Interview with Daina Middleton, CEO, Ansira

Daina Middleton

“Moving from a transactional to a relational approach to marketing is having a profound effect on marketing programs.”

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Tell us about your role and how you got here. What inspired you to be part of a data-driven marketing agency? 

I feel as though all of my previous roles have provided the perfect skills and experience for my role as CEO of Ansira. I spent 16 years at Hewlett-Packard Company during its glory days. The experience I received at HP was truly invaluable. Sixteen years may seem like a long time, but I wasn’t in a role longer than two years. During that time, I literally wore every marketing communications hat there is: sales promotion, branding, advertising, PR, integrated marketing to name a few. I worked in B2B and B2C; national and global; marketing and engineering; technology and packaged goods (supplies). My marketing foundation was traditional, but I was fortunate enough to pioneer digital. I grew up in a culture rooted in consensus and understanding how to influence other without having authority. I worked with the best partners in the industry and together we pioneered groundbreaking data-driven marketing, with Google, YouTube, Yahoo and others. I developed a network that is still fueling my success today. HP’s leaders were smart, articulate, humble and transformational. Overall, I could not ask for a better foundation to catapult my career. In 2007, I was working on a beautiful campaign for HP about self-expression. The tagline was “What do you have to say?” And, it dawned on me that for the first time in history, because of the Internet, customers could respond and tell us what they had to say. Remember, in 2007 social was still in its infancy and mobile was younger than that from a marketing standpoint. But, HP really wasn’t interested in understanding what our customers had to say and that’s when it struck me that marketing had to change. Marketing through persuasion wasn’t enough, understanding the science behind participation was vital to success in the age of digital and the internet. It was this realization which drove me to depart HP and join the agency world where I could test my ideas on participation marketing. I subsequently published a book about the topic titled Marketing in the Participation Age in 2012.

I joined Moxie Interactive (Publicis) and pioneered their paid social practice. I was there for a little under two years when I was approached about taking the helm at the search company Performics. Publicis has just purchased the services part of the business from Google who had retained the Doubleclick technology but chose to divest the services side of the business because of conflict of interest. During my time as CEO, the company evolved from being primarily a paid search business operating only in the US to a performance marketing global powerhouse in 34 countries in 4-1/2 years. It was a journey that required vision, positioning, culture, operational excellence, and product diversification. The role at Performics taught me so much about leadership and vision, specifically, how simple it is to design a vision and how difficult it is to get others to follow you there.

I then joined Twitter to run business marketing to drive revenue growth globally. My experience at Twitter taught me that having an operational foundation is critical to successfully scaling a business. I also learned the publisher side of the business. During my time at Twitter I completed my second book which is about the conversation I felt was missing in leadership: gender differences. The book, titled Grace Meets Grit: How to Bring Out the Remarkable Courageous Leader Within, was published in 2016 which caused me to invest deeply in organizational development.

I partnered for 18 months with a private equity firm working with executives in their portfolio firms as a leadership coach. This experience provided me with a really unique lens about leading others. In my journey of helping others, I also reflected on my own leadership strengths and stretches. I’m not sure that any other experience could have provided this unique lens. I also was able to get an inside view of private equity and this made me realize just how much I love all aspects of business: operations, sales, culture, finance, strategy, etc., and I began to contemplate moving back into an operational role. It was shortly thereafter that I received the call about the opportunity at Ansira.

In summary, each of these roles has provided me with invaluable skills and experiences that I can bring to the role at Ansira.

How do you see customer data acquisition models evolving with the availability of better CRM and Data Management Platforms? 

The biggest evolution today is the notion that successful CRM and loyalty programs are about relationships and therefore customer acquisition models aren’t enough. Accumulating customers isn’t enough. Customers expect brands to know them, respect them and develop a relationship with them. Brands are understanding that nurturing relationships is more valuable than having a one-time transactional engagement. This movement from a transactional to relational approach to marketing is having profound effects on marketing programs. Furthermore, understanding all of the players involved in the relationship with the customer is vital. Ansira is an expert at working with brands who have both a national and local presence. In the past, most marketers only focused on the national relationship which worked well for mass media programs. Local relationships are becoming more important than ever before because customers expect their interactions in the store or dealer to be consistent and seamless with the interactions they have at the national level, yet relevant to their own community. Through data and technology solutions that help brands scale local partner marketing, it is now possible to have a holistic view of both the transactional and relational marketing, and brand and channel or sales marketing. We have been talking about this for years, but only now are we able to deliver it in a scaled manner.

How should CMOs better plan their data + marketing technology investments? 

Relationship marketing begins with an understanding of expectations on both sides. Oftentimes, marketers leap to how they will measure or build something without thinking about the customer first. What type of relationship do you want to have? What actions do you expect customers to take as a result of this marketing program? Only after answering these and other questions that take the customer and objectives into account, can the data and marketing technology investment questions be addressed.

What are the benefits of leveraging AI-powered marketing performance platforms? 

AI offers scale and speed which are vitally important to delivering relevant and timely experiences for customers. I attended the Intel keynote at the Consumer Electronics Show last week. They began the program with music composed by AI. It was really cool and allowed the orchestrator flexibility in mixing and timing. However, while it was really cool, the music wasn’t really very pleasant to the ear. I think this is an important an analogy and provides a lesson for marketers. While scale and speed are important, creative, quality content is still critical.

What tools does your marketing stack consist of in 2017? 

Ansira provides technologies and services that drive transparency, accountability and effectiveness in national to local marketing from management all the way to execution. We take a technology independent approach, acting as a cross-cloud integrator for our clients to maximize past investments and future-proof against strategy. Active client supported examples in the cross-channel campaign management space would be Adobe, Salesforce, Alterian, SAS CI, and Oracle, among others.  Where we have seen gaps in the marketplace, the AnsiraEdge Technology Suite enables brands to create consistent and compelling customer interactions at a national and local level. For example, Distributor provides a one-stop shop for all brand assets and customizable templates. Either used as self-service or with dedicated Ansira support, our clients can build, customize and activate their marketing material through execution. Localizer is then leveraged for co-op and market development fund administration, and a myriad of trade promotion management services, to motivate channel partners to initiate compliant marketing at the local level. Whereas Insighter provides transparent and engaging reporting across channels and partners.

Would you tell us about your standout digital campaign? 

Domino’s digital strategy is considered to be the best in the pizza category and is credited with helping to drive Domino’s category killing growth. In an industry that is growing at 1-2%, Domino’s has had double digit for years due to its ability to drive digital orders. The sophisticated strategy doesn’t focus on heavy budgets and an e-commerce website, it is a compilation of micro-targets and tactics. Every aspect of the customer search pathway is accounted for in the strategy. As a result, Ansira can be fully attributed with developing and executing a national to local digital strategy that drove $1.8 billion in online sales in 2017.

How do you prepare for an AI-centric world as a business leader? 

AI can enable insights, speed, and scale that can be invaluable. But, just like any technology, it is not a substitute for process and people. I think the key is to understand the contribution of process, technology and people. This is not a static understanding, and so continuous evaluation and improvement is the key to success. I also believe that testing and learning is the best way to prepare. This has been the case in our technology-driven environment for some time and will continue. Only through testing and learning can we understand what works and what doesn’t and adapt and scale quickly to keep a competitive edge.

One word that best describes how you work. 


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

A tablet with a pen and notability which has replaced volumes of notebooks.

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

Sleep and thinking time. I undervalued both when I was younger. We all think we can do 100 meetings and multitask all day and all night. We are analog and need time to process, think, and regenerate.

What are you currently reading?

Harvard Business Review – love it for a constant stream of short-form content.

I have moved to consuming digital content. I love books and really miss the smell and feel of them. But I now carry 150-300 books with me virtually at all times. Like music, the practicality of that has converted me to reading digitally.

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

Believe in yourself. You are better than you think.

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

Daina Middleton is CEO of Ansira. Prior to her current role, Daina spent time as a leadership development coach, and headed up global business marketing at Twitter. As CEO of the Performics, the performance marketing agency grew from being a small US-only organization to a global powerhouse with offices in 34 countries in just 4-1/2 years.

Prior to Performics, Daina pioneered social media at the digital creative agency Moxie.  She began her marketing career at Hewlett-Packard where she managed every marketing function during her 16-year tenure pioneering both digital and search.

Daina received a bachelor’s degree in technical journalism from Oregon State University.

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Ansira is a leader at leveraging intelligence at every interaction to acquire, grow and retain your best customers. Our data-driven marketing helps brands create and strengthen customer relationships at a national and local level through customer engagement and channel partner empowerment, delivering long-term profitability for our clients.

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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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