MarTech Interview with Cristina Constandache, Chief Revenue Officer at Rakuten Viber

MarTech Interview with Cristina Constandache, Chief Revenue Officer at Rakuten Viber

“The companies that will do best in the data economy will be the ones that balance data with privacy and avoid the “creepy” factor.”

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Journey into Tech

Hi Cristina, tell us about your role and journey into Technology. What inspired you to take up the role at Rakuten Viber?

I was very intrigued by the role at Rakuten Viber. Working for an app with over 1 billion global users in a newly created role as CRO offered a lot of opportunities along with a lot of challenges. It required me to use all the skills I had been building over the years in order to create new revenue streams, put systems into place and mentor teams to build out revenue in ways they hadn’t been doing previously. And for anyone who knows me, I am always up for a good challenge.

You have a long history of leading Ad Sales teams across various global locations. When you look back into the past, which Digital Advertising platforms and tools do you really cherished working with?

To be honest, the flexibility that the Viber platform offers brands and agencies to reach consumers is the one that I cherish the most. We are here to connect everyone: people, customers and brands and it works extremely well. At past jobs, I was very excited about programmatic advertising but the promise of programmatic was always greater than the actual delivery. While I think programmatic is still very valuable, I believe we’ve come up with better solutions for everyone especially now when people have low patience and attention spans and want instantaneous responses and results.

Which tools and technologies do you leverage at Rakuten Viber for your RevOps and Communication with partners and tech collaboration agencies?

I think we use a lot of technology for the sake of technology. At the end of the day, we look at revenue growth, revenue opportunities and how we are best meeting those needs.

Role and Interactions with C-suite

What drives the current competition in the ‘Data Economy’? What lessons did you learn from your journey in Ad Sales industry?

The race to have the most data was driving competition in the “Data Economy.” It’s great that we have so much information about our users, but at the same time with privacy and security coming to the forefront, thanks to all the data breaches and security flaws at Facebook and other big tech and finance companies in the past few years, people are starting to be much more concerned about the data they unknowingly gave companies about themselves. It has also brought the attention of governments and regulators. In 2020, I think we’ll see these 2 things collide.

The companies that will do best in the data economy will be the ones that balance data with privacy and avoid that “creepy” factor. What I learned most from my lessons in the ad industry is that consumers like targeted ads, but don’t like to feel like they are being “watched” or “followed” online. Companies that can walk the line between personalization and privacy will win in the year ahead.

Tell us how you work with other C-suite executives in the team. What does your usual C-suite meeting usually sound like?

I have a great relationship with the other C-suite executives at Rakuten Viber and we work well together. Our meetings tend to be short and frequent but also productive and focus on short-term issues first and then long-term issues last. During our meetings, we have a no-tech rule (no cell phones or computers for attendees) which helps keep people focused on the tasks at hand.

You belong to an elite group of women CROs in the tech industry. How challenging is your work routine and what keeps you on top of your game?

My work routine is challenging but that’s the way I have always worked during my entire career. I like a good challenge and prefer to be engaged rather than in an idle role at a company. What keeps me on top of my game is being a lifelong learner, being able to see opportunity when others see problems, and cultivating relationships with others in the industry and in my day to day life.

Technology Insights

How do you see the recent data privacy standards and regulations impacting your revenue-generating mechanisms?

At Viber, data privacy for our users is a top priority and our technology is built on end-to-end encryption. This means our users’ content (i.e. messages, photos, videos, voice, video calls, etc.) is “hashed” from the moment it’s sent from one device until it reaches the intended recipient. We believe that our users—and consumers in general—have a right to secure and private conversations. End-to-end encryption by default is the only way to ensure that users’ private content remains private.

Because Viber was already so focused on privacy, even before recent data privacy standards, we are not significantly impacted by these regulations. From an advertising standpoint, we work with brands to message and advertise directly to consumers using native and non-intrusive ad placements and our messaging platform. We don’t sell user data to brands, and we don’t give brands or third-parties access to our users’ personal information.

What is the benefit of having opt-in and intrusion-lite advertising? How do you achieve this at Rakuten Viber, and for your global operations?

Consumers have become frustrated with the hyper-targeting advertising models rooted in data collection and the creep factor that comes along with those ads. However, nearly a third of consumers also don’t feel that giving up their data actually resulted in better products and services. Intrusion-lite advertising is a way to create better content without sacrificing user privacy.

Viber’s approach to advertising interprets a users’ activity only within public forums (e.g., public groups they belong to, sticker packs they’ve downloaded, etc.) rather than data from private communication. This helps us to create an intrusion-lite strategy all about creating relevant and engaging conversations for brands and users, rather than broad microtargeting and retargeting. A few benefits of this strategy include better user privacy, more relevant content and the opportunity for meaningful one-to-one interactions between users and brands, which benefit both parties.

While we don’t specifically provide opt-in advertising, we do offer the ability for our users to opt-out of receiving targeting ads at any time by going to their privacy settings. Additionally, users can essentially “opt-in” to brand communication by actively choosing to interact with them through the platform by following a public account. This form of opt-in communication provides more engaging interactions for the brand and more relevant content for the user.

How do you see Customer Experience impacted when you have to adhere to various data privacy standards in diverse economic regions (GDPR versus California Act, etc)?

As we’ve discussed, Viber has always been heavily focused on data privacy, and because of the work we’ve done from the beginning to protect our users, our customer experiences will not be impacted by new data privacy standards. Those standards have always existed within our platforms, even without the requirements.

Insights and Predictions 

One epic moment from the decade (2011-2019) that changed your outlook into tech landscape?

Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica scandal was certainly a memorable moment in the tech landscape from the past decade. It was the moment we knew that the privacy landscape in tech would never be the same and regulation would soon follow. Although that regulation did not significantly impact my work at Viber, it caused an overall shift in the industry that we’re still feeling the impacts of today and will continue to discuss for years to come.

What are your predictions for your industry and technology markets for 2020-2024?

On the advertising side of the business, I believe we’ll begin to see a decrease in hyper-targeted and intrusive advertising. Consumers are beginning to become fed up with this model, and further global regulations will likely make it more difficult for platforms to continue using lax data privacy standards in advertising. Additionally, there will be increased direct communication between consumers and brands, forging real relationships that improve customer loyalty. Brands and platforms will begin to understand that moving to a less intrusive strategy actually provides more value to the company overall.

On the tech side, privacy will continue to be a relevant and contentious discussion throughout the industry, but I hope to see increased security efforts from other platforms in the space. I also believe that there is so much promising technology, for example Augmented Reality, that is just now at a tipping point, and we will see more integration of new and exciting technologies in the photo and video messaging space in the years to come.

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

I’m fascinated by universal translation and how it will impact chat and calls. Customers can reach out to brands or support in their native language and easily get answers in their native language all the while understanding what each has said.

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

Cristina Constandache is the Chief Revenue Officer at Rakuten Viber.

As Chief Revenue Officer at Viber, Cristina Constandache directs, defines and leads all global revenue-generating activities to ensure its success for global partnerships and advertising on Viber for our 1B+ users. Always at the intersection of apps, advertising and technology, Cristina draws on more than 10
years of experience in global media sales with a proven track record in advertising, business development and client services on the international stage.

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Rakuten Viber is part of Rakuten Inc., a world leader in e-commerce and financial services. It is the official communication channel of FC Barcelona, and the official instant messaging and calling app partner of the Golden State Warriors.

Join Viber today and enjoy the world’s best communication experience.

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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.