Interview with Daniel Meehan, Founder & CEO, PadSquad
On Marketing Technology
MTS: Tell us about your role and how you got here? What inspired you to start PadSquad?
When the iPad launched in 2010, my first thought was that it would change content consumption forever. That was the initial inspiration for PadSquad. A powerful device, with amazing graphics, that you can interact with content on a touchscreen was born! iPads flew off the shelves for the first 3-4 years after launch, then were sort of replaced by larger smartphones as the consumption device of choice. So in some ways, I totally got the iPad media thing wrong!
As that migration from tablet to phone as happened, so has the focus of our business changed. Coming from the publishing and media industry, I was focused on two critical topics that remain relevant today.
MTS: How would publishers and media owners format and design content for this new family of devices? How can brands leverage these new touch-enabled devices to engage customers?
PadSquad was launched midway through 2012 to solve both of those challenges. We created a mobile software platform that formatted web content for smaller devices so publishers could deliver a better user experience for their audiences. In tandem, we focused our efforts on building the most amazing mobile creative campaigns for brands on mobile, so they can delight consumers in a polite way that is memorable.
MTS: Given the changing dynamic of engagement with online customers, how do you see the existing viewability and on-target audience benchmarks for mobile advertising evolving by 2020?
Viewability is sort of the lowest common denominator to solve for digital bad actors and fraud in my opinion. It’s not a metric I believe in when measuring any lasting effect of a brand message. The digital market has some interesting challenges to figure out when it comes to measuring audiences in a mobile first world. The app space allows for IDFA targeting, better attribution and high viewability, but for the vast majority of ad inventory, there is utility based and in gaming.
Mobile web is restricted based on browser settings, and lack of 3P cookies in Safari, but offers audiences that are typically in consumption mode engaging with content. My sense is that by 2020 there will be some sort of clearinghouse for mobile browser fingerprinting that can be matched to mobile IDFA to develop an industry standard so that data targeting and measurement can be more robust and accurate across devices, browsers, etc. This will lead to more intelligent benchmarks for marketers, and not the hodge-podge of third-parties that exist today, all only telling parts of the measurement story.
MTS: What are the emerging ad formats and bidding technologies that a CMO’s budget by 2020?
Vertical Video in mobile is a favorite ad format, and should take larger share of budget probably before2020 if I had to guess. When done well, it’s an elegant ad format that tells a story in a polite manner. I’m bullish on it overall. PadSquad is transacting on mobile vertical video in programmatic more than any other ad product right now, and seeing really encouraging results for VCR and engagement. Snap helped pave the way for this ad format, and we’re having success with marketers because of programmatic execution and scale in the mobile web, combined with our creative abilities to edit and format video assets.
Further out, I’ll be interested to see how much traction Augmented Reality ad formats get for budgets. 2020 seems about right for some form of AR to be fully adopted, enough marketers to allocate dollars to, and enough Supply-Side partners to be ready for it. We can execute forms of mobile AR now in non-Safari browsers, and the launch of iOS 11 this Fall will pave the way for mobile AR in Safari and accelerate adoption if I had to guess. Should be exciting!
As for bidding technologies, certainly more progression in automated media transactions will continue by 2020. Over the next few years, machine learning and computer based intelligence will allow marketers much greater insight into media decisioning, hopefully allowing them to spend more time on ideation, messaging, and creative solutions.
MTS: Padsquad offers a premium marketplace for innovative mobile rich media experiences. How is it effective in driving engagement and intent?
We control so many components of most of our client campaigns, starting with ideation, creative design, format and feature development, then activation across content publishers we have directly sourced, vetted and optimized for our unique mobile ad units. The balance of technology and “hand-crafted” creative formats is a good one, and leads to delivery of mobile ads that consumers are intrigued by. We break the mold in many ways, so our uniqueness drives some consumer interest, and then the features, animations, utilities, movement and video used in the campaigns typically draw a user to interact with that message in some way.
MTS: With the growing prominence of programmatic, how does PadSquad bring innovative rich media formats with better experiences?
Transacting via programmatic has certainly exploded onto the marketplace, and we’re seeing some industry growing pains as marketers, media agency teams, and their respective DSPs adopt it. There is just not enough talent that has expertise in it as of yet, but that is changing very fast. Some larger clients we do business with programmatically have very robust and sophisticated in-house teams. We view programmatic as another way to execute for our clients, and can help them accomplish their campaign goals using automation in numerous ways. Since we’ve been singularly focused on creating unique mobile ad experiences, our team has developed code that allows non-standard mobile ad formats to render properly across hundreds of publishers at scale.
As some of the largest digital marketers are realizing that great creative is a differentiator for their brands, they are looking for partners who can execute great mobile creative at scale, the benefits of automation, data. We think PadSquad is uniquely positioned to do that, and the early results are that we’re winning new clients because of our programmatic solutions for high-impact advertising in mobile.
MTS: What’s the biggest challenge that CMOs need to tackle to make their media buying decisions work?
CMO roles are about much more than advertising, but media buying success ultimately comes down to ROAS (Return On Ad Spend), and selling the products and solutions which they are marketing. That’s the end goal eventually. Yet, I think most CMOs will share that the unbelievably fragmented media market, combined with a shorter attention span and more ad collision, has made the job of brand awareness and storytelling much more difficult. The 30-second spot used to be the go-to for storytelling, yet with time-shifting, cord-cutting and ad free streaming services that tool for CMOs is evaporating.
How do you tell stories and have your brand stand for something in today’s marketplace? Sure, we could talk about measurement across platforms, screens, and media. Or we could talk about attribution tracking, or fake news, or brand safety. These are all challenges. My opinion is the CMO challenge for media buying is telling a brand story in a mobile first and fragmented world, and building differentiation for their products that leave a positive effect on consumers. It’s hard, and probably why CMO tenures are at historical lows right now.
MTS: What startups are you watching/keen on right now?
I’m interested in Tenor, as the idea of mapping emotion and communication via mobile GIF sharing, then developing solutions for marketers to leverage that platform is fascinating. Recently I’m watching Albert, because using computing power to disrupt digital marketing, drive efficiencies and insights, resulting in more time for old fashioned creativity is most likely the future of our industry in some form or another.
MTS: Tell us about a standout digital campaign that you were a part of? (Who was your target audience and how did you measure success?)
A good example would be a campaign PadSquad developed for Timberland to introduce their SensorFlex Comfort System technology in boots targeted at both Male and Female audiences. The brand enlisted dancer/choreographer Virgil Gadson as the front man for the overall campaign.
PadSquad’s creative development team brought the SensorFlex technology to life in unique mobile ad formats custom designed to illustrate the ease of movement. One of our formats allowed users to interact with Virgil and make him dance as they scrolled through mobile content on their device. It was a very cool experience that led to users spending more than 7 seconds making Virgil dance, before engaging with him to open to a larger mobile experience with Timberland boots. Overall the engagement rate for the campaign was more than 5%, and drove ~500,000 total engagements. Even more interesting to me (and to the client), was the advanced analytics their custom format resulted in. We tracked interesting data such as 91,000 device tilts that flexed the Timberland boots, and that users tilted their device forward 92% of the time, only tilting back 8% of the time. Users spent more than 500,000 minutes engaging with the format during the short campaign.
These are the type of metrics that truly great creative execution, cool formats, and targeting can produce. What’s more amazing? The client tracked sales lift from the campaign internally, telling us it resulted in a 300% sales lift. So you CAN have engagement, awareness and down funnel activity from great mobile campaigns.
This Is How I Work
MTS: One word that best describes how you work.
MTS: What apps/software/tools can’t you live without?
It’s probably not a very cool or sexy tool, but I’m a huge fan of Microsoft’s Office 365 Cloud. I use it for email, document storage, sharing, notes, collaboration. PadSquad is a heavy Slack user for our team as well.
MTS: What’s your smartest work related shortcut or productivity hack?
I’m actually a big believer in a list of things to accomplish on a daily basis. Mine are typically categorized into sort of a “must accomplish”, for say 2-3 tasks that day, then an “on going” list of tasks that need to be accomplished in the near term. I try to use a large portion of my Fridays to make sure the list is completed for the week, and absolutely use a few hours on weekends to get a bit of a jump-start on the upcoming week.
MTS: What are you currently reading? (What do you read, and how do you consume information?)
As you walk into my office at home, you’ll see a bookshelf full of lots of the classics in first-bound hard cover editions… Dickens, Tolstoy, DeFoe, Chaucer. I don’t understand any of those books, but I think they make me look smart! My favorite book of all-time is probably Redemption by Leon Uris. Our first son is named Conor, after the protagonist in that novel. I’m also a fan of printed magazines, and you’ll see copies of Vanity Fair, Rolling Stone, Sports Illustrated, Bloomberg BusinessWeek and The Atlantic laying around that same home office. The last book I finished was actually American Kingpin, the story behind the founder of The Silk Road dark web marketplace, which was pretty interesting.
MTS: What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Make decisions based on a thorough examination of data, but always, always trust your instinct. If it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.
MTS: Something you do better than others – the secret of your success?
I’m decent at recognizing media trends, and mapping those to opportunities. My last business (Haven Home Media, acquired by Trusted Media Brands) leveraged the fragmentation of digital publishing in the Home/DIY category. Prior to Haven Home, there was no easy way for marketers to buy custom digital media campaigns across a large audience deep into that category. Specific to mobile, we’ve been talking about the power of creative execution and experiences for years, and now think the industry is moving off of the fascination with platforms and recognizing the power of great creative. Ideas are easy, execution is hard, as is having the guts to start things and finish them.
MTS: Tag the one person in the industry whose answers to these questions you would love to read:
I’d be interested in Jason Krebs, Chief Business Officer at Tenor. He thinks he’s very smart, and surprisingly enough he actually is.
Daniel Meehan is the CEO and founder of PadSquad, a creative-first mobile advertising stack with a focus on user-controlled, in-line mobile ad formats that foster polite engagement with consumers across a premium publisher marketplace.
AT PADSQUAD, IT’S AN ART AND SCIENCE. We infuse creativity and emerging ad tech into immersive, hand-crafted mobile rich media brand experiences. We deliver innovative ad formats at scale and inline within premium publisher environments. Our work results in stellar performance, award winning recognitions and long-standing partnerships with Fortune 100 brands.
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.