Interview with Malcolm Cox, Chief Marketing Officer at Grapeshot

malcolm cox
[mnky_team name=”Malcolm Cox” position=” Chief Marketing Officer at Grapeshot”][/mnky_team]
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[mnky_testimonial_slider][mnky_testimonial name=”” author_dec=”” position=”Designer”]“In the era of big data science, the art of asking smart questions is ever more important. Clarity on the purpose of the task is the best preparation.”[/mnky_testimonial][/mnky_testimonial_slider]

On Contextual Targeting Technology

MTS: Tell us a little bit about your role at Grapeshot and how you got here.

My role is to be the voice of the customer in the decision-making process. My aim is to understand their challenges so that we can identify opportunities for Grapeshot, articulating what we do in a simple, transparent way. I’ve spent thirty years in Marketing. First part of my career was all about creating broadcast media brands. Then, I worked at Naked, a creative marketing and branding agency in London. I enjoy high growth businesses that look to challenge convention and privilege.

MTS: How do you see the contextual targeting and programmatic ad market evolving over the next few years?

There’s a growing realization for brand marketers that context is king. The smart brands are the ones that recognize the lesson that reputation is built by the company that they keep. So, I suspect that there are brands that will move away from using programmatic to chase single metrics like CPA or CPC, and look at a broader range of performance indicators to evaluate brand health and campaign performance.

MTS: What do you see as the single most important technology trend ordevelopment that’s going to impact us?

Applying machine learning to healthcare. The ability to plot and map cell mutation trends in the quest to beat diseases we thought incurable, is amazing.

MTS: What’s the biggest challenge for startups to integrate a contextual targeting system like Grapeshot into their stack?

We’re making our technology available as an open API on request. Otherwise, easiest access is to download our App on Appnexus.

MTS: What startups are you watching/keen on right now?

I’m not sure that startup is a useful definition. If I think about bunches of talented people doing groundbreaking work, food technology firms are changing the way we grow food. This isn’t about genetically modifying food, but rather it’s more about providing optimal light, hydration, and nutrition to perfect fresh and tasting crops. There’s a British firm, Evogro that has discovered a niche to grow perfect micro herbs and leaves inside Michelin-starred restaurants. Their next step is to take their system out of restaurants into the home. The challenges they face to balance data from multiple channels to produce optimal results are shared by us in the communications industry. We should learn from each other.

MTS: What tools does your marketing stack consist of in 2017?

The usual –  Salesforce, Pardot, Tableu, Slack, Trello, Trendkite for PR. Too many, to be fair.  We’re working on connecting them.

MTS: Could you tell us about a standout digital campaign? (Who was your target audience and how did you measure success)

The recent attention on Brand Safety reminds me of a time working at the brand and media agency Naked where one of the clients was Norton Symantec. We deliberately ran ads on what most clients would deem unsafe. With the message, if you’re going to look at this stuff, you might want to discover how Norton can help you avoid malware and viruses. The campaign click rate was highest off the hook.

MTS: How do you prepare for an AI-centric world as a marketing leader?

Machine learning has been around forever. It’s just easier, quicker and more scalable.  Machine learning is here to take the drudge out of the mundane. Things that took days now take minutes. In the era of big data science, the art of asking smart questions is ever more important.  Clarity on the purpose of the task is the best preparation.

This Is How I Work

MTS: One word that best describes how you work.


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

We can all live without all apps and software tools. They just serve to make our lives easier and occasionally more pleasurable.

MTS: What’s your smartest work related shortcut or productivity hack?

Delegation is the glib answer. Surrounding myself with people more talented than myself. Diversity brings innovation and creativity. Teamwork makes winning ever more enjoyable. I was brought up to believe in  the Tom Peters’ “excellence” themes. Some may say that they are outmoded but they still work for me:

In Search of Excellence – the eight themes

– A bias for action, active decision making – ‘getting on with it’.
– Close to the customer – learning from the people served by the business.
– Autonomy and entrepreneurship – fostering innovation and nurturing ‘champions’.
– Productivity through people – treating rank and file employees as a source of quality0.
– Hands-on, value-driven – management philosophy that guides everyday practice – management showing its commitment.
– Stick to the knitting – stay with the business that you know.
– Simple form, lean staff – some of the best companies have minimal HQ staff.
– Simultaneous loose-tight properties – autonomy in shop-floor activities plus centralised value

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

We’ve been rereading Byron Sharp, How brands grow? In a world of hyper-granular targeting and retargeting, the book reminds us to broaden targeting to the whole of a brands constituency to maximize growth.

MTS: What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

In the early days of my career, I was getting hit up about some trivial detail, and my sales director asked me to look out of the window of his London office facing the River Thames and to describe what I could see. I said, “I can see St Paul’s and the City of London.” He then asked me to look out  the other window, to which I replied, “I said I can see Nelson’s Column, Trafalgar Square, and London’s Theatres.”  He then remarked that what I had described on one hand was financial business and on the other entertainment. It dawned on me that I was getting too bothered about the business and forgetting that it’s a privilege to work in an industry that is a lot of fun.

MTS: Something you do better than others – the secret of your success?

There is nothing that I do that is better than anyone else. However, in teams, I try to focus on the skill I have which would benefit the team which they lack. And try and focus on delivering that. I’ve worked in super creative teams where they thought to be the business guy. I’ll work in finance teams when I’m the ideas man.

MTS: Tag the one person whose answers to these questions you would love to read:

Dr. Martin Porter. The genius behind the Grapeshot code.

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

Malcolm Cox is CMO of Grapeshot, a role he took on after gaining experience in the media, music and agency worlds. Malcolm spent thirteen years working with music and media company Emap, where he created the Magic brand and launched Kiss — both radio stations — and reinvigorated weekly music magazine Kerrang! After Emap, Malcolm founded brand activation agency Naked Lunch. Here he created award-winning work for Sony, Nokia, Kickers, IKEA and Nike, staying on at the Naked Group as a director after selling the agency in 2008.


Grapeshot is a global privately-owned technology company that deploys machine learning to unlock the value from data. Grapeshot’s Live Context Marketing Engine provides marketers with real-time, actionable insights to instantly identify and engage target consumers in the moment by dynamically discovering and categorizing new audiences, trends and patterns across billions of digital sources in more than 30 languages. Grapeshot integrates with leading marketing and media platforms including AppNexus, MediaMath, Turn, The Trade Desk, AdForm, iPinYou and AOL, making it easy for brands, agencies and publishers to market in the moment, while also guaranteeing brand safety. For more information visit: or follow Grapeshot on Twitter and Facebook.

[mnky_heading title=”About the MarTech Interview Series” link=”|||”]

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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