MarTech Interview with Zack Dugow, Founder and CEO, Insticator


“Utilizing the cookie data received from each user and personalizing the customer experience creates a stronger hook for publishers to more effectively grab their readers’ attention.”

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Tell us about your role and journey into technology. What inspired you to start a MarTech company?

In my eyes, I see the internet as broken.  Consumers have a bad reading experience on publisher’s websites, with too many ad units on a page, which, in turn, slows down how fast it loads. On the flip side, publishers aren’t generating enough revenue to stay in business, hence, the massive consolidation in the space, and advertisers feel like a large part of their budget is being wasted on ads that aren’t seen by users. When starting Insticator, I felt there had to be a better way to generate revenue for both parties. The internet works for free because of the ability for publishers to monetize their audience through advertising or research.

From the time you started Insticator, how much has Content Marketing Technology for brands and advertisers evolved?

It has evolved a lot. When we first got started, advertisers and publishers struggled to effectively target audiences by more than one layer of audience segmentation.  Now, certain platforms are providing the ability to target users based off of multiple layers of segmentation, which provides deeper insights and stronger retargeting abilities. This also benefits brands, who can now use online and offline attribution to confirm where their marketing efforts are actually driving sales!

As a MarTech CEO, how would you identify the biggest advantages and challenges in digital content publishing?

Driving reader loyalty is a constant battle for most publishers, as there is no longer loyalty among consumers. They can now turn to Google for the news and reach content from whichever article pops up the fastest. For publishers, utilizing different platforms such as Insticator can help drive audience loyalty, while providing incentives like gift cards and trivia to readers. It creates a reason for readers to come back day after day, beyond the traditional content available.

Why is retention a big challenge for publishers? How does personalization and relevant context impact retention strategies?

The pieces of content offered to one type of audience should be different from another audience segment, based on their interests and engagement levels. If you know that someone is a Netflix subscriber and is interested in OTT providers, the digital content you should be surfacing to their attention would differ from the content served to a sports fan. Utilizing the cookie data received from each user and personalizing the customer experience creates a stronger hook for publishers to more effectively grab their readers attention and increase time spent on site and page views per session.

What is the best route map to optimize content monetization? Which technologies maximize opportunities in this area?

The key is to understand your audience and their intent for visiting your site. For example, if you own a B2B publication, it might make sense to create a job board and host your own events, which will go a long way in strengthening customer relationships and generating revenue.  However, for most publishers, targeted advertising is key, and platforms like Insticator, Google, Amazon’s A9, Stanza (calendaring and ticketing) or Disqus (commenting) can help with monetizing your audience.

Tell us more about your technology integration and how it can be automated with other stacks in MarTech? 

It’s all about making your integration seamless and easy to use. Your clients should be able to use the solution right out of the box, without having to perform lots of custom coding for new integrations. Insticator works really well with other embedded technology companies and has partnered with a lot of the top ones. Through these partnerships, these companies can easily take our code and inject it into their page for a seamless experience on both the back-end and user sides.

Tell us about your go-to strategies to support rapid growth, lessons learned through periods of massive shift and transition.

I believe that a small team of strong, A+ players can run circles around a big team of mid-level C players. But to achieve this, you might hire somewhat slowly and carefully. If you focus and build your organization with the right leaders in your leadership team, the rest of the team will come together. It’ll be easier for each team leader to build out each of their departments with their own network and processes.

When things are moving at 100MPH, it’s really important to take the time to keep the entire team on the same page, as it’s easy for communications on product changes or business strategy changes to get out of sync.  Make sure you are holding weekly or bi-weekly team meetings to discuss company updates, especially if there are big shifts happening at a fast pace. We learned this the hard way, as in the beginning, we were not keeping everyone on the same page while making big product improvements, which caused confusion on when they would be available. Keeping everyone accountable and aware led us creating our core value of 100% viewability. Everyone needs to be on the same page.

How do you mentor your Product Marketing and B2B Commerce teams at Insticator?

Each week, we look at the current marketplace and identify specifically what makes us unique and special to our customers. We consider how our offering stands out from competitors, and what we can be doing to improve upon it. Additionally, we focus our energy on having a clear concise message to the marketplace as to why Insticator can drive value for them. In our case, we provide an increase in revenue and useful insights and engagement.

What does your technology community look like? Who do you meet at events and conferences to discuss technology?

As part of my journey to creating Insticator, and to continue to grow the platform, I have developed a strong network. I’m a part of Young Presidents’ Organization (YPO), which not only provides the opportunity to connect with other technology company leaders, but also to pick each other’s brains about common challenges and misconceptions. Through the organization, we network with different tech leaders to sync on the latest and greatest trends.

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

HubSpot, MailChimp, Zendesk, Email Hunter and Linkedin Sales Navigator

What are your predictions on the most impactful disruptions in Marketing and Sales technology for 2019-2020?

Technology will continue to reign supreme, as it continues to allow companies to understand consumer preferences and interests. We now have a holistic view of the consumer, such as whether or not they watch live sports events or have tried a VR product. Additionally, I think research is going to have a much bigger role in disrupting MarTech and Sales Tech in 2019-2020. We will now have stronger data, which can make converting customers will be easier and more effective.

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

Skopenow, as it has a very cool tech on scanning social media for info.

Confiant, who are doing well with ad blocking technology.

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

Focus on collecting and organizing the information you have on your customers and prospects by creating a database for the details. Once established, this will make it easier to identify the existing gaps, and ways an AI solution can provide functional value for your business.

How do you inspire your people to work with technology?

I show examples of how it has made my working life much more efficient.

One word that best describes how you work.


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

Google Calendar, YouTube Music, Seamless Web, Jira, Google Drive

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

Using the reminder feature on emails to unclog your inbox

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

Never give up and don’t punish yourself for mistakes just learn from them.

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

Always find a way to make it happen.  Most people are constrained by other people’s thinking and they don’t believe in themselves enough to make things happen. While those things are perfectly attainable if you believe in yourself and you put things into action.

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

Emry Downinhall

Zack Dugow is Founder and CEO of Insticator. Under Zack’s leadership, Insticator has grown to be the 675th fastest growing company in the country by the Inc 5000 in 2017. Zack is listed as the youngest CEO to win the Red Herring Top 100 Companies in North America award and the Top 100 Companies in the World Award.

InsticatorInsticator is a global leader in increasing engagement, research revenue and ad revenue for publishers through interactive content while enhancing viewability and purchase intent for brands. Over 350 million online consumers are reached monthly across Insticator’s vast network of elite publishing partners that include, Intermarkets, Evolve Media, Inquirer, and more.

Insticator empowers thousands of content creators monthly with its revenue and engagement increasing products, while providing monetizing content opportunities for publishers and brands.

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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.

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