Tell us about your journey into technology. What made you join NEXD?
My digital journey really started back in 1999 when I founded a mobile greetings company. After that, I was in the founding team of a very early web optimization company, Touch Clarity, which later got sold to Omniture (now Adobe). I then moved into digital advertising in 2005 when I joined Unanimis, a leading UK premium ad network.
There I led the spin out and Series A for OpenX, a global SSP, and eventually the sale of Unanimis to France Telecom. Most recently I founded StrikeAd, the first mobile programmatic platform, moved to New York and then sold that to Sizmek, the global AdTech platform, in 2015.
This journey, over the past two decades, has given me a lot of insight into the digital advertising ecosystem and, one of the issues I have seen has been the decline of creativity as Flash passed away and programmatic turned everyone into retargeters. NEXD has a tool kit just as powerful as Flash and has built something that allows for genuinely exciting creative ideas to shine, even in the typically siloed world of programmatic advertising.
What are the core tenets of your business development model? How does NEXD add value to social media transformation journeys for businesses?
Giving our audience, the people seeing and interacting with NEXD-powered ads, the very best possible experience sits right at the heart of our business thinking. We want their experience to be unintrusive, fast and fun.
In terms of our business development, we work with all the players in our ecosystem — publishers, ad networks, agencies etc — all of them want better-performing, faster-loading ads. We allow them to make that happen with simple-to-use tools, that require no coding and no headache-inducing integration issues.
At NEXD, how do you measure the performance of your Marketing Analytics and Sales Reporting?
It’s easy to get bogged down in overly granular performance metrics, particularly in the case of marketing, so we focus on conversion rates for each of the main steps in our sales and marketing funnel. We also look at the cost per acquisition, per channel, to understand where is delivering the right kind of value.
That’s not to say we don’t look at things on a granular level: email open and click-through rates, social media engagement, that kind of thing. These are all great for steering and informing particular efforts within those channels, but I don’t believe they should be taken as key business metrics.
What are your predictions on the most impactful disruptions in Advertising Technology and the overarching analytic industry?
As an industry, I would love to see us wean ourselves off the “click” as the holy grail of performance metrics. Granted, it can still be an important metric for understanding how ads are performing, but it needs to be looked at in the context of how the audience is reacting to it. That’s where engagement really comes in.
And similarly, getting true “last mile” measurement, from mobile ad through to in-store purchase (where 8/10 purchases still occur) will result in an even greater shift in measurable ad spending from desktop to mobile.
Tell us more about the work you do with AdTech vendors, including AppNexus, Sizmek, Adform, and others.
NEXD provides rich, engaging creative tools, for the entire AdTech ecosystem. These platforms can integrate directly or by allowing our partners to run NEXD-powered creatives on these platforms by themselves.
How do you plan to expand your horizon into AdTech in 2019-2020?
We started expanding our geographical horizons through most of 2018, setting up offices and partnerships, particularly in Asia, so now we have a presence in Singapore and Tokyo. They are not so developed in terms of rich media and we have already had some good results from these markets, so things are certainly looking promising for NEXD through 2019-2020.
We’re also scaling up our outreach efforts, with the aim of reaching more SME-type businesses, particularly publishers and other digital media owners with NEXD Campaign Manager, our self-service rich media ad platform.
Then, in the next couple of months, NEXD will be rolling out ‘Ad Designer’, a ground-breaking new ad builder that will dramatically expand not just NEXD’s horizons, but also the creative possibilities available to our partners.
What startups in the technology industry are you watching keenly right now?
While they’re a tech titan, rather than a lean, up-and-coming startup, Amazon’s one to watch in the digital ad space right now. Their online ad business is still pretty much in its infancy, but it’s showing a lot of very promising signs.
Over the past few years, Amazon has been quietly expanding its ad business and now they’re in a position where, if they can successfully move from e-commerce advertisers to brand advertisers and successfully interface with agencies, as Facebook and Google have done, then we are likely to see some serious disruption in the AdTech ecosystem.
What Marketing and Sales Automation tools and technologies do you currently use?
As we’ve been scaling up our outbound efforts, NEXD’s marketing team has been experimenting with various automation tools. Right now, Intercom is handling the majority of both our in and outbound marketing and it offers a lot of automation options. We’ll be going even deeper into this in the coming weeks and months as we start to integrate Intercom more deeply with our backend systems. This means that we’ll have richer, behavior-based triggers to automate communication with leads and customers alike.
Could you tell us about an outstanding digital campaign?
Well, our success is really our customers’ success. Through 2018, leading Danish telco Telmore ran some NEXD-powered ads vs GIF and even HTML5-based DCO creatives and saw a performance uplift of up to 250%.
Our metric for success in this regard is the positive feedback we get from clients and in Telmore’s case, their only regret was “that they didn’t start sooner”.
How do you prepare for an AI-centric world as a business leader?
Embrace it and stop using the term “AI” to describe a simple series of “IF” statements.
How do you inspire your people to work with technology?
I would say the most inspiring part of working with technology at NEXD is the end result — ensuring the whole team knows about happy clients, amazing campaign results, brands getting great ROI from a campaign.
If a team knows why our technology is groundbreaking “in the wild” everything fits into place.
One word that best describes how you work.
What apps/software/tools can’t you live without?
Utility-type apps to help make a busy, global life more efficient; weather, trains, maps, translation and news.
What’s your smartest work-related shortcut or productivity hack?
Delegating to smart people to make their own decisions.
What are you currently reading?
“Warlight” by Michael Ondaatje. I don’t read enough but try to keep on top of acclaimed modern fiction and get away from AdTech and Twitter occasionally!
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Get a finance qualification early in your career. It’ll hold you in good stead your whole business life.
Something you do better than others — the secret of your success?
Take calculated risks.
Tag the one person (or more) in the industry whose answers to these questions you would love to read:
Boris Musikanski, CEO of IPonWeb.
Thank you, Alex! That was fun and hope to see you back on MarTech Series soon.
CEO at NEXD, Alex is a digital executive and entrepreneur with a track record of scaling businesses and delivering shareholder value.
Founded in 2015 in Tallinn, Estonia, and now based in London, NEXD is an advertising technology company with creativity at its heart. Originally spun out of the largest creative agency in the Baltics, NEXD has gone on to focus its efforts on building creative solutions for the future of rich media advertising.
Not content with just building award-winning custom ads for clients, NEXD now offers a self-service, drag-and-drop ad builder that allows their customers to quickly build fast, lightweight, HTML tag-based ads that offer ultra-granular analytics and engaging, playful interactivity.
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.