Interview with Charles Manning, Chief Executive Officer, Kochava
Tell us about your role and journey into technology. What were your thoughts behind initiating Kochava?
Kochava was born out of a consulting service that built custom apps for brands and entrepreneurs. This was just as smartphones were taking off and the business was growing along with the demand for apps. When one of our clients requested a way to provide solid evidence on the efficacy of their mobile advertising to unlock a $950K ad budget, we saw an opportunity. It was a defining moment that led to the founding of Kochava. After doing whatever it took to run a business in the aftermath of the 2008 recession, we saw mobile measurement as a solid space we could fill. Since then, we’ve leveraged our leadership in mobile measurement and have built out capabilities across media planning, targeting, activation, measurement, optimization, and audience re-engagement. Staying close to our customers has led to ongoing innovation across the company.
How is the Mobile Attribution Analytics industry different from what it was two years ago?
During the past few years, fraud has become a major issue, and therefore, a focus for us as we serve our customers. We began identifying fraud in 2015. Back then, we provided a manual service identifying abnormalities in our clients’ data. We then honed in on several abnormal data patterns and created the Fraud Console with 14 algorithms (and more now in beta) for automatic detection of potential fraud and data anomalies that could be applied more broadly. Clients can review the data our system flags and use it as evidence if necessary for their partner networks. We added the prevention tools, the Global Fraud Blacklist and Traffic Verifier, to protect campaigns. Traffic Verifier is essentially an IO (insertion order) verification tool to ensure that deliverables are met. With it, marketers have a real-time mechanism to verify that the traffic they buy is consistent with what is delivered.
Audience syndication is another capability that we’ve made available to clients in fulfilling the demand for the unification of measurement data and audience activation. Marketers can analyze their data to identify user actions and define new audiences, such as lookalikes or retarget existing users, within the Kochava platform.
Our Client Analytics team are arguably the best way to optimize our toolset. They can perform a deep analysis of the quality data networks deliver and the level of downstream engagement. With our platform and expertise, every campaign should improve upon the previous one. Since every client is different in size, needs, and KPI goals, our personalized service teams are focused on customer support tailored to meet those varying needs.
What is the current state of Mobile Application monetization by leveraging Attribution Analytics? How does Kochava deliver on its ROI promises?
First, marketers can see their cost data and ROI along with their analytics. Marketers can receive cost data from their network partners and track cost down to the click and event.
Our system updates cost metrics as networks do. Marketers can compare networks according to cost and revenue and use it as part of their strategic planning.
As I mentioned, fraud has become ubiquitous — it’s everywhere and takes many forms. It should go without saying that to save money, marketers should implement our fraud mitigation tools. On average, we save clients between 7%-25% on their media budget via our tools, and a large portion of that is from our fraud mitigation.
I also mentioned audience activation — clients can leverage their data by getting more insights from users for better targeting. They don’t have to purchase third-party data to layer over. We can do that for marketers so they can run more effective campaigns.
Segmenting their whales, for example, should increase their ad spend and ROI. Marketers can also leverage our tools to target users identified as vulnerable to churn for retargeting through our engagement platform.
How do you choose, promote and sustain Mobile Attribution Analytics markets for business development?
We believe that measurement is at the core of any media planning effort. The quality of the signal and understanding how that signal illustrates the feedback loop of audience adoption against promotion is central to any mature brand or agency. Instead of looking at our product as a commodity measurement tool, our business development efforts work to illustrate this in a total value perspective to our prospects. The most obvious example of our approach can be seen in our 1% challenge efforts.
We use our own toolset to measure success as we promote our services to advertisers, brands and agencies.
How much have the Marketing and Advertising operations changed since the arrival of Automation and BI/Analytics tools for mobile? How do you leverage these tools at Kochava?
While mobile created a significant shift in digital advertising/marketing from traditional display advertising (web), the expectations and approaches of ad operations teams have largely stayed the same. At the same time, BI/Analytics and intelligence tools have matured significantly against big data use cases during the same time that mobile entered the scene in the digital advertising space. The combination of transitioning from the web to mobile and from static data reporting to ML-based big data analysis has resulted in opportunities for companies like Kochava who are innovating and producing solutions quickly for large-scale advertisers.
In addition to the value of better measurement and audience de-duplication, we have created opportunities to better support audience targeting. Audience acquisition, automatically re-targeting cohorts based on the propensity to churn, re-engagement, and lookalike modeling of audiences are all things that were not possible prior to automation and advanced BI/Analytics tools like Kochava.
How do you see companies like Amazon and IBM raising the bar for Mobile Attribution Analytics in the Mobile Application industry?
They haven’t yet — but they have the opportunity to. We’re working with both companies and they have a lot to offer with their scale and number of customers they serve.
Which Marketing and Sales Automation tools and technologies does Kochava use at the moment?
What are your predictions on the most impactful disruptions in Marketing Technology for 2018-2020?
I’m bullish on the application of distributed ledger technology, or blockchain, in various industries but specifically to digital advertising. The problems our industry faces are largely caused by its focus and structure, such as centralization on last-click attribution, which is a poor way to measure the efficacy of advertising. It has led to astronomical efforts by fraudsters and shady players to flood and inject clicks into the process in a frantic attempt to win attribution. The complexity of the ecosystem makes this kind of fraudulent activity hard to detect and allows it to flourish. It results in data streams filled with junk that muddies the results for advertisers. This will only continue to get worse until advertisers demand better and until greater options are available. Since 2015 our R&D subsidiary, Kochava Labs SEZC, has been working on a blockchain-based framework for digital advertising called XCHNG (xchng.io). It stands to vastly improve transparency and efficiency and to transform the transaction process through an IO smart contract written into the blockchain, which will give marketers and publishers the ability to verify terms, and follow their ads or their inventory with great clarity. The benefits of blockchain answer all of the advertisers’ major concerns, and I’m excited to see this transition begin to take shape.
What startups in the technology industry are you watching keenly right now?
I would categorize the companies in three areas:
- Data aggregation and visualization companies
- Companies building autonomous solutions (drone and terrestrial vehicles)
- Companies disrupting supply chains with DLT/blockchain technology
How do you prepare for an AI-centric world as a business leader?
Kochava has many use cases for AI and we have been using it for several years. One of the benefits of having huge amounts of data is our ability to apply AI for fraud, campaign optimization, and other model-driven analyses. In short, I think we’re doing less preparation and more execution in this arena.
How do you inspire your people to work with technology?
It doesn’t take a lot of inspiration to encourage my team to work with the latest technology. It is their passion, and there is always something new being introduced. I guess I would admit that it is more challenging to get my growing team to conform to some of the sales automation and project management tools that are necessary at our size, things such as Salesforce and Asana, that help a larger company stay on track. It can be tedious to do the front-end work in systems like these, but the team is seeing the fruit and working the plan.
One word that best describes how you work.
What apps/software/tools can’t you live without?
Email remains a steadfast tool that I use constantly. I appreciate the track record that email retains, and I expect my team to communicate a lot, with email being a primary method. Slack is heavily used in the office and great for faster, shorter communication within the team. Google Calendar is a constant for me, for both professional and personal purposes and critical for travel details. Uber and my airline apps get a lot of use as well.
What are you currently reading?
Mostly contracts. I don’t review contracts any longer for new deals, but we have a number of strategic deals we’re working on, which involve me getting into the details of a number of contracts. Outside of work, I have a new one that I’m excited to read: Chaos Monkeys by Antonio García Martínez.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
I’m not sure if it’s the “best” advice, but it ranks high on the list: You don’t make money unless you have a framework to invoice. It seems like a simple reality, but until you really wrap your head around what it is that you are pricing, how you deliver against that, and then invoice for the work performed, you will never get paid. It’s an important step to understand your core business (whatever business you’re in).
Tag the one person in the industry whose answers to these questions you would love to read:
Zach Coelius. He is not a close friend, but we see each other pretty frequently at various places, and I always enjoy hanging out with him.
Thank you, Charles! That was fun and hope to see you back on MarTech Series soon.
Charles Manning is the founder and CEO of Kochava, the leading mobile attribution analytics platform serving tier-one advertisers worldwide. For nearly 20 years Charles has been creating technologies that use data for system optimization, ranging from business service management (BSM) to information technology (IT) to attribution analytics, and most recently blockchain. Charles began his career at Oracle, and later held executive and C-Level positions at M-Code, Managed Objects, and PLAYXPERT.
Prior to founding Kochava, Charles founded PLAYXPERT – which started as a gaming technology platform. After licensing the PLAYXPERT technology to Razer, Charles built a team that focused its time on building engagement platforms for entrepreneurs and agencies. Upon realizing that there were no standard platforms providing effective attribution or post-install analytics in mobile – Charles and his team built one, and Kochava was born. The Kochava technology is now integrated with more than 3,500 networks and publishers and is trusted by hundreds of brands including the biggest names in mobile gaming, news and media, and consumer goods.
Kochava began in 2011 when a team of mobile and gaming professionals saw the need to better understand the feedback loop of user acquisition, engagement, and LTV for mobile applications. Through the process of creating apps for customers from a wide range of industries, we were repeatedly asked if we could shed some light on what media advertising efforts were converting and the effectiveness of their mobile ad spend by partner. Realizing a solution to these questions wasn’t readily available, we started designing and building a mobile measurement platform that would become Kochava.
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.