How to Build a Dialogue with Buyers in Real Time: Interview with Matt Eichner

Interviewer: Today I’m very pleased to welcome Matt Eichner. Matt is the director of DoubleClick Search at Google. What that really means is that Matt heads up Go to Market for DoubleClick Search. And for those of you who don’t know what DoubleClick Search is, it is really Google’s advance SEM platform. So, Matt has some very interesting insights about marketing being a dialog, and Matt we talked earlier about how marketing across all of your interactions as a dialog is a theme that you believe in. Tell us a little bit about that.

Eichner: Sure, I often think you can imagine a lot about marketing or any topic by trying to remember who the people are involved and how it works when you’re face-to-face. Using that analogy, imagine you’re in a store and you start with one store clerk and you ask a question and your question eventually goes beyond their knowledge. What they’ll typically do is walk you over, in a good situation, to the next store clerk and say hey we were just talking about x would you be able to help this customer understand more about that? That’s a good dialog and again it’s happening across, if you will, multiple sources. We tend to forget this when we go to the digital world. It turns out the same one customer, if you will, is consulting multiple sources just as they might in the store. In fact, I think it’s a pretty interesting statistic, information now is so cheap that the average consumer, the average customer will actually consult seven sources, seven internet sites, seven digital media sources when looking for something as simple as what breakfast cereal to choose, right, breakfast cereal.

Interviewer: Wow.

Eichner: This is not a car, this is not technology. There’s a real dynamic out there where people are constantly looking at new information. The question, I think this is what you’re hitting with Glenn, is can we treat them as we would in that store face-to-face situation as one dialog, or they look like seven different dialogs.

Interviewer: Or, how do we know that they already consulted six other locations before they get to me?

Eichner: Exactly, and one of the challenges that creates for us in digital world is that, unlike face-to-face, I don’t know that you’re Glenn. You show seven separate interactions and if I have seven different marketing systems, one touching each of those interactions then you probably look like seven different cookies. So, in a sense, you start to look like Cybil to me right, the man of 17 personalities.

Interviewer: Right.

Eichner: And the challenge is marketing right is that if you actually have these seven different systems with seven different cookies and there are seven versions of Glenn and I don’t know that they’re all the same, so it’s very difficult for me to unify that dialog. And one of the things we encourage people at DoubleClick to think about it tie all the systems together. Ideally, you can purchase now a marketing suite where each of those touches is actually leading back to a single piece of infrastructure, a single marketing system, and DoubleClick is one of those that offers a suite. And what it means is that you only have one cookie. And the minute you only have one cookie, even though I still don’t know its Glenn, right, I don’t know that it’s specifically you with your email address and your personally identifying information, I do know that all seven of those touches went to the same person.

Interviewer: Right, and what about how people – the question I really have has to do with the timeframe of the purchase. So, if I’m going to buy that breakfast cereal in your example, how can you keep track of me over a period of time, or do you need to?

Eichner: Yeah that’s a great question. Yeah, ideally you do, and when I think about cross channels, this is often called cross channel, meaning there is different media; there could be search media; there could be display; there could be video; there could be email, all the different ways that you touch someone. And the question we’re asking is how do you make those unified, and how much does time matter.

Interviewer: Right.

Eichner: Because my instinct is, and again I go back to my own personal behavior this will probably smell right to folks listening, when I’m looking for something I usually focus on it for a period of time right? I don’t just go and do one search and say oh that’s interesting then drop it after that single 60 seconds. I usually start to explore the search results. I go to media sites. There’s a cluster of activity where I’m crossing over the seven different sources. And so, the goal, if you want to do this well and create a dialog, is to be able to react coherently across those seven different sources, and there are more mind you for more complicated purchases like cars, but be able to react across all those different sources effectively in real time. Meaning, when you show up on that search and then later on you go to a display site the goal is for me to say I know this is cookie number 10. That’s the same cookie that just did a search, and because I only have one marketing system it recognizes cooking number 10 and says, well here’s what that person searched on. Based on their intent what they searched on I’ll present them different advertising right? So, a good example I always think about, imagine that you’re a cell phone company. Imagine you are a cell phone carrier, and you have people coming to your site and they search on the term let’s say “best rate” and this is the kind of thing for someone to search on right, best cell phone plan.

Interviewer: Best rate, best plan okay.

Eichner: Yeah, and so imagine you have someone searching on best plan and they go to your site and they don’t click through to an offer. They don’t say well I’m going to go and sign up, or I’m going to go and call your call center to go get one of these things right. They leave. And the question you ask yourself is, one, are they an existing customer or not. If they’re an existing customer then their search on best rate plan tells you something very different than if they’re not.

Interviewer: Right.

Eichner: You’re getting them from someone else.

Interviewer: Right.

Eichner: If they are a customer they’re trying to leave you. And so, because they’ve already got your rate plan and they’re not happy. When they leave and they show up somewhere else on the display world and they’re at some website and you’d like to offer them an ad to bring them back, you want to be really careful and know that they searched on best rate plan, they’re an existing customer and therefore you need to give them a very particular message to hope they don’t attrition. And that’s what I mean when I say carry the dialogs. That as a person goes through their journey saying hey I’m looking for information, I suspect I’m not on the best rate plan, you can intercept that journey and say well the right thing to give them is an offer saying I can give you a free new phone right. You’re six months away from when you would be offered that anyway [00:07:15 – Crosstalk] and make sure that you get one of those free phones so that I keep you.

Interviewer: Right, because you have information about me and now you know that I might be considering moving on and so you want to give me a specific offer, as opposed to if I came from a different cell phone plan then you might offer me something different to entice me to switch.

Eichner: You got it, and the crux of this, what really makes this kind of all sing, is that if you’re on the same, what I call cookie space, but if you’re using one unified suite of marketing technology which draws one tag and that tag is common across display, search, video, email, etcetera, etcetera; then you can run this dialog in real time. If you don’t have that then this looks a little different right, because someone goes and clicks through on your search and they go to your site and you say that’s great here is cookie number 10. Sometime later they show up in the display world and they’re cookie number 12 and you don’t know that that’s the same person, and you don’t know the search intent signal which said best rate plan, so you’re not entirely sure if they’re in fact looking to bail from you or what they’re actually looking for.

Interviewer: So Matt, take us through that again. Why were they 10 in one scenario and 12 in another?

Eichner: Yeah, that’s a great question. I mean, there’s a lot of [00:08:26 – Inaudible] in how marketing technology works, but fundamentally there’s a couple key principles that are at play. One is we can’t know, we as marketers can’t be allowed to have personally identifying information linked back to advertising. No one wants to wake up one day and feel creepy that their advertisers call them by name.

Interviewer: Right.

Eichner: The lingua franca of marketing and digital is cookies. That’s what we use to tag you, and you can think of a cookie as sort of an identifier. That’s all it is, and what we do is we attached that identifier based on the marketing system. So, what happens is suppose you’re using DoubleClick for one thing and you’re using someone else for something else. DoubleClick would have a cookie that it knows and that it assigns to you Glenn, and that would be cookie number 10. Some other marketing system has no idea that DoubleClick has given you cookie number 10. They look at you and say I’ve never seen Glenn before, he’s cookie number 12. And you sort of create this tower of babble if you will between your marketing systems and by the end of all that it’s really hard to decipher who is Glenn really. And again, I’m using Glenn not to note your name, because we don’t know your name, ultimately [00:09:29 – Inaudible] Glenn because I know the concept. There’s one person at work here. They’re having one journey and one dialog they’re trying to have with us and we have fractured that dialog by having all these different marketing systems.

Interviewer: So the lack of integration of the systems actually causes great confusion about whether or not we’re communicating with the same individual.

Eichner: Yeah, and then the only other point that ends up being important, and I am sorry because this is – if someone is driving and listening to this I hope I haven’t caused them to crash into something at this point, but the only thing that makes this really hard is there’s a rule around cookies and it’s not something that marketers love. It turns out that you can only drop a cookie that is on your domain. That’s going to sound incredibly technical. What it means is that DoubleClick cannot drop a cookie that relates to a different marketing system from a different vendor, because DoubleClick has its own domain and vendor two has its own domain.

Interviewer: Right.

Eichner: So the cookie DoubleClick drops is kind of like doubleclick:12, and then the cookie that vendor two drops is vendortwo:10. There is no way for us to “integrate” the systems so that I drop the same cookie.

Interviewer: Um hm.

Eichner: So this is why, and this gets back to the start of our story, if you want to have a unified dialog and you want to make it a real time dialog where all those insights are at play across the different media touches, you actually need to think about having one suite from one vendor, whether it’s DoubleClick or someone else.

Interviewer: Um hm, um hm. And is that applied primarily to the ad tech world or would you say it expands beyond that?

Eichner: I’m not sure I understand your question please elaborate.

Interviewer: Well, if I am communicating with people beyond just advertising, so I’m doing email campaigns, or I’m getting them to register at a trade show and I’m trying to pull them into my CRM system; how do I integrate all of these other touches, or maybe they’re in a retail store and they’re searching and they’re using QR codes and I have information about what they’re doing there, but that’s not advertising, but it is data about that buyer. How do I integrate that and how does that all play in this platform argument that we’re putting forth here?

Eichner: Yeah that’s a great one. So what I’ll do in answering your question is I’ll distinguish between responding to you in the different channels you are, and that is very much get on one system, because the only way to do that flow in real time with the dialog is to have the execution systems for driving advertising, your display, your video, your search etcetera all be on the same cookie; all be on the same system.

Interviewer: Yeah.

Eichner: However, what I’ll distinguish is actually adding additional information about cookie number 10 into the game. That’s something you can onboard data for. So, if I know when I’m building up all this information on cookie number 10 based on what he’s touching in media, what I can start to do also is fold in data from CRM systems, from offline store purchases, from any number of actual sources, and there are really interesting technologies around out there that help you line up or correlate what is effectively an offline, not even a digital tag activity, and bring it into a digital world and attach it to cookie number 10 based on some inferences that you can pull. None of this stuff is perfect.

Interviewer: Right.

Eichner: It’s a lot better than not having it. There are some neat companies out there. On the DMP space you’re talking about companies like BlueKai, that was just acquired by Oracle.

Interviewer: Right.

Eichner: And for a very large sum of money, and you can imagine why they did that. And then in taking offline data and moving it online you’re talking about companies like [00:12:57 – Inaudible] just an axiom for Datalogix being in that space where they can take literally physical in-store purchases and start to fold those CRM records into your online profile based on taking a look at the probability that your actually the same person.

Interviewer: And that’s a very important point you made earlier, is this concept of what people call personally identifiable information. In other words, you talk about inferences, which means that you’re trying to understand who I am, but not at the level of me as an individual, but me as in inferred individual. I’m likely to look like the following. Is that right?

Eichner: Yes, and maybe the easier way to say that – there’s two things going on. There is profiling saying well if you like this you’ll probably also like that.

Interviewer: Right.

Eichner: That’s the level of inference I think you were just mentioning. There is also a level of profiling that is we think cookie number 10, which represents a human being in some sense right?

Interviewer: Right.

Eichner: We think cookie number 10 has all these physical and actual characteristics, things that we’ve observed him actually do. The key though is to never try and trace that to can I figure out who cookie number 10 is in the real world, so if I walked up to him on the street I’d say hey, you’re cookie number 10.

Interviewer: Right.

Eichner: You don’t want that. When we look at, this is probably a reasonable expansion, we look at what a live [00:14:14 – Inaudible] does. These companies will actually touch PII and they’re really special companies because they touch it on our behalf as marketers then they get rid of it. They clean it off so we never have to see it.

Interviewer: So, it’s hidden from you.

Eichner: Yeah, but when you start talking a CRM system you’re actually talking physical in-store purchases, that’s PII right.

Interviewer: Right.

Eichner: You bringing Glenn the person into that equation that before some of [00:14:37 – Inaudible] any data to their marketing progress they get rid of Glenn the person and reduce it down to an anonymous cookie number 10.

Interviewer: Right, so Matt, tell me about different devices and how you can track a dialog, or create a dialog with someone who might be using their phone in store after they’ve already looked at the website using their laptop before they go to the store. Is there technology that we’re talking about here that can connect those two devices?

Eichner: Yeah, you’re asking a great question, both from the perspective of how do I continue the dialog; how do I make sure that if I’m talking to cookie number10 I don’t mistake him as another person when he hits his mobile phone vice versa. The second thing is also it’s really important to determine the full value of marketing, because one of the challenges we face is whether it’s people who get exposed to an online advertisement and then run into a store where we lose them, where we don’t know that that’s cookie number 10 that was impacted by the advertising, or whether they just changed devices. And so, in both those cases, and you were just talking about the second, which is the in-store or CRM stuff, in both cases we’re probabilistic answer. We can never tell you with 100% certainty that the person who is exposed to the advertisement on their mobile phone is the same person as the person on the desktop. We can never tell with 100% certainty, but we can get very close. And the types of approaches, one is login information. So, companies like Facebook and companies like Google have large pools of logged in users. They can actually look at that and that behavior across machines, desktop, mobile, tablet and say we think this is the same person across those machines because there are a [00:16:12 – Inaudible] in three devices.

Interviewer: Right.

Eichner: That’s one source of that data, so again, Facebook and Google probably the biggest two in that arena, but you can also do things like look at IP addresses and can say well, this phone tends to log-in from wi-fi at this IP address, which actually is very close geographically to this other IP address which is probably his home computer. And we can watch that pattern over time and infer this is probably a device owned by the same person who owns that computer. And if that computer is computer number 10, viola, I’ll tag the cell phone as cookie number 10 as well. And what you’re doing is you’re daisy chaining together a stream of activity on how people’s IP addresses show up, which you can geo tag right, without any PII you can just do that from the internet address side of things. And then, you can use that to infer what the cross device usage looks like. In both cases again, to resolve the story, we are talking about probabilities, but that’s okay, because you can come up with a good statistical model that says here’s what we really think the impact the marketing is, and then, going back to the question at the beginning, how do I continue the dialog and be consistent across devices I can also do that in most cases and that’s the key. We want to be better than we were without it.

Interviewer: That’s great. That’s great. So, there’s one other thing we talked about and that is to innovate the content of the dialog. And we talked about how some companies can get very absorbed in their ad technology, but they’re not stepping back and saying how do I make sure I have the right offer matched to the right person at the right time. Can you talk a little bit about that?

Eichner: Yeah, actually I almost split that into two things. One is how fast the market is moving; is it the right time part of the argument. And then the second is don’t forget the marketing part. And that sounds crazy but I think sometimes, and I’ll take that second one first, don’t forget the marketing part. We sometimes forget the art of marketing because there’s now so much technology involved. That makes us crazy as the technology guys say. And the personal example I always think of when I think of this, when I was in college, I’m an econ guy and I took a PhD class in economics. In theory economics is supposed to predict real world behavior. And there’s plenty of jokes about that not being the case. And I think the punchline for me was that I’m sitting in this class and we’re talking about infinite dimensional calculus and I’m here to tell you I barely understood the math. By the time I got the math I had totally forgotten what the point of the thing was. I couldn’t remember what the economics was. It had no bearing on anyone that I would ever say well you act like this infinite dimensional calculus thing.

Interviewer: Right.

Eichner: And I think we as marketers sometimes fall into that trap on the digital side, because there is a lot of complexity in the tech we forget. And you know the sort of backdrop is ultimately you have to get the right offer, the right message, to the right people at the right time, and great examples of this failing. We have any number of folks we work with that we identified, you know your advertising copy on the search text doesn’t have anything to do with the landing page that you’re driving people to, and that’s going to hurt your quality score because Google will make you pay more for that ad, because we will perceive the ad to be unrelevant. It also hurts you like if they get to your site your conversions are going to be low.

Interviewer: Right.

Eichner: And you don’t want that, but you’re paying for an ad that’s not performing for you. And that’s a simple thing. And there are actually some neat companies that are helping folks solve this. I’ll mention one by name, Boost Media. They’re a company that takes real human beings, which sounds like an anachronism, what they do is they have like 10,000 plus of these human beings who can write ad copy and then they create a bit of game between the ad copy. So, what they’ll do is they’ll actually abc test it and use some of this gaming mechanics to kind of see who rights the best copy and which copy wins and continually optimize or improve your ad copy based on, again, your landing pages and conversion metrics and stuff like that. So, it’s sort of this nice amalgam of old guard marketing, like real human beings writing great copy and new techniques to make sure that we’re testing a copy has merit. And you see some great result.

Interviewer: Yes.

Eichner: So, getting back to my storyline, don’t forget the marketing. Don’t forget that you need to have the right message.

Interviewer: That’s great. One last thing Matt, so tell us a little bit about where you see the future as it relates to the dialog with the consumer. What are we going to be seeing in the next year or two or three?

Eichner: Yeah, you know maybe this is a great chance for me to talk more about moving fast. There was some research actually at Stanford where they found that the average time from the first moment that a subject shows up in a tweet on Twitter or on social media, to the moment that it spikes on Google trends, meaning it’s a meaningful search intent signal, is around four hours. So, four hours from the time something is first mentioned to the point where it’s such a trend that it’s spiking in Google. That does not give you a lot of time. It turns out that’s shrinking. The public consciousness, the ability for people to immediately go wow that’s a trend, I’m jumping on it and I’m going to go search for it, really, really, really short. And so, this plays out in some interesting ways. The punchline we believe is that all marketing is going to move more and more real time to respond to this. If you want something I don’t want to say hold on I’ll get to you in a day, because someone else is going to jump in and say I’ll get to you right now. It’s [00:21:14 – Crosstalk] used as an analogy is Wall Street. You know it used to be you go to Wall Street once a day, you put your hand up and you buy your stock and you leave and go out for a cappuccino. These days that’s not fast enough. There’s actually high-frequency traders that are literally trying to get closer to the machine box of the New York Stock Exchange, because the speed of light between those computers is actually too slow for them.

Interviewer: Right, right.

Eichner: That’s where we’re going. Marketing is going to go all real time, and part of the reason it matters is that we actually have that same automation that I was talking about, the high-frequency trader; you no longer have any human being making a decision there. The human beings design the system, but the system then acts those decisions out for you in real time, meaning microseconds. And we have that phenomenon today in media buying. You have it on the DSP side for buying programmatic video and programmatic display, and you have it on the research side for buying Google media for buying ad words, or you have this bit optimization. And so, because of that automation, you can respond in real time if you can just get your machines to take notice of the event in real time, and you want that. I use the example often of a product manager for bras. So imagine you’re a department store manager and you’re working on bras. How do these events affect you? Well, you probably have 30,000 sku’s in this department store, and you’re responsible, a team of five in SEM probably which is about the right size, for marketing all 30,000 sku’s into your search marketing. And a funny thing happens every year. Every year somewhere between December 10th and December 15th the world demand, the world interest in pink bras spikes. So one of your 30,000 sku’s on one day that seems to float over this five day period suddenly spikes and doubles and you don’t know why. It turns out that the answer is that on that day is the Victoria Secret runway model show. So that literally doesn’t just spike demand for Victoria Secret lingerie, it spikes worldwide demand across all advertisers for their lingerie, their pink bras specifically. The reason this is such an interesting storyline to me, and about real time, is that if you’re that poor department store search engine marketing guy or gal, how on earth are you going to keep abreast of the trends on all 365 days of the year that affect demand, and across all 30,000 sku’s when you’ve got a team of five? And the answer is you can’t.

Interviewer: You can’t do it.

Eichner: You just can’t do it. It’s not possible, and so, the beauty is that you’ve got now the machinery in place to really do real time data optimization and coming up with this creative optimization I was talking about real time bit optimization. And then, and this is really interesting, combine that with segmentation, all the dialog stuff we’re talking about. So in a sense you become a marketing strategist. You give that strategy to the machine, and where the future goes is that machine is literally watching across those 30,000 sku’s and across the 365 days of the year and immediately understanding the trends, immediately understanding what effective and rebalancing your accounts you’re making the most of your money.

Interviewer: Right, immediate reaction to what’s happening in real time.

Eichner: That’s right. That’s right, so I’d argue that even today you should expect real time reaction, real time bit optimization from any vendor you’re working with. If you’re not getting real time bit optimization you can almost guarantee someone is and they’re beating you to the market.

Interviewer: Yeah, it’s a pretty serious arms race.

Eichner: Yes.

Interviewer: That’s great. That’s good. It’s good for the consumer in the end I believe.

Eichner: It is. Taking it back all the way to the beginning when you’re the store and you’re talking to someone they don’t wait for 24 hours to get back to you with an answer. They’re immediate. And I think we’re just trying to create that same sense of immediacy and engagement in online world to replicate what we experienced offline. And I think that’s really important because most of us are actually interacting with our brands, whether it’s through shopping or buying a car, or just interacting for information we’re interacting online more, so this becomes a really important thing to do.

Interviewer: I really like that Matt. That’s a way to think about digital in a very positive way, which is I’m trying enable a great experience that I might have in the store, I’m trying to enable that digitally if I’m not in the store. And the technologies are letting me move in that direction. So this has been fantastic and very enlightening and very helpful. So thank you very much for your help here.

Eichner: Glenn thanks for your time.

Interviewer: Enjoyed it.

Eichner: Alright take care.

Interviewer: Bye, bye.