MarTech Interview with Dave Fall, CEO at Brand Networks

MarTech Interview with Dave Fall, CEO, Brand Networks
MarTech Interview with Dave Fall, CEO, Brand Networks

“Digital advertising has been one of the most disruptive and exciting spaces in technology over the last few decades.”

Tell us about your role and journey into Technology. What inspired you to start at Brand Networks? 

Digital Advertising has been one of the most disruptive and exciting spaces in technology over the last few decades. It’s changed the way business gets done in every category. I have been in the space for 20 years and first started my Digital Advertising career with NetGravity in 1999.

I felt that Brand Networks was well-positioned to be the first true cross-channel Advertising platform and integrations provider. The Board of Directors were eager and willing to support the addition of other channels beyond the foundation of Social Media Advertising so it was a great opportunity for me to continue building the future of Digital Advertising.

What is Brand Networks and how does it fit into the modern Digital Marketing Technology stack? 

Brand Networks is a cross-channel, technology-enabled services company focused on Digital Advertising across Social, Display, Video, and now Search. The company helps brands leverage data from a variety of sources, put them to work across channels, and drive ROI for marketers. One of our favorite things to do is to find creative ways to integrate different systems to make media work harder for our clients. The data piece is the most important part of that technology stack and I’m happy that we’ve built our systems and capabilities around that component.

How did you prepare the Company for the ongoing digital disruptions brought by the growth of AI, Machine Learning and Automation?

In Social and Digital Advertising, we have been a primary player in the arrival of that disruption. It’s something I’m personally proud of as a leader. As a member of the Social Advertising technology ecosystem, Brand Networks was the very first to put AI and Machine Learning to work for clients as part of the API ecosystem. Our technology has AI that is constantly improving Advertising campaigns and driving better ROI.

Digital Advertising needs to leverage these types of tools so marketers can enhance and unify the many brand touchpoints they have with their consumers. Without those tools, the workload and effectiveness of advertising would plateau. We saw that this was the next wave, and we are glad we embraced it when we did.

What led you to the acquisition of Clickable?

We have several ex-Clickable employees at Brand Networks, and, as we looked at our technology capabilities as well as Clickable’s, we felt that the technology and the team would enhance our overall cross-channel offering by adding paid search functionality and expertise.

Bringing the whole Digital Advertising customer experience together for our clients is a big part of our vision. We believe that is and will be best done with the right combination of software and services. So adding a new kind of software and expertise was natural for us.

How do you train your employees to deal with challenges in customer experience, customer servicing, and brand management?

We have many people inside the company that talk to and interact with customers on a daily basis. They do a great job. In AdTech, needs of the customer change fast while the human element of customer service doesn’t. Addressing that paradox requires a process.

First, we start by hiring good people who have strong interpersonal skills, attention to detail, and work ethic. When we welcome our new team members, we put them through an onboarding program and training—there’s a team inside Brand Networks dedicated to knowledge management, and they play a key role.

We also invest in mentorship and one-to-one coaching so that employees have an outlet to bounce ideas off of one another and further enhance their skills.

What areas did you analyze for technology capabilities related to the Shopper-Data Driven World?

We’ve been lucky to have opportunities to explore this realm in partnership with our clients — not just philosophically but in practical application. Retail is our largest customer segment and we have a deep level of experience working with retailers to address their business challenges through Marketing efforts. We have a long history of leveraging first-party data and helping brands and retailers use those first-party data to communicate effectively with their audiences. We’ve built technology that connects into inventory systems, CRM systems, CDPs, DMPs, enterprise e-commerce systems, and third-party data systems.

It’s really been a lot of custom software and last-mile integration that’s helped advertisers achieve their Digital Marketing visions with Brand Networks. The years of experience bringing data out of disparate systems and making it leverageable is where we get the confidence to further embrace that shopper-centric, data-driven world. We’re very bullish on the opportunity here.

Tell us more about your data-driven solutions? How can CMOs optimize their digital budget using your products, services, and solutions?

Data is at the very center of what we leverage for effective Marketing. When we first start an engagement, we do an analysis of what data are available, how accurate they are, how they are stored, and how they can be leveraged across various Marketing channels. We produce media mix models based on what we observe and recommend, and then our optimization technology further enhances those models over time.

We take input from our partner CMOs but we expect to be bringing answers and recommendations back to the Marketing leaders we work with so they own the answer. These leaders are charged with owning the ways their brands communicate with their customers, so we like to play a role in helping them achieve their specific visions. We think this is a place where other partners and vendors often fall short.

How can businesses maximize their ROI from investing in your technology platform?

We don’t approach ROI maximization as a cookie-cutter type of exercise. We work with our customers on a strategic level to help map their business goals into an execution plan. That plan is highly dominated by our technology platform and capabilities. From there, the thing we really take pride in is iterating and improving the solution.

The best way to engage with us is to make the conversation a two-way, thoughtful dialogue aimed at how we are going to achieve the business objectives.

Tell us more about your recent interaction with Azalea Commerce. How would it benefit the Marketing and Sales teams?

Azalea Commerce is a new holding company that Brand Networks is proud to be part of. It emerged from a really interesting trend we are seeing in the market. Retailers are looking at their data and seeing potential value in building their own “walled gardens.” Many smart enterprises are preparing — or actively working — to build owned-and-operated Advertising marketplaces, and this is the genesis of Azalea Commerce as a concept.

Our people are believers in this movement, and we’ve gone so far as to create a new holding company formed by the existing Brand Networks investors to advance a new charter in the market. Azalea Commerce builds media solutions that help brands monetize their data and generate enhanced revenue streams through closed media ecosystems.

Historically, our organization was among the very first official Advertising API partners in channels like Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram. We also have a lot of DNA in our ranks born from the high-growth era of programmatic advertising.

We have a lot of experience assembling media ecosystems through technology and data integration, and we can support the next era of “walled garden” establishment. The creation of Azalea Commerce is about embracing our expertise in software, data, and services to do big things. We’ve seen a lot of inbound interest in this area. It’s exciting to see the ecosystem form. It’s exciting to be a part of the next wave.

Tell us how you integrate Customer Experience (CX) Cloud, Employee Experience (EX) Cloud, and Market Experience (MX) Cloud in a single platform.

The integration point between several of these types of systems is the consumer identifier. That identifier needs to be something that is fairly static, opt-in, and transparent to the consumer. When those points exist in disparate systems, Azalea Commerce and Brand Networks have the capability to leverage that data for effective Digital Advertising.

Which other Technology platforms like Website Analytics, Video, Contacts, Contracts, Email and Customer Service sync with your platform?

We have built integrations with analytics platforms, CRM, video, and customer service systems, and we have designs for deeper integrations with email systems. We have also built connections to proprietary, internal systems for some of the largest Marketing organizations in the world. Some have APIs or other structures for us to pull inventory or wait-time data which can be used to alter messaging via social and other channels. This all rolls up to maximize the customers’ interaction with a brand. That has to be a positive experience today. It’s not even a question. All of the platforms we integrate with are aimed at improving Advertising effectiveness and efficiency.

Which Marketing and Sales Automation tools and technologies do you currently use?

We currently use HubSpot, NetSuite, and Salesforce — in addition to using our own in-market products as well as custom tools we’ve built to optimize our business. When you spend your days building Marketing Technology, you use it yourself, and you solve your own problems with fresh tech, too.

What are your predictions on the most impactful disruptions in AI and Machine Learning technology for 2019-2020?

Our viewpoint is oriented around how those technologies have and will continue to change within the Advertising Technology space. We believe there will be improvements in dynamic Advertising as well as dynamic and automated audience generation. This will result in ads that are more tailored to the timing of consumer interactions with a brand.

We do think there is an opportunity for brick-and-mortar locations to connect the digital world to the in-store world. This is a big opportunity despite challenges tech teams have faced in the past. Facial recognition, opt-in geolocation, and other core technologies will help surface store offers that are close to 1:1.

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

We have been working with many different startups and leverage a few of them very consistently. One of the startups that we partner with is Narrative.io. They provide software that simplifies data pricing and integration. Another startup we work with is AlgoLift. They help determine the lifetime value of a consumer so a marketer can optimize their strategy to reach that consumer and engage with them over time.

There are so many interesting companies out there solving unique problems that are popping up as the advertising ecosystem continues to mature. We are passionate about being involved with those innovators.

How do you prepare for an AI-centric world as a Business Leader?

Personally, I believe you need to embrace it and seek to understand it as best you can. AI and Machine Learning are here to stay and will only improve over time. The more we look at these technologies as something that can improve Marketing and improve the experience a consumer has with a brand, the more we can see its potential.

As a business, we see an immediate opportunity to enable efficiency and effectiveness among workers by using AI to reduce repetitive tasks. There’s a lot of ‘busy work’ in Advertising, and we think the vast majority of the people doing hands-on work should be empowered to spend their time more strategically. Tactically, we have made an investment in data scientists and engineers who are building out our capabilities in these areas. We expect to commercialize new products in the coming months that create better efficiency for our teams and our clients.

How do you inspire your people to work with technology?

Honestly, our people often drive the conversation about new technologies we should be working with. It doesn’t take much inspiration on my part.

We hire people who have a technical background and formal training in this area as well as look to bring people into the company with experience thriving within technology-oriented companies. We don’t have to do much selling of technology usage and importance within Brand Networks as that is the world most of us come from.

One word that best describes how you work.

Transparency

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

We depend on the Google suite for much of how we manage the company and I can’t imagine going back to a day when the suite of products we leverage wasn’t connected in the way they are today.

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

I use Evernote daily, and the seamless experience of how my notes are captured and leveraged on my various devices helps me out tremendously.

What are you currently reading?

I’m currently reading The Algebra of Happiness by Scott Galloway. I loved his first book, The Four, and heard him speak recently at a conference. Following that, I jumped on his new book and think its a great read for people in business or not.

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

The best advice I received was: Build teams by looking for people who are better than you. If you can work with people better than you, you’ll rise to their level of performance. The opposite is also true so you need to ensure you are bringing the right people into your organization at all times.

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

I focus on the individual and seek to make deep personal connections with my co-workers. That connection makes the easy conversations more enjoyable and the hard conversations easier — because your co-workers know that there is a separation between the individual and the work.

Tag the one person the industry whose answers to these questions you would love to read:

Nick Jordan, CEO, and Founder of Narrative.io

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

Dave Fall is the CEO of Brand Networks and a member of the Board of Directors. He is responsible for the company’s culture, corporate strategy, and overall growth. A seasoned AdTech and martech veteran with over two decades of experience, he has worked for some of the industry’s heaviest hitters.

Most recently, Dave was the COO at Tapad (acquired by Telenor Group, 2016). Dave began his career in consulting before spending over 10 years at DoubleClick and Google in product, technical services, and corporate development roles. After leaving Google in 2009, Dave led operations at Clickable (acquired by Syncapse, 2012), and held both COO and CPO roles at Syncapse (acquired by LookSmart, 2013).

Dave has helped advance the industry over the last 10 years by serving as a board member at both the Search Engine Marketing Professional Organization (SEMPO) between 2006 and 2012, and the National Advertising Initiative (NAI) between 2015 and 2017.

In 2017, Dave started a nonprofit working to curb cyberbullying. A graduate of Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Dave received his MBA from Rutgers University. He lives with his wife and three kids in New Jersey.

Brandnetworks logo

Brand Networks solves the newest and toughest media challenges for the world’s most impactful brands and agencies. Since 2005, the company has created marketing and advertising solutions that blend engineering and expertise to make media work across every digital touchpoint. More than 1,500 businesses trust Brand Networks to develop winning media strategies and deliver holistic brand experiences across social, display, video, connected TV and Amazon. The company is headquartered in Boston with 10 offices worldwide.

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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