TechBytes with Scott Gifis, President at AdRoll

TechBytes with Scott Gifis, President at AdRoll

From the time you started at AdRoll – how much has the market of online advertising evolved?’

In some ways, the market has remained constant: marketers must identify a target audience, create a message that resonates, deliver that message efficiently, and then analyze the impact of that campaign. However, the ability to do all of that today has been shaped by the accessibility of data and measurement.

Ten years ago, there were a handful of publishers with the ability to leverage targeted advertising, with their high costs being a major barrier to entry for small to medium-sized businesses. The rise of programmatic media took power away from the big publishers, making effective online advertising accessible to businesses of all sizes and, ultimately, creating the option-ridden, consumer-driven world we live in today.

More recently, the rise of walled gardens such as Facebook, Amazon, and Google have complicated the ecosystem, obfuscating marketers’ ability to understand, manage, and measure the effectiveness of their advertising campaigns. While initially, brands accepted these new platforms as an exciting expansion of their efforts, a rising skepticism has emerged as the market has matured and businesses are actively investing in strategies to reduce their dependency on these major platforms.

Today, we continue to see increased investments in how brands are leveraging data to develop holistic views of their customers and determine the actual impact of their efforts. Just as the advent of programmatic leveled the playing field for brands and publishers, so will the advancements in technology that aggregate data and enable advertisers to better drive value for their business despite operating in a crowded market.

How can Marketing and Sales teams fully leverage AdRoll’s new AI-powered Video ads to drive onsite traffic?

Given the concentrated and hypercompetitive environment in which most brands play, Video is a necessary ad format for staying relevant. I personally see two key-value points of the video:

  • Dynamic video ads can create a personalized experience for customers that shows relevant or recently viewed products, quickly and directly impacting customer acquisition.
  • Our cross-channel, cross-device world makes for extremely complex customer journeys. Video harnesses and captures attention in a more impactful way across desktop, tablet, and mobile, making it that much more likely your buyer will convert.

With Video becoming a necessity for marketers, we created a platform that enables marketers to reach current and future customers with a suite of video ads that can be optimized for any Marketing goal and attribution model—ultimately driving the results that matter most. 

What has been your most challenging business decision at AdRoll?

The hardest decision I’ve made was pivoting our strategy away from our larger, enterprise B2C customers and focusing our efforts on growing ambitious brands. As a result, we unfortunately, had to let go of a number of highly talented people, which as a business leader is never an easy or fun thing to do. Despite sacrificing the sizable market opportunity that comes with enterprise brands, this decision allowed us to double down in areas that we wanted to further invest.

We have a BIG vision and ambitious goals for how we wanted to evolve our platform to become a broader, more holistic solution to help brands of all sizes ultimately dare to grow. Since the launch of our rebranded AdRoll business unit in February 2018, I’ve been extremely pleased and excited about the progress we’ve made in fulfilling these needs for our customers.

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

AdRoll at its core is a Machine Learning company. We ingest massive amounts of information from multiple, disparate sources, organize it in useful ways, and help our customers active this data across their Marketing strategy. Our proprietary AI-driven technology is uniquely designed to create better-connected consumer experiences across channels in ways that ultimately increase sales.

Personally, AI has enabled us to deliver successful online advertising solutions to our customers. Developing a winning marketing strategy demands a deep understanding of your customer, coupled with constantly testing creative, developing personalized experiences, experimenting with Marketing mixes…and so much more. This level of sophistication is historically reserved for the businesses that could invest in large marketing teams and budgets, but with AI-powered technology, like AdRoll, smaller teams can compete and ultimately grow online through thoughtful optimization and holistic attribution tools. I’m excited to see how we can continue leveraging developments in AI both across our product and internally.

In general, however, we’re still in the early innings of AI’s capabilities. As a business leader, it’s crucial to create a culture where we are willing to challenge established thinking around how we operate across every facet of our business. A willingness to “unlearn” is a key trait of forward-thinking cultures but it’s also one of the hardest things to instill. As a leadership team, we spend a fair bit of time looking wide and deep across our business to question how we approach various aspects of our business.

What are your predictions on the most impactful disruptions in Advertising, Marketing, and Sales Technology for 2020?

To stay relevant in 2020, marketers must take a leap beyond last-click measurement. Brands that aim to survive—let alone thrive—will need to prioritize developing deeper, more meaningful connections with their customers. I see 2019 as the year modern marketers stop relying on vanity metrics and outdated measurement models and start looking at what is actually driving sales.

Marketers need to embrace multi-channel adoption and prioritize creating connected stories across all touchpoints. Creating this holistic view of the customer journey will allow marketers to shift their focus from repeat acquisition to growing customer lifetime value by better understanding which channels actually work. Across all buyer personas, video will continue to grow in popularity because it works at every stage of the customer journey, cuts through the noise of banner blindness, and drives higher engagement.

How do you inspire your people to work with technology?

One of our company’s core values focuses on hiring great people and helping each other grow. We always do right by the customer and community—that means working together, collaborating, and challenging each other to understand and go one step beyond. We invest heavily in our Rollers by offering extensive career-building support, such as our lunch-and-learn sessions with accomplished external speakers and HonorRoll, our eLearning courses, to help guide everyone’s development and always be providing new opportunities.

What is one word that best describes how you work?

Perspective. It’s important to keep sight of the big picture and be thoughtful with your current projects. There is a lot of talk about how strategy is what you choose to do, but truly being strategic is what you’re not doing—and figuring out why.

What are you currently reading?

You can catch me reading a few books at any given time and finishing one or two each week. My all-time favorite book is probably The Goal by Eliyahu Goldratt. It’s a story about the theory of constraints that centers around a plant manager whose world seems to be falling apart. You get to see his entire journey while he figures it all out. It’s a great book that challenges a lot of traditional thinking, and I highly recommend that everyone reads it.

I also enjoy biographies and am currently reading “Lincoln on Leadership”—a recommendation from my wife… it’s excellent.

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

To be patient. Working with so many aspirations and ambitions, you run into challenges and different levels of anxiety. On almost a weekly basis I’m on a plane visiting one of our six offices while trying to balance meetings, my own work, being a father and being a husband. It’s important to remember to take a step back and slow down. Be thoughtful about what you are doing today, and be patient with the things you know you have to do tomorrow.

What is something you do better than others – your secret to success?

I’m very comfortable being wrong. I don’t get emotional or discouraged when “my way” isn’t the “right way”. I put a premium on working with smart, talented, driven folks who happen to also be good human beings, and I’ve been lucky to have hired and worked with great people throughout my career. I try hard to create an open environment where people at all levels feel comfortable to share their opinions and ideas, and we work hard to make sure the best ideas win. It’s not easy to do… It can be painful and it takes time to build trust, but when you have it… it makes everything easier and everyone more committed.

Scott has experienced executive and advisor with a proven track record of developing and successfully executing go-to-market strategies, scaling world-class teams and processes globally, and driving sustainable revenue growth from zero (or near zero) to $100MM+ in new and hyper-competitive markets.

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AdRoll Group has been on a mission to accelerate growth for companies, big and small, since 2007. Our technology powers a suite of data-driven marketing and advertising solutions, AdRoll – for ambitious commerce companies and RollWorks – for ambitious B2B companies.

AdRoll Group has empowered over 37,000 AdRoll and RollWorks customers worldwide to understand, attract and engage buyers, driving growth for their businesses. AdRoll Group is a privately-held company headquartered in San Francisco, CA with offices in New York, Dublin, Sydney, Chicago, and Salt Lake City.

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