Interview with Gladys Kong, CEO, UberMedia

Gladys Kong
CIRCULATE-‘17-interviwes
Gladys Kong
Gladys Kong
CEO, UberMedia
UberMedia

On Marketing Technology

MTS: Tell us about your role and how you got here? What inspired you to be part of a technology innovation company?
I came to the US from Hong Kong when I was a teenager. I had learned English primarily from books and practiced it only in a classroom environment, so when I arrived in this country, I naturally gravitated to STEM subjects because they didn’t depend as heavily on English proficiency. I also enjoyed them, and my confidence built as I excelled at them.

My love of math and science led me to Caltech and then UCLA, where I continued to concentrate on STEM. By the time I finished my degrees in math and science, I knew I would pursue a technology-related career.

After serving in leadership roles at Idealab and other tech companies, I came to UberMedia in 2012, where I served three years as CTO for three years before succeeding Bill Gross as CEO.

When I joined UberMedia in 2012, our small (but mighty!) team pivoted UberMedia from a social media app developer to an early pioneer in mobile advertising technology. I am very proud that we provide some of the highest quality mobile data solutions to power advertising, attribution measurement, and data insights. Our unique mobile location intelligence engine refines, analyzes and contextualizes mobile data to creatively solve persistent business challenges in a way that has never been done before — and we accomplished this with a talented and diverse workforce, and a lot of dedication and hard work.

We’re already in a completely different ecosystem than when I joined UberMedia, and I expect the pace of change to only accelerate in the next five years. Being in the mobile space means that UberMedia must constantly innovate. That’s what makes our work so inspiring and gratifying.

MTS: Given the changing dynamic of online engagement with customers, how do you see the marketing automation and location analytics market evolving by 2020?
I think the evolution will happen in two ways. First, marketers will continue to improve their use of location analytics for targeting media spend and measuring advertising effectiveness. For every present-day use case in targeting or attribution, there are layers of sophistication and optimization that marketers will realize through their accumulated experience and the maturation of the tools themselves. That’s an evolution of depth.

The second form of evolution will be in breadth.

By 2020, marketers will have incorporated mobile location data into their solutions in a seamless manner. No one should have to draw a bounding box to target local customers. The optimal targeting area should be determined by leveraging mobile location data of customers in recent time. There will be a lot more built-in intelligence in regards to targeting and attribution.

We are already seeing the beginning of this trend, businesses across a wide spectrum are starting to use location data to help make decisions. Location intelligence is becoming easier to access and the insights are becoming more actionable. Barriers to entry are lower and will continue to ease, to the point where businesses in all verticals and at all stages of maturity will find applications for it.

MTS: How should CMOs leverage mobile advertising platforms to drive their digital transformation with greater authority?
CMOs need to be aware of a few major trends that are currently reshaping advertising. First, mobile will take center stage (finally) as the primary tool in the marketer’s toolbox and as the primary venue for brand messaging. Whereas only a few years ago mobile was an afterthought, smart marketers are already concentrating the bulk of their creative efforts in this channel.

The logic is simple: consumers are also devoting more and more of their time and attention to mobile.

Second, the prevalence and accuracy of location data is making offline attribution a real possibility for marketers. CMOs should pay close attention to the power of location data in guiding and validating their media spend across all verticals. Measuring and optimizing on real-world location visits (foot traffic) will be a no-brainer as advertisers demand accountability to business metrics.

Last but not least, knowing your competition is the key.  CMOs need to understand not only their own foot traffic trends, but also their competitors’ by leveraging mobile location data to do foot traffic market share analysis

MTS: Given that mobile location data is considered the connective link between advertising and real-world business outcomes, how should CMOs plan their media investments to drive real-world foot traffic?
Despite the rise of e-commerce, the majority of real-world business outcomes still occur in offline environments beyond the reach of digital attribution models. Mobile location data is closing that gap.

In the last few years, UberMedia has released multiple innovations linking business efforts and results to actual location visits from consumers. These products include Location Visit Optimization (LVO), a system that dramatically boosts relevance and performance of mobile ad campaigns based on real-world location visits; Location Return on Investment (L-ROI), a first-of-its-kind key performance indicator measuring and optimizing mobile media against offline store visits; Cross Media Location Visit Rate (xLVR), enabling marketers to understand their incremental foot traffic lift and market share gains and losses across all media investments; and Optimal GeoSpace, a patent-pending mobile location technology that dynamically renders a customized virtual fence around individual retail shopping areas, enabling retail marketers to fully capitalize on the actual footprint of a customer to their location (or a competitor’s location).

In June, we announced the launch of Vista, the most comprehensive suite of data analytics tools for businesses of every size to evaluate their strengths and weaknesses through the lens of real-world foot traffic analysis, shopping patterns, and customer insights. Providing a panoramic view of actual business performance, Vista reveals in-depth analysis of consumer foot traffic behavior across industries by leveraging one of the largest mobile generated location data sets and the most precise location identification technology currently available.

Vista is a critical brand diagnostic tool that provides marketers with a clear visual on how well their brand is competing across key markets, verticals, and media outlets. This includes category-wide location analyses and consumer insights, ranking the performance of specific brands in the marketplace. Vista’s mobile location data analysis is helping businesses evolve to enhance services, address challenges, and plan for the future, including which locations they should open (or close) to attract the largest amount of foot traffic.

These are just a few examples of how location data is tying digital spend to offline activity in a way that gives marketers and businesses a more complete understanding of the entire customer journey.

MTS: How does UberMedia’s Location Visit Optimization (LVO) optimize location data and machine learning capabilities to deliver targeted ads? Are you leveraging programmatic technologies along with LVO for ad delivery and visibility?
Location Visit Optimization (LVO) optimizes mobile ad campaigns toward offline visits to a target location(s), such as retail stores, quick service restaurants, auto dealer lots, shopping malls, movie theaters, and the like.

This is a real development, and its transformative impact on marketing is hard to understate. To date, the majority of digital campaigns have been measured and optimized on the basis of online behavioral outcomes such as impressions, CTR, time on brand web traffic, online conversions, the list goes on. All these metrics failed to capture the ultimate forms of conversion, the majority of which still take place offline. LVO enables businesses to optimize on what matters most: real-world retail traffic and events.

The reason this hasn’t been done to date is twofold. First, LVO requires that a majority of users actually generate location data, which wasn’t a reality until smartphones reached a certain threshold of market saturation. We reached that point only a few years ago.

Second is that it is that optimizing media to real-world locations is just very, very difficult — relying on an incredibly complex and sophisticated process. UberMedia’s LVO uses and requires high volume accurate location data, heavy-duty computing power, machine learning, and algorithms to connect the process to programmatic bidding tools and mobile ad serving.

MTS: What startups in the MarTech ecosystem are you watching/keen on right now?
I’m keen on tech startups that are forward-thinking and innovative. Data and AI are both going to be huge factors shaping the future of marketing and businesses in general. Companies that are focused on bringing AI into their technology or making data easier to use and digest are very interesting to me. Two such companies that I’m watching are1

Faraday which makes it easy to apply cutting-edge predictive technology and built-in big data to your B2C business and Nugit transforms business data into decision-ready reports which are easy for people to understand and share.

MTS: What tools does your marketing stack consist of in 2017?
We’re a start up and don’t currently use outside vendors for marketing support. We’re more grassroots in our marketing approach. We use Slack, and social media outlets such as Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. However, we do depend on our own proprietary components as well as various technology vendors, including –

  • Apache Kafka
  • Apache Hadoop
  • Elasticsearch
  • RabbitMQ
  • MySQL
  • Esri ArcGIS

MTS: Would you tell us about your standout digital campaign? (Who was your target audience and how did you measure success?)
When Adidas released the Adidas PureBOOST X, an innovative running shoe specifically designed for women, they turned to UberMedia to create an award-winning mobile advertising campaign specifically designed for women.

Partnering with Aadidas and Carat, we deployed an industry-leading mobile advertising campaign, inspiring women who lead active, healthy lifestyles to purchase the Adidass PureBOOST X, a “high performance meets high fashion” running shoe for women. UberMedia’s PureBOOST X audience was created using mobile location history, app usage signals, and interest cues to identify actual women who embodied the PureBOOST X message: I AM POSITIVE ENERGY, and drive them to specific retail locations that carried the shoe.

UberMedia’s primary objective for Adidas was to drive consumers to adidas.com and specific Adidas retail locations that carried the shoe by targeting female athletes with high-impact PureBOOST X creative. UberMedia also sought to measure adidas’s mobile investments against real-world foot traffic, measuring the influence that adidas advertisements had on actual store visits.

Ultimately, our success was based on both influenced location visits and creative user engagement. We influenced more than 30,000 visits in-store as a direct result of our mobile advertising campaign. Additionally, our dynamic creative saw significantly higher than average engagement rate. Due to this success, UberMedia and Carat were named “Best Mobile Campaign” in the ThinkLA 2017 IDEA Awards.

MTS: How do you prepare for an AI-centric world as the CEO of a technology innovation company?
Today, every company needs to be thinking about AI. Automation is a fact of existence, and an imperative of the future. Only 15 years ago it was only the most groundbreaking companies that thought ahead about internet strategy. Now every company has one, and we take for granted that the modern enterprise is built around the web. The same thing will happen with AI. The only question is how prepared your company will be for the inevitable.

One of the key component of AI is data, and as a data and technology company, we will to continue to find ways to apply our data to help advance the world of AI.

This Is How I Work

MTS: One word that best describes how you work.
Inclusive — I strongly believe that a workforce built on healthy collaboration and the free exchange of ideas is the strongest foundation for any successful business, especially a startup, where being nimble and creative in our strategy and execution is a key marketplace differentiator.

MTS: What apps/software/tools can’t you live without?

  • Slack is essential to my daily life and the way I stay in touch with my team
  • The Wall Street Journal, to stay on top of the latest business, technology, and world news
  • Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, I like to stay active on social media and in close touch with my peers
  • Candy Crush, I’ve been an avid player for many years
  • Google photos

MTS: What’s your smartest work related shortcut or productivity hack?
A strong communication pipeline is the smartest and most effective fast-track to getting things done and excelling at productivity.

MTS: What are you currently reading? (What do you read, and how do you consume information?)

  • Alexander Hamilton” by Ron Chernow
  • “Coach Wooden and Me: 50 Years of Friendship On and Off The Court” by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

I get book tips from social media and friends. I always like to learn new things, so sometimes I might read about basketball and it will inspire me about new leadership techniques. I have a constant hunger to learn, so I pick up a book.

MTS: What’s the best advice you’ve ever received — your secret sauce?
Equality.

A mentor of mine once said that fairness is not just to treat everyone the exact same way. It’s important to look at each person as a unique individual and work with them on that basis.

MTS: Tag the one person in the industry whose answers to these questions you would love to read:
Reid Hoffman, co-founder and executive chairman of LinkedIn, serial entrepreneur

MTS: Thank you Gladys! That was fun and hope to see you back on MarTech Series soon.

Gladys is an expert in mobile technology and data solutions. Since joining UberMedia in 2012 as CTO, she has been responsible for assembling a best-in-class data science team and pivoting UberMedia from a social media app developer to a leading mobile advertising technology company.


UberMedia provides the highest quality mobile data solutions trusted by businesses to creatively solve their persistent challenges. The company’s diverse suite of products process billions of social, demographic, and location signals daily for Fortune 500 companies across retail, automotive, and entertainment to better understand and influence modern consumers with the most accurate business decision science.

Recognized as a pioneer in targeted mobile advertising, UberMedia was listed as Fast Company’s “50 Most Innovative Companies,” The Wall Street Journal’s Top “50 Startups,” Entrepreneur Magazine’s “Best Entrepreneurial Companies in America,” and as one of Advertising Age’s “Best Places to Work.” UberMedia is headquartered in Pasadena, CA. For more information, visit www.ubermedia.com.

The MTS Martech Interview Series is a fun Q&A style chat which we really enjoy doing with martech leaders. With inspiration from Lifehacker’s How I work interviews, the MarTech Series Interviews follows a two part format On Marketing Technology, and This Is How I Work. The format was chosen because when we decided to start an interview series with the biggest and brightest minds in martech – we wanted to get insight into two areas … one – their ideas on marketing tech and two – insights into the philosophy and methods that make these leaders tick.

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