TechBytes with Orr Orenstein, COO, Aki Technologies

Orr Orenstein, COO at Aki Technologies

Orr Orenstein
COO, Aki Technologies

“Mobile moments” are the currency for mobile marketing campaigns. Relatable moments on mobile help brands map customer experiences and how they relate to today’s marketing operations at an omnichannel level. Orr Orenstein, COO, Aki Technologies explains how “mobile moments” have become an integral part of the marketing landscape.

 Tell us about your role at Aki and how you got here?

I currently serve as COO at Aki Technologies, having overall responsibility for Operations, Client Services, Product, Engineering, and Data Sciences as the company expands and scales its moment marketing science offering. Having previously worked with CEO Scott Swanson and President Alvaro Bravo in the past (we worked together at Mobile Theory and through its acquisition, at Opera Mediaworks), I was drawn to Aki because they are laser-focused on solving the core pain points in mobile marketing—how hard it is to get consumer attention and driving measurable results.  Scott, Alvaro and I have a great rapport and share high levels of enthusiasm around innovation. It’s really great to have the “band back together”.

In recent years, “mobile moments” have become an integral part of the marketing landscape. What’s driving this?

There are many factors making it even more challenging for marketers to effectively reach and engage their consumers. Consumers are connected all the time, overwhelmed by massive amounts of marketing and information in general. This makes it harder for brands to find the right moment to make an impression—if the timing’s off and ads are delivered when the consumer isn’t in the right frame of mind, brands risk being a nuisance. And, even when the timing is right, the brand’s message really needs to have the right approach to make the right impression.

Mobile moments are all about helping brands map out the types of experiences that consumers have with their devices throughout a given day. From that insight, identifying the best times to ask for attention increases the likelihood of a positive impression. We’re always asking, is this moment a good opportunity for a brand and, if so, what type of messaging will be most effective?

How does this approach differ from the kind of targeting brands have done before?

Many companies have been innovating on targeting over the past couple of decades, but progress leveled out around the time smartphones came into play. That’s not to say there haven’t been advances in targeting criteria—obviously, location and proximity targeting warranted excitement. But the industry had reached a stage where marketers were simply adding more criteria to define audiences without digging deeper to find out how the new devices were impacting behavior and receptivity. Mobile moments takes a more nuanced approach to targeting by factoring in the mindset of a consumer at a given moment. There’s a lot of empathy here for consumers because we’re not just asking when, where and how to deliver ads, but also taking the time to understand where and when not to.

Can you speak to how moment marketing has evolved as a practice in recent years?

Well, for one, it’s no longer a new shiny object—we’re constantly seeing RFPs that specifically want to target moments. Nowadays brands are regularly building these moments into marketing strategies. Why? Because it’s been proven to be the best way to reflect the modern landscape, and how people interact with their devices throughout their day—a moment here, a moment there, each moment serving different purposes.

Many brands are beyond the stage where they’re saying, “Hey, let’s see if this works” and are running their second, third, and fourth campaigns. Moments are also working their way deeper into strategy. Whereas you might have once had segments defined by age, gender, income, etc, brands are now also asking what that segment’s moments are: when are they most receptive to a marketing message?

How does a marketer approach moment marketing for the first time? How do they know which moments are the most relevant to a campaign?

At Aki, we’ve worked with many brands that have come to us with a general notion of what moments are, without a lot of experience. That’s fine—we don’t expect a marketer or agency to have their audience’s moments mapped out already. We help marketers get there by taking a close look at their audience and based on our experience in running moment-targeting campaigns for brands across the full spectrum of verticals, craft a custom moment strategy that aligns with their campaign goals. For example, we worked with a CPG brand that wanted to move the needle on brand metrics (awareness, intent, etc.) and also foot traffic, and so we worked together to create a custom targeting strategy that would address both sets of objectives.

From there, we perform a lot of in-flight analysis—this is powered by machine learning because we’re getting into the nitty-gritty of optimization, looking not just at the performance by moment, but also ad formats, dynamic messaging, cost, etc. By the end of the campaign, we’ve managed the campaign to a place where we return to the client with results that regularly exceed their expectations. That part is fun, but we’re also giving them a lot of insight into the behavior of their audiences. They use this information to inform the next campaign and factor back into their overall marketing strategy.

Are there specific KPIs or campaign objectives that moments are best suited to?

Moments apply broadly across any campaign given they target busy people throughout their daily journeys. We’re enabling moment marketing campaigns across the full spectrum of objectives, brand impact and engagement with a big emphasis on resulting foot traffic measurement and sales lift metrics. The reality is that when optimizing using moments, the key to success is to stay focused on the need of identifying moments that best align with the objective. It’s not always intuitive. For example, we ran a retailer’s campaign to drive store traffic and observed that the early-morning moments at home were more effective than the on-the-go moments. So even though the audience was home, they were in the mindset of planning their day. The advertisement helped get viewers to plan that stop on along their route for the day.

What innovations are you taking advantage of? How big of a role is AI in your platform?

Because we’re working with large-scale data and split-second decisioning, we rely on machine learning to uncover the kind of patterns and performance details humans wouldn’t reach in any reasonable amount of time via a spreadsheet or manual data analysis. It makes our systems smarter and faster, but it’s part of a bigger system. You can’t just slap ‘machine learning’ onto a platform and claim innovation, innovation is about problem-solving. So regardless of what technology we’re employing, we always come back to whether we are making mobile advertising better for marketers and consumers?

Where do you see mobile advertising going in 2019? In the next five years?

I could go down the road of forecasting how voice and IoT will shift behavior, but it’s probably more important right now to focus on brand relationships with advertising. It’s been a challenging stretch, with consumers taking a more skeptical approach to marketing and mobile ads, in general getting a bad rap. But right now there’s an urgency for brands to figure out what works for them in mobile advertising. Obviously, we believe that moments are an important part of this, because if marketers don’t know which moments are worth investing in, they’re at a huge disadvantage. It also means figuring out what objectives to accomplish in mobile, and how best to drive those results.

There’s been much talk over the years about CTR on mobile banners and not nearly enough consideration whether or not that really matters. Is that really the success metric? Surely it’s a top funnel metric that’s easy to measure, but brands need to do some soul-searching here and make sure they’re on track to what actually matters this year, and five years out.

Interesting consolidation and sizeable acquisitions have also demonstrated the need for improved data, ownership of unique inventory, and closer communication and relationship with the consumer. Measurement tactics are improving in granularity and trustworthiness, continually shifting and evolving the industry to a more mature and important channel. Integration of this medium further with other devices and information feedback loops will help continue to elevate the mobile channel to the most important and influential for marketers and users.

Thanks for chatting with us, Orr.

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