General Electric, Unilever Looking For Ad Tech Solutions In Startup Competition

marketers and techAdvertising and marketing trendspotting has no shortage of intriguing starting points. Take the marketer, for example. With audiences migrating online, knowledge and expertise with dense, digital marketing tactics has gradually competed in importance with the comparatively simple TV "buy."

To survive, and thrive, marketers need to understand tech. They may do by it by partnering with their CIO or CTO, or working through their agencies, systems integrators or name-of-service-model-here.

Or, marketers are increasingly going outside the enterprise and direct to the technology vendors themselves. And, that's the premise of ad:tech's Startup Spotlight in November which provides an opportunity for ad technology startups to pitch GE, Unilever and Gap on their solutions in return for a "more 'formal' pitch to the big brand's marketing team." See the details.

The concept isn't new for the giant ad:tech conference organization, which has had a Startup Spotlight in previous years, or for the industry at-large. Advertising Age offered a direct connect between startups and marketers during a "brand hack" in April, for example.

But, as Unilever Communications Channel Manager and ad:tech Startup Spotlight participant Drew Corry tells AdExchanger, his huge CPG company is looking for another way in to ad tech, "We view ad tech as an important component of remaining current on opportunities that connect us with our consumers using the latest technology. (...) Clearly there are broad range of ways to communicate with our consumers, inclusive of traditional online marketing as well as opportunities created by new devices."

Corry added that Unilever is already active in ad tech today and that his company's programmatic buying efforts are underway, "Unilever utilizes DSPs, exchanges and data management platforms as well as direct partnerships. It’s critical to use all the tools at our disposal to effectively and efficiently reach our customers wherever they consume media."

Over at General Electric, Andy Markowitz, who is the company's Director of Global Digital Strategy and will also participate in ad:tech's Startup Spotlight, sees opportunity in ad tech, too. He reviewed the tech and industry trends with AdExchanger earlier this week...

AdExchanger: What's the first thing that pops into your mind when you think of "ad technology?"

ANDY MARKOWITZ: Well, one of the things that we see across the board, whether its ad technology or other technologies, is that there is a lot of parity. It's hard to differentiate yourself in this market. I liken it to being a piñata full of candy. You take whacks at the piñata to see what's going to fall out of it, and a lot of the candy looks the same.

That's why - from time to time - we meet with certain people individually in order to get to know them a little bit and understand differentiation in the marketplace - and not necessarily to do business.

It's a big nut to crack, and it is not easy to understand the breadth and depth of everything that's out there – and, I don't think I want to understand everything that's out there.

Given the premise of the ad:tech competition – marketers looking at startups – is this a sign that you’re not going to use your agency partners for this in the future?

That’s a good question - and I want to be really clear. We play both sides. The reason we play both sides is because we can, and here's what I mean…

First, we have excellent agency partners, and we believe in them. With most companies that call on us within this landscape, we typically do refer them over to the agency side. It is their job to vet these companies, and it is their job to create some sense of order out of the chaos, so to speak.

The other side of the coin is - regardless of whether it's ad technology, agencies, social platforms or mobile platforms, we take a very long view on startups and entrepreneurs.

GE is an innovative company, and we are enabled from our CMO down to experiment and do the kind of things that we think are right in the name of connecting with our customers, influencers or whomever might be the engaged or desired audience.

We play it both ways, and we'll probably continue to play it both ways, but we do not and will not ever replace the role of the agency. We rely on them and we think we have very good agency partners, but we still want to know what's out there to the extent that we feel knowledgeable - and maybe it sparks some ideas in the name of connecting with our audience.

Moving to programmatic buying, what’s your view?  At GE, are you seeing it as a direct response opportunity, or is there an opportunity to go into brand [awareness]? And, if not, what are some of the missing pieces?

First, I've been in the business for a number of years and dealt with several different agencies and I have met many colleagues along the way. And there isn't one of us that believes “100 percent” that there is the kind of transparency that there needs to be in this business. There's still a lot that is unknown to us, and by reputation. Some of the demand side platforms are not as transparent as they need to be – that’s an ongoing issue and still needs to be addressed.

That said, we do think that there's opportunity here. There are efficiency opportunities, there are targeting opportunities. One of the things that we look for in my group in particular is how to help drive leads - we're very B2B, very industrial. If there's a piece that I think could be worthwhile for us in particular in my group, is a better understanding of how to get to B2B buyers.

Most things are very consumer‑focused, very broad match. It would be great if there was some opportunity to drive B2B interaction.

I think that is an opportunity. It is how my group looks at this side. It is how we're looking to start experimenting a bit more in this regard. As far as the brand goes, again, in the same vein, there is a mix of reach. There is a mix of direct response. So, ad exchanges and demand-side platforms all serve a role in terms of reaching the right audience.

There's a bit of efficiency and there's a bit of targeted nature in the way you buy media, and there's a role for all those things in the marketplace.

Do you have the solutions you need on the brand awareness side?

Our corporate buying group’s efforts are oftentimes centered around things like video views and social interaction - we're very heavy on the social interaction side.  On the direct B2B side, it's all about the click. It's all about the engagement. The engagement plus the context we think drives relevancy, and relevancy drives impact, and that's what you're after.

For us, the opportunity to engage in a dialogue, to have a sustained conversation, to engage people no matter what ecosystem they're in and in a more meaningful way with impact, is important to us. And for us, that starts with a click.

Last question - what are some tips you might have for a small startup when it's trying to approach, in an effective manner, a company as large as General Electric? Probably start with the right person?  You?

I certainly spend more of my day playing traffic cop and directing people to each other than I'd like to, but it is part of what I do. What's the tip? The tip isn't about the who. There's 300,000 people that work at GE, there are a lot of ways in. Of course, I'd rather people go through a central way, whether it's my group or whether it's my colleagues' group in marketing, or through our agency.

To me, the way to crack a code on something is to help to solve a business problem. I mentioned before that my group in particular is interested in the commercial side. How can you help us drive interaction, engagement, leads, e‑commerce, with our customers or potential customers?

How can you - with our equity campaigns that are driven by the marketing group - help us further engage?.

The headline is, help us solve this specific business problem. It's not about “we can deliver this many oppressions for this price.” That's the cost of entry. It's not about “we can day part better” or “we can cherry pick the type of sites you want to be on.” That's the cost of entry.

GE wants to either see people who have solved business problems or are willing to pilot, try, swat team, so to speak, an opportunity to solve a business problem. It helps both of us - it helps them build their cases as a startup and it helps us do what we want to do, which is connect with our customers.

 

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