Interview with Giovanni Strocchi, CEO, ADmantX
On Marketing Technology
MTS: Tell us a bit about your role at ADmantX and how you got here.
As CEO of ADmantX, I’m responsible for the company’s strategic direction and culture and as the company has grown, I’m also responsible for overseeing our expansion in international markets, developing new product offerings, and building key partnerships.
I’ve been involved in digital innovation, complex project implementation, and international business development throughout my career, both in multinational environments and in start ups.
Before joining ADmantX, I was the Group Business Product Director for the Vodafone Group (and previously, Strategy and Business Development Director, and Sales Director). Before that, I held similar roles at McKinsey, Technogym, Alcatel, and TIM.
I’m also an angel investor. I currently serve on a number of boards and am an investor in nine start ups. It’s in this capacity that I encountered ADmantX several years ago. After seeing the unique, semantic technology that underpins the company and the team behind it, I jumped in to drive the business. It’s been an exciting ride so far!
MTS: How does your semantic cognitive technology assist in advanced contextual targeting?
You can only achieve contextual targeting with a true understanding (not classification) of a page. The ADmantX semantic cognitive technology uses full Natural Language Processing (NLP) to read and analyze content as a human would to truly understand, the meaning of on-page content. The secret sauce is a “sematic network” – a cognitive network of 12 million cross connections – in which each of the 500,000 thousand concepts of our language is linked to one another by semantic relationships. When activated, a knowledge graph is created from the text of a specific page, allowing us to understand the meaning of every single concept on the page. This has a number of advantages, including increased contextual awareness, improved brand safety classification, and an understanding of the content audiences read and engage with for advanced profiling – ultimately leading to reduced waste, and maximized ROI.
NLP goes further than old “search” methods such as keyword classifications and simplistic text systems to actually deconstruct the content. By organizing and classifying the individual meaning of words and then reviewing them within the wider article environment, a clear contextual picture is created without the inaccuracies and mistakes made by simpler engines.
MTS: Is this what goes in to building your Intelligent Brand Safety Platform?
True understanding implies full contextual protection. By fully comprehending the meaning of words – not just their presence on a page – and concepts, our analysis allows full management of URL selection or deselection with no mistakes, including accurate sentiment and emotion identification. This enables brand safety at an exceptionally granular level, empowering advertisers to avoid placements alongside content that expresses adverse sentiment towards their specific brand or their sector as a whole, as well as ensuring they evade generally inappropriate or damaging content. You need scale to do it, but also precision and flexibility.
In addition to intelligent brand safety, we can create a “brand specific” brand safety solution and develop an “extreme speech and fake news brand safety” solution, both using our technology.
MTS: How does ADmantX analyze human emotion and sentiment?
By understanding the true meaning of content at page level, our technology can also discover its emotional context, identifying the feelings that content is likely to evoke. Emotions are a complex human concept that can not be described by keywords but by “emotional context” – it took us two years of working with a leading university to identify all of the emotional contexts associated with the 60 plus grades of human emotions and feelings. To extract those accurately, you need a deep linguistic solution and a cognitive technology. “I loved you so much. But I don’t love you anymore” is not a positive emotional context. You have to take into account the use of past tense and the full stop to understand that the subject of the second sentence is the same of the first.
In understanding the emotional frame of mind for the consumer, we can apply enhanced targeting in real time, ensuring that the right emotional context is considered – a champagne brand would love to advertise in an emotional context of “success”, even if it is associated with business success, sport achievements, graduation, etc.
The connection between a brand and its audience is driven by emotion, which means that brands must be able to trigger consumers’ emotional senses to get them involved and forge a lasting bond with their audience. Putting emotions at the heart of their campaigns, ensuring ads are well placed in the right emotional context, is crucial for enhancing engagement with their audiences.
Accurate emotional context is the top level of contextual relevance. This could mean avoiding content with an emotional context that could be damaging for a brand. By matching the emotional context of ad creative and page content we ensure the consumer is in the right frame of mind to engage with the ad, increasing metrics such as brand recall and maximizing ROI.
MTS: What startups are you watching/keen on right now?
As an angel investor I’m naturally a little biased towards those startups I have invested in. Some of them in the digital space include TOK TV, a rapidly growing sport social network, Inventia, a software company with an advanced video customer interaction platform, Mapendo, a smart performance partner for boosting mobile sales, as well as Artemest, a marketplace for luxury craftsmanship.
MTS: You’ve said that “programmatic” is an industry buzzword you wish was banned – tell us more.
Today, the term programmatic adds an unnecessary impression of complexity to a relatively simple concept. No one will question that automatic media buying is the norm for reasons of efficiency and scale. However, there are many different programmatic definitions and models so the word can easily be misunderstood when used as a generic term.
MTS: How do you prepare for an AI-centric world as a business leader?
I’m in a lucky position as ADmantX is intrinsically linked with AI, which gives me a head start. We’ve developed a complete AI layer on top of our advanced cognitive semantic technology that has evolved from interest profiles – to understand what audiences like – to full propensity models that understand what audiences evaluate – this will tell a brand which users are ready to interact with a specific message or ready to accept a specific offer – and now to real-time recommendations.
Innovations in AI are already fundamentally changing our working environments and its relevance will escalate over the coming decade, so in addition to developing the ADmantX offering, I read and learn as much as possible about the ongoing evolution of AI to make sure I’m as aware as can be.
This Is How I Work
MTS: One word that best describes how you work.
You can engage with what you do and the people you work with, which is fine, but if you are “committed” then you are really “a part of” what you do. I’m committed to my customers’ needs, and these drive decision-making and business priorities. I’m committed to the success and welfare of my team because I must be able to rely on them completely. I’m committed to driving innovation in everything I do; it’s the only way to think ahead. I’m committed to concrete results and activities, as I believe if you do what is needed, and then do what is possible, you’ll be able to do what is impossible. Finally, but most importantly, I’m committed to my family.
MTS: What apps/software/tools can’t you live without?
LinkedIn is essential for forming and maintaining business relationships and WhatsApp and Twitter are indispensable for keeping in touch internationally. The other tool I couldn’t be without is my calendar. I have a hectic schedule and continually need to balance work and personal commitments, so if it’s not on the calendar, it’s not happening!
MTS: What’s your smartest work related shortcut or productivity hack?
Don’t check your email for the first two hours of the day. Of course, it goes without saying that you shouldn’t ignore urgent messages or delay responding to an ongoing client conversation, but by keeping this to a minimum, you can think more clearly and plan your day proactively – rather than reacting to your inbox!
MTS: What are you currently reading? (What do you read, and how do you consume information?)
Every morning I’ll take a look at a selection of industry newsletters and feeds, as well as articles my friends or colleagues have shared to see what’s new and worth reading. In the evening I’m more likely to read a book. I am currently reading The Master Algorithm, by Pedro Domingos, and Roald Dahl’s Matilda – for my daughter’s bedtime reading.
MTS: What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
It’s a combination of a couple of ideas – living in the present, and living every day to the fullest, as if it were your last – that resonate with me. At the same time, it’s important to maintain an eye on the future and to every day be taking one step forward in the direction of your goals.
MTS: Something you do better than others – the secret of your success?
Energy and vision for sure.
But, the fundamental ingredient is empathy – you can achieve nothing without your team or without your customers and partners and empathy is essential to really understand their needs and what drives them. Relationships based on trust are what drives long-term business results.
MTS: Tag the one person whose answers to these questions you would love to read
Gustav Mellentin, co-founder and CEO of Adform
MTS: Thank you Giovanni! That was fun and hope to see you back on MarTech Series soon.
Giovanni is a senior manager/executive with significant international experience in strategy, innovation, digital transformation projects, marketing, sales, complex international organization management, wide technology implementation and transformation programs, shareholder/board management. He is also an angel investor in digital start ups and a board member.
ADmantX is a smart data provider that facilitates better brand planning and targeting within the digital advertising industry. With its unique ability to understand the meaning within online content, ADmantX allows publishers and advertisers to match ads to relevant online content at page level.
ADmantX is powered by its patented semantic Natural Language Processing technology that delves into the hidden context of content. Utilising over 20 years of expertise in advanced semantic and data science, ADmantX specialises in contextual targeting, intelligent brand safety, content insight reporting and planning, emotional and sentiment targeting, and first-party advanced profiling.
Founded in 2010, ADmantX works with global clients which include NBCUniversal, Financial Times, GroupM, Amnet, Simple Agency, Accuen, RCS Group, Mondadori and is integrated with leading DSPs such as AppNexus, Turn, and Adform. ADmantX operates globally – in 20 languages – and has business operations located in the UK, US and Italy with customers in 15 countries.
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.