MarTech Interview with Dan Levin, President, COO and co-founder at ViralGains

Dan Levin, President, COO and co-founder at ViralGains chats about a few top trends in adtech and the overall digital ad marketplace:

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Welcome to this MarTech Series chat Dan, tell us about ViralGains and what inspired the platform?

Thank you for the opportunity to participate. In the simplest “one-liner”, ViralGains is the zero-party data gathering & interactive advertising platform for finding, understanding, and acquiring new customers, powering 100+ of the Fortune 500.

The inspiration came from the revolution that was social media in the late 2000s. The fundamental idea that brands were actually having a 1-to-1 conversation with consumers online was mind blowing for me, especially considering that for all of our history up until then media was predicated on one-way dialogue. I just thought to myself, there’s no reason advertising couldn’t also be interactive, and thus, ViralGains was born!

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ViralGains recently released the Dynamic Interactions tool, we’d love to hear more about the top features and how it enables advertisers?

Absolutely. One of the cornerstone functionalities in advertising is the ability for marketers to sequence & stitch any number of individual creatives (e.g. videos or display ads) together, whereby the brands’ target consumers are led down a “journey” that is personalized and based on their interaction with the ads they see.

We believe ViralGains’ Dynamic Interactions is a transformative enhancement to this traditional concept of journeys, where now, instead of a marketer creating personalized journeys across different creatives, they can create a personalized journey within a single creative. In other words, customers of our platform can now create custom paths for consumers in the context of a single ad interaction.

This not only makes the viewing experience unique/personalized to each viewer, but also allows advertisers to more quickly & effectively gather insights about their target audience. In the privacy and identity focused present (especially as it pertains to the upcoming sunsetting of cookies), we are able to gather not only much more voice of customer data than was possible before, but do so in a way that isn’t reliant on cookies, since marketers no longer need to wait until the next time they see that consumer to further move them down the buying journey.

When it comes to ad needs and adtech today, what are some of the trends defining today’s B2B marketing/advertising ecosystem?

This is a great question. From where I sit, I really see two key macro trends that I don’t quite think B2B marketers have internally solved for. First, brands’ ability to use third-party data to find new (incremental) high-performing audiences is rapidly diminishing. Second, ongoing changes in privacy regimes will mean B2B marketers absolutely must find a way to ensure they have direct digital relationships with their customers – i.e. they need to own their own data. And there are still too many data silos with questionable (or rather, unclear) data ownership provisions up and down the data supply chain ecosystem that desperately needs to be clarified.

We’d love to hear more about the most innovative adtech driven experiences you’ve come across in today’s market (in the recent months) and what advertisers can takeaway from these observations?

So this one is a little bit dated (from a few months ago or so), but I think it’s a fantastic example that highlights how adtech is evolving to meet the expectations of consumers in today’s environment.

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IBM Watson & State Farm collaborated on an “advertising conversations” ad unit that allowed State Farm to have a sort of “1-to-1 personalized chat” with consumers — all in the context of a standard ad unit. The awesome thing is that it was all powered by AI and used natural language processing to predict users’ needs. As you can imagine, no two conversations were alike, and all of it was done at scale. The objective of the conversation was to both educate and inform whoever was engaged in chatting on how to stay safe in the event of inclement weather, and people could obviously ask it any question they wanted. I mean, literally just chatting with it like you would a friend.

Of course, it also allowed them to find a local State Farm agent or download the app, which was a logical next step. So not only were people able to get suggestions they could act on, but more importantly for State Farm, it gave them an opportunity to gain immensely valuable consumer insights that they wouldn’t have been able to gather any other way — at least not at that level of scale.

The key takeaway for advertisers is that the idea of sending users to a landing page using an ad slot in order to facilitate the magic that is brand equity building, is antiquated thinking. People don’t want to go to landing pages. Instead, advertisers should adopt the mantra of the “Ad is an App”, and understand that there are now few limitations to the sort of creative interactivity (i.e. personalized brand experiences) they can have with their audience in the context of creative ad platforms, which already exist, such as our own.

How in your view will the global adtech market evolve in the next few years?

There are quite a few transformational opportunities now driving digital advertising. First, we still haven’t fully absorbed the flood of new places to advertise which are digitally addressable and have hit the market (e.g. Connected TV, streaming, etc.). Next, I predict interactive advertising (like the one I described above) will become more widely adopted, turning advertising into something more akin to digital marketing — a two-way source of information that is instantaneously responsive. And last but not least, I expect AI and machine learning to continue transforming the way advertisers make sense of the data they already have about consumers, as well as the data they’re gathering through advertising.

Some last thoughts, takeaways, before we wrap up!

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I really just want to emphasize just how important it is in this day and age for marketers to engage prospective customers as people first and foremost. With everything going on in the world right now, whether reeling from the impacts of Covid, or (now) geo-political crises, so many people are at their limits for how much uncertainty andstress they can handle. What people need now more than ever is empathy and understanding. And what that means in the context of adtech and advertising is that it is more important than ever before to listen as much as talk. I encourage your readers to lean into vendors and partners in this ecosystem that facilitate two-way conversation as it is going to be the only way forward. People won’t simply engage if their needs aren’t taken into consideration at all phases of the buying journey when it comes to the brand relationship; and that means having a conversation as much as possible, and gathering their feedback, preferences, intentions, and feelings, whenever possible. There’s absolutely no reason advertising should be ignored in that regard anymore with the technologies out there that enable that.

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ViralGains is a zero-party data gathering and interactive advertising platform for finding, understanding, and acquiring new customers, powering 100+ of the Fortune 500.

Dan Levin is the President, COO, and co-founder of ViralGains. He was inspired to start ViralGains after recognizing the storytelling power of video as a medium in building authentic, meaningful connections between brands and the people they seek to serve. Prior to ViralGains, Dan was VP of Operations & Strategy at Viral Media Solutions, a full-service marketing agency whose primary focus was servicing & consulting SMB’s and Fortune 500 brands on social media & digital strategy.

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