Interview with Chad Wollen, CMO, Smartpipe Solutions
On Marketing Technology
MTS: Tell us about your role and how you got here. What inspired you to be a part of technology innovation company?
I am the CMO at Smartpipe Solutions. Smartpipe is building the Third Identity Ecosystem with telcos so they can monetize their subscriber data in open markets without compromising data protection. There are three reasons why I joined Smartpipe:
- Leadership: I have known Tobin Ireland for years; he has been at the forefront of driving mobile operators’ data monetization efforts. Smartpipe is based on their expertise and experience built up at Vodafone and Telefonica. On top of that, this is my third time working for Tobin – we were previously at AOL and Vodafone together – he has a knack for finding stuff that is just too huge and audacious to turn down.
- The company: I have been a big corporate animal all my working life – WPP, Yahoo!, AOL, ITV and Vodafone – a startup is a new challenge which takes me out of my comfort zone.
- The opportunity and challenge: Great technology must deliver an “eat your cake and have it too” solution – making things that have always been thought of as opposites, complement each other. For Smartpipe, our platform is delivering privacy, and as a result, we are unlocking high-quality deterministic subscriber data from telcos – enabling innovation across sectors, starting with programmatic advertising, while reducing data protection risks.
MTS: Given the changing dynamic of engagement with online customers, how do you see the customer data intelligence market evolving in the coming years?
There are big changes coming, changes that will impact the core practices of customer data intelligence, and will challenge the viability of many businesses in the market. These changes are driven by new data protection rules around the world, led by the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the EU. The Regulation is running much faster, but in the same direction as consumer opinion. Now, it is about compliance. Next, it will be about building sustainable data-centric business models. Then, it will be about meeting individual customer needs around how they want to manage their data (or not).
The focus will need to shift away from exclusively thinking about data outputs – the product of analytics and data science, to data inputs – building trust with customers so they will happily share their information because of the relationship they have with the brand, and the tools of control and transparency they can access. Data collection is going to depend on so much more that a set of T&Cs.
MTS: How should intelligent data platforms extend the benefits of audience attention and conversion analytics to customers for monetization?
Focus should be on data quality – better data not just bigger data. There is far too much low-quality data in the market. From an advertising perspective, this means far greater sophistication in pricing data and packaging it for specific contexts. If you follow through on ‘data is the new crude oil’, then you have to also believe that crude oil is processed and packaged into paints, plastics and petrol. And, with a little more pressure, it becomes a diamond.
To unlock access to the better data – first party, deterministic and ideally from a billed subscriber relationship – Smartpipe believes platforms need to be privacy first from the ground up. The brands with “ground truth” data need assurance that their data will be safe in the digital ecosystem.
MTS: What’s the biggest challenge that CMOs need to tackle to make their customer data analytics work effectively and accurately?
Establishing a new ‘data relationship’ with their customers. Brands must start communicating with their customers and prospects about the benefits of data use. The communication must be loud and clear, not the legal speak or silence that is common today. This means CMOs are going to have to point their marketing capability firmly at customer engagement, understanding and trust to unlock the use of audience/customer data.
Starting to think about ‘data safety’ not just ‘brand safety’ in the digital sphere. This means looking at data provenance – where does the data come from, how is it processed and is it being managed in a sustainable manner?
MTS: What startups are you watching/keen on right now?
I am looking at consent management platforms, for instance, Optanon, Consentua, Privio, etc. They are springing up like mushrooms at the moment – they represent a critical – and mostly ignored – part of the stack. Also, I am constantly on the lookout for startups joining Smartpipe in the Dynamic De-identification space to see how they measure up!
MTS: How do you prepare for an Artificial Intelligence-centric world as a marketing leader?
Roy Amara is widely cited as saying ‘We tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run’. I am a firm believer in Amara’s Law. I am preparing by learning and trying to understand some of the fundamental principles, assumptions, and narratives.
This Is How I Work
MTS: One word that best describes how you work.
MTS: What apps/software/tools can’t you live without?
Instagram, Pocket, Acrobat, Powerpoint.
MTS: What’s your smartest work-related shortcut or productivity hack?
Getting to work early, having a work ‘uniform’ of black suits/white shirts, and Google searches with ‘filetype’. But, mostly I think that doing the hard yards is inescapable if you want to win.
MTS: What are you currently reading?
Edward Higgs’ Identifying the English: a History of Personal Identification 1500 to the Present; Andrea Camilleri’s A Beam of Light in the Montalbano series, Bobby Seale’s Barbeque’n With Bobby Seale, The European Parliament’s amendments to the ePrivacy directive (as well as other inputs into the process) and ANA’s report – Programmatic: Seeing through the financial fog.
MTS: What’s the best advice you’ve ever — your secret sauce?
When Paul Edwards joined the Henley Centre, one of the first of many wise and useful things he said to me was ‘It is all about the preparation’. If you want to do something well — prepare, practise, repeat.
MTS: Tag the one person in the industry whose answers to these questions you would love to read.
Sameer Modha, Head, Data Propositions, LBI UK
MTS: Thank you Chad! That was fun and hope to see you back on MarTech Series soon.
Senior marketing and insight executive with 20 years+ experience with online. Always the marketer and never the nerd, Chad’s focus is benefits over features; consumer’s lives over the bleeding edge; and, commercial impact rather than what’s cool or hot. At his core, Chad is a consumer marketer and digital media specialist with restless need to drive change, innovation and create success.
Smartpipe works with mobile, fixed and Wifi network operators to monetise their first party subscriber data – safely and securely – across open digital advertising ecosystems without compromising privacy.
The Smartpipe platform uses patented technology to deliver Privacy First impression based targeting into the RTB ad request so there is no disruption to the bid flow.
Smartpipe is backed by leading mobile, enterprise, and SaaS investors. The company is headquartered in London, with a software and development centre in Cwmbran, Wales.
Data Monetisation, Programmatic Advertising, Data Protection, Privacy, Mobile Advertising, 1st Party Data, Deterministic Profiles, Audience Buying, RTB, Data Packaging, Data Propositions, GDPR, Transient Identities
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.