advertising

Brands are most often at the mercy of Silicon Valley and Madison Avenue in digital advertising, beholden to the major agencies and advertising technology companies to build their brands online as well as to provide the measurement of their campaigns’ success. Yet brands are frequently unsatisfied with the performance of their advertising technology solutions as well as their inability to make big ideas blend seamlessly with the ever-growing volume of big data. Although brands are steadily increasing their investments in online advertising and in existing advertising technology tools, a significant number of

Major brand CMOs have in recent studies stated that digital advertising still presented many barriers to deeper investment, such as uncertain measurement standards, the complexity of the media-buying process and the inability to customize solutions easily to meet brand objectives. A radical solution is to create a training ground for new, untested ideas in digital marketing and put them through their paces, allowing startups in advertising technology and digital marketing to compete on the basis of performance and long-term merit. PepsiCo10 attempts to do just that, expanding PepsiCo’s two-year-old technology startup incubator program from the U.S. and then Europe to Brazil and India this year. While this approach is a novel turn for a major brand such as PepsiCo, the relevance to advertising technology as a whole is a much larger story .

Silicon Valley’s sheen as the world’s largest incubator of bright ideas will endure in perpetuity, but the idea of brands building their own advertising technology providers from the startup stage is a new one. It is perhaps a future challenge to the old order, which has allowed major agencies and the caprice of Silicon Valley’s biggest investors to prescribe the course and the speed of brand-focused advertising technology development. Brands would naturally, if given the chance, develop advertising technology that is performance and branding-oriented. The ability to carve nascent technology to best serve brand objectives is a concept that goes to the heart of what digital advertising is supposed to do; drive results and foster connections between the brand and the consumer, while providing data-rich insights.

Joshua Karpf, PepsiCo’s Director of Digital Media, believes that the company’s PepsiCo10 project is significant for the digital advertising landscape as a whole, as it is an attempt to bring the brand closer to the best new ideas before they hit a cluttered landscape. “What if PepsiCo had spotted Facebook earlier than anyone?,” asked Mr. Karpf in an interview with The Advertising Technology Review. “We want to be the place where new technologies come to breakthrough.” Mr. Karpf stated that being present at the creation of cutting-edge technologies is a competitive advantage that PepsiCo is committed to pursuing globally. The company isn’t attempting to rile either Silicon Valley or Madison Avenue, but rather create a role for itself that perhaps a brand might perform best; as curator of the advertising technology and digital marketing solutions that it might need in the future.

There are several factors that make PepsiCo10 more than a revisiting of that 90′s favorite, FirstTuesday, a venture capital free-for-all which famously help fund some of the decade’s biggest flops and successes. PepsiCo, as a powerful global brand, has the inherent power to turn a plucky startup into a viable competitor in the advertising technology space virtually overnight. The company has a wealth of brands, vast amounts of consumer data to utilize along with the ability to single-handedly launch any new advertising format, for example, that bright-eyed startup crew could imagine, to a world audience. PepsiCo’s digital strategy has been alternately heralded and questioned over the past several years, yet this year the company is boosting its overall advertising budget by more than $600 million, with a particular emphasis on digital marketing. PepsiCo is taking its ad spending seriously, and as a part of that push, it is actively looking for new ways of driving ad performance, optimizing its social media efforts and connecting with new audiences online, globally.

This entails a subtle rethinking of PepsiCo’s role as a brand in digital. Although PepsiCo’s core business is certainly not shifting to technology, the company views itself now as a catalyst for practical innovation in marketing and consumer connections. This requires a deeper look at the way those connections are formed, the way advertising is delivered, and new ways of looking at online marketing. Those future-focused new ideas are percolating in places like Brazil and India, as they are in Silicon Valley and Europe. The significance of PepsiCo’s role as a driver of digital marketing ideation is that it offers a third way, between submission to the shiny new tools of Silicon Valley or the reticence of Madison Avenue to plunge further into the shocking of the new.

Brands don’t necessarily need to be protected or coddled in exploring the digital universe. Advertising technology, as a landscape may indeed be cluttered with mediocrity, but brands savvy enough to create an open door for new ideas to compete based on merit may have found a way to make the landscape evolve into a performance, not PR-driven system out of necessity. PepsiCo, by finding their own new ideas and letting them compete on the world stage can effectively force older, more established companies to think more seriously about performance and innovation simply by default.

Rethinking Business Intelligence

IBM, according to Interbrands Best Global Brands report, is the world’s second most powerful brand, behind Apple. Yuchun Lee, former founder and CEO at Unica, is vice president and general manager of IBM’s Enterprise Marketing Management Group, which consists of the combined Coremetrics and Unica businesses. Mr. Lee spoke with The Advertising Technology Review about the challenges of looking at Big Data not as a size problem, but as a complexity challenge.

There seems to be an element of hysteria to the Big Data conversation– what are CMOs really talking about?
The number one take away from our last CMO study was that CMOs are certainly talking about big data, but it’s not the quantity of the data, but rather its complexity. If you think about traditional databases, such as purchase record transactions, call center records, these are very simple database frameworks compared to data from social networks and social media– this entire web of data that has to be handled differently. This is the data that marketers have to deal with if they want to attain marketing goals. A company’s fight for relevancy is really its fight for survival going forward. Big Data is key to maintaining relevant communications to clients and relevant service to clients. There needs to be a change of resources and strategy to incorporate research and that “left brain” — analytics– into marketing as much as possible

So what is the first step in tackling Big Data?
What we have seen work well is partnerships– the CMO truly partnering with the CIO. The fundamental competencies for CMOs going forward are analytics and the innovation in the creation of content. On the creative side for the longest time marketers have relied on agencies as partners. On the tech side they need to work with their technology partners. The biggest progress that we have made recently is the industry acknowledging the need for a technology knowledge partner, they realize that they can’t keep buying a low-level point product from some technology vendor somewhere; those CMOs would be fired if they continue doing that. There are problems that cannot be solved within individual channels. Critical data is integrated within multiple aspects of the strategy and must be dealt with holistically. When there’s a problem, you can’t just rely on a mobile technology vendor that deals with only that technology. When you try to examine what every vendor that you used to rely on for working with a siloed channel has to offer outside of that singular channel, in terms of data solutions, you find it’s very light. We think that the vendor space will decrease from several hundred to a handful, when CMOs begin to rethink what is really available.

How will Big Data continue to impact the advertising technology and data management space?
The space is complex because there is no consistent way of pulling together, for example Twitter data, point of sale data, web browsing behavior- each data type has a different schema, a different structure. If you think about some of these data sources some of them are so huge that you can’t solve the problem by just downloading that data to your database- you can’t download the entire internet to get a 360 view. You are starting to see emergent technology that is looking at that. There will be a series of applications coming out that deal with this question of  ”how do we use machines to link together deep level complexity when the core technologies are no longer viable?” These core technologies are, for example, the traditional way of looking at data, as in “I have this nice table and let me download it and look at reports.” We are talking about massive volume and very complex web data with interlinking relationships- data for which you have to write algorithms just to cut through the processing of it. We need to be able to deal with the volume, complexity and the pace that is coming down the pipeline. What we have to do is harness all of the power of the cloud. The traditional way is to take a machine, put it behind a firewall and analyze the data. What we’ve found is that because most of this data lives in the cloud , for both economic reasons and complexity reasons, we needed to build a hybrid technology that harnesses both a traditional software and software that lives in the cloud. By in the cloud I mean not just infrastructure, but software-as-a-service in the cloud- and that will be a link to the on-premises software. We want to stop the madness of having to stitch together 150 different applications to solve a problem. IBM, for example, is assembling a suite of best of breed applications and pre-integrating them into our service. Newest Movies APK

How are CMOs approaching  some of the most complex data, social data?
CMO’s want to figure out the brand sentiment in social conversations. As in any technology there is generational change. The last generation fundamentally is not able to deal with the type of complexity and the volume that’s coming out of social and big data. If you reflect back on the space of web analytics, you would think that it would be a natural space for business intelligence vendors. You would think that these guys should be in the upper right quadrant of the web analytics space. Except none of them are. That’s the effect that you see and the different effect that big data has on technology- the type of technology that’s needed is different. The technology is different and the tastes of the industry for methods of solving these problems is different. In order to know your customer you have to be able to leverage all of the data that you have on them effectively.

Yuchun Lee, formerly founder and CEO at Unica, is vice president and general manager of IBM’s Enterprise Marketing Management Group

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