Interview with Mike Baker, President and CEO, dataxu

Interview with Mike Baker, President and CEO at Dataxu
Mike Baker, President And CEO at Dataxu

“There are two megatrends that will define the future of the industry: convergent TV and AI. Convergent TV is being driven by consumers cord-cutting and cord-shaving in favor of streaming TV.”

Tell us about your role and journey into technology. What galvanized you to be a part of dataxu?

I’ve been lucky to have a number of successful marketing tech positions over the course of my career, including at CMGI (Internet investment company), Engage Technologies (data profiling), Enpocket (mobile marketing), Nexage (mobile programmatic) and now dataxu. I met my co-founders when they were pitching for angel capital; I liked the fact that they came out of the labs at MIT as trained scientists, and thought that it would be cool to bring real data science to marketing. I invested money and, more importantly, my time!

How do you see dataxu fitting into a modern technology stack? Which industries and geographies are you currently focusing?

DSPs offer a level of automation unmatched in marketing and ad tech. dataxu has a reputation for being an innovator in the use of AI to optimize ROI on marketing investment. dataxu ingests your first-party data (e.g., customer purchase information), matches it up with many other kinds of data across devices and identifiers and creates a customer machine learning classifier for each of your campaigns that invests more in what’s driving acquisition and less in what isn’t. It learns automatically how to optimize your investment.

We’ve always had strong customer relationship in automotive, CPG and B2B, and more recently we are seeing the media vertical come on strong due to our market leading connected TV offerings, which use this same AI to do things like optimize TV investment for in-store traffic.

How do you leverage AI/ Data Science to make programmatic advertising better?

Most DSP solutions focus on making workflow easier. For us, that’s table stakes and the real value comes from providing very powerful analytics that makes it simple for you to drive better campaign performance. We do this in a bunch of ways: the industry’s only algorithm marketplace to test and learn the best way to use machine learning for your brand; an AI partnership with Oracle that allows our users to scan all the consumer insights in the Oracle Data Cloud and apply the learnings to acquisition campaigns with a click of a button; daily personalized predictions so a user of our DSP can adjust tactics, budgets and bids to increase ROI; and an industry-leading real-time identity management solution that lets you target and attribute a strategic audiences across mobile, PC, connected TV and even TV set-top boxes.

What is the state of Programmatic Marketing in 2018?

Programmatic continues its strong growth and has moved from a “what” to a “how.” It’s become the preferred way ad media is bought and sold — automated and API-based. It’s a no-brainer because it reduces the cost of labor for both buyers and sellers. So, it’s not a surprise that programmatic is now moving beyond basic banner ads to TV, radio and out of home media. And what’s next is even more exciting: moving past automation into intelligence. While most software offers you passive analytics like charts, we talk about “active analytics” that helps a marketer move from data to insight to action at the speed of thought.

How do you prepare for the post-GDPR era? What benefits do you extend to your customers and employees as part of the GDPR preparedness?

Data hygiene is the new normal. As we scaled into petabyte-level data processing several years ago, we made a significant investment in tools to ensure we can meet or exceed evolving data privacy and protection rules and norms around the world. For GDPR specifically, we completed about 40 different technical projects over the course of 24 months. It was a huge effort and I’ve been really pleased with the results. Our EU business has seen no disruption; in fact, the new data security features we built are catalyzing growth. All that said, the real issue continues to be informed consent for consumers. People need to understand that enabling collection and use of their data offers them benefits. And business needs to respect the consumer by allowing them to control whether and how their data is used.

What are your predictions on the most impactful disruptions in data-driven programmatic transformation?

There are two megatrends that will define the future of the industry: convergent TV and AI. Convergent TV – or the digitization of linear TV – is being driven by consumers cord-cutting and cord-shaving in favor of streaming TV, whether it’s paid like Netflix or ad-supported like Hulu. The viewing TV through digital delivery systems will change the entire industry like it did with the digital migration of the print and music industries. AI is increasingly allowing marketers to predict optimal budgets and allocation to drive sales and to execute this programmatically. Because traditional media like TV, radio and out-of-home are all going API-based and programmatic, marketers will be able to use AI to run their entire plan in an intelligent automated fashion.

What startups in the technology industry are you watching keenly right now?

There are a number of areas that I am interested in, watching keenly and investing. These include blockchain applied to the data industry (e.g., Fysikal Labs), eSports betting (e.g., Skillz), major league sportslive streamingg direct-to-consumer (e.g., Tappp) and better ways of creating and managing a marketing plan (e.g., Plannuh).

What marketing and sales automation tools and technologies do you currently use?

At dataxu, we use our own software to run and optimize corporate marketing advertising. We also use Pardot and Salesforce for CRM, as well as tools such as Slack, Jira and Github.

Could you tell us about an outstanding digital campaign at dataxu?

One of our agency clients recently saw tremendous success from our DSP, Touchpoint and our DMP, OneView, to target a B2B telecom audience on TV, including linear, addressable and connected TVs. The objective of the campaign was to drive SME business owners into the telecom stores to purchase corporate plans, which is a tough goal! They measured how many viewers of the TV ad went into a store and derived a sales lift by comparing the exposed consumers to a control group. The results showed a strong sales lift and resulted in scaling up the tactic across geographies. The agency showed how you can win by mastering innovative technology, and they stole share from a much larger incumbent TV agency.

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

Beyond the technology, there are some important people issues. First, how do you create a culture where AI can thrive? Have you hired and trained people who can explore and solve problems using an analytical approach? Do you encourage a culture where insights from data are used to make decisions? Do you open the data to all transparently so you can have the mind of massively parallel test & learn environment that propels a business forward? Second, have you created a framework to use algorithms in an ethical way? Many life science companies have developed mature ethical frameworks for things like testing experimental drugs on animals and humans. But very few IT companies have shown this level of thoughtfulness for the power of their AI. This is a critically important societal issue as AI is used to make more and more decisions that have a very real impact on people’s lives.

How do you inspire your people to work with technology?

My colleagues inspire me to work with technology. We’re a tech company and most people at dataxu are smarter than I am, especially when it comes to data analytics technologies like AI, identity management and new areas like convergent TV. It’s an innovation culture where we celebrate smart risk-taking. For example, we routinely stop work to run an Innovation Contest when everyone teams up and builds new tech that solves a nagging problem for us and for our customers. We vote on the best projects and prioritize the roadmap to get them into production. When it comes to using marketing tech, I make sure we maintain a healthy budget to license useful software, try a lot of things and use our own DSP in innovative ways like Account-Based Marketing.

One word that best describes how you work.

Energetic. Ideas give me mental energy and working out gives me physical energy. I need both every day.

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

Text messaging. I’m a 24/7 communicator, so when I’m not talking or listening to someone, I’m texting. SMS is one of the best inventions in the history of the world. It’s a simple, cheap, global and immediate way to communicate.

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

Delete, delegate, do or decide. Scrupulous time management.

What are you currently reading? (What do you read, and how do you consume information?)

I just finished a business book, The Hard Thing About Hard Things, and I’m also reading SPQR which is a fabulous history of ancient Rome.

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

Your peers elect you. The winning organizations are moving from hierarchy to network in terms of human capital management. This means that you need to win respect and build influence among your peers to get things done. And it’s how you rise through the ranks too.

Something you do better than others – the secret of your success?

I see around the corner and I’m comfortable taking risks. This is why my “side hustle” is investing in startups; I’ve built a portfolio of over 45 investments and my strategy is “first money in.” It’s a great way to meet some impressive entrepreneurs while also sharing my battle scars and learning a lot along the way.

Tag the one person (or more) in the industry whose answers to these questions you would love to read:

Jeff Bezos. In my opinion, he is the most impressive entrepreneur and CEO of our time. And Reed Hastings; I’d love to learn more about how he used data to successfully pivot Netflix and to create great shows.

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

Mike Baker has been pioneering digital media platforms for 20 years and is a widely recognized thought leader in interactive advertising. Before co-founding dataXu, he was vice president at Nokia, where he created and ran Nokia Interactive. Baker came to Nokia through its acquisition of mobile advertising leader Enpocket in 2007, where he was the founding investor and CEO. Baker was previously a partner at venture capital firm GrandBanks Capital.

He has also been executive vice president at Engage Technologies, an innovator in online advertising and behavioral targeting. An active angel investor in digital media, he is currently chairman of the board of Nexage, a mobile advertising solutions provider. Baker holds degrees in law and telecommunications management.

Dataxu LogoIn 2009, dataxu was founded on the premise that data science could help make marketing better. Not just more efficient for agencies or more profitable for brands, but also more personalized and more engaging for consumers.

Our vision of helping marketers truly understand how marketing investments cause sales and profitable customer relationships is now a reality. And we’re proud to say that the world’s top agencies and brands partner with us to deliver real results and prove how marketing impacts the business.

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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