Cleveland Business Connects

The June Amplify luncheon, held June 28 at Windows on the River, featured remarks...

By Thomas Skernivitz, CBC Editor

Programmatic marketing involves the buying and selling of digital advertising while using technology. It is not a simple process.

In fact, “if I wanted to do it alone, there’s no way,” Tom Kramer, the president and co-founder of Essex Digital Platform, said Wednesday at the Amplify Speaker Series. “It’s enough to make your head explode.”

Essex Digital Platform is one of those companies that simultaneously simplifies programmatic marketing while taking it to higher levels. The Cleveland-based firm analyzes and measures the myriad data while determining — in real time — the best targeted advertising campaign for an organization.

“We decided we needed to come up with something that was more of a business information systems. We decided we needed a marketing intelligence system. And that’s really what it’s all about,” Kramer said. “For 15 years I was told, ‘You can’t build that company in Cleveland. … It’s not possible. … There’s no talent there.” I laughed. I’ve been all over this country; I’ve met talent everywhere. The talent is here. The drive is here. The vision is here.”

Kramer deemphasized a variety of IT talking points — “start thinking beyond a click,” “stop thinking about ‘awareness,’ and “people don’t click on ads,” he said. “You know why people don’t click on ads? They’re selfish — ‘I’m busy. I’m in the middle of something. I’m reading an article. I’m checking my email. I’m interacting with my app.’”

What instead needs to be emphasized, Kramer said, is brand engagement, how that is measured, and how that can be converted. What deliverables and number of impressions caused the conversion? What creative elements, such as display banners or video, were part of the conversion pathway? This marketing intelligence allows efficiency and a true measurable return on advertising spending.

“If you’re an online retailer, it’s pretty simple — someone bought something or they didn’t,” Kramer said. “But if you’re not an online retailer, it’s a lot more confusing. But you still need to understand what that pathway was that got those people there. Programmatic marketing — what’s that pathway to conversion? What’s the journey that the person took from considering your brand to actually engaging? This is the intelligence that marketers need.”

Kramer was one of four panelists at the Amplify luncheon, hosted at the Hilton Garden Inn Cleveland Downtown by Cleveland Business Connects magazine, its parent company, Contempo Communications, and BlueBridge Networks.

Cal Al-Dhubaib, the principal data scientist with Pandata, said trying to define return on investment is the biggest challenge within the IT industry. In terms of social media, he stressed the monitoring of the actual words posted by individuals on platforms, such as Twitter and Facebook.

“Consider this — there are 42 pieces of information attached to every tweet,” he said. “Traditional marketing engagement analysis, including ‘likes’ and ‘shares,’ only scratches the surface. Words are powerful. They tell us how people feel.”

Pandata monitors and analyzes such information. For example, the company, in an attempt to differentiate fans of the two major political parties, collected more than 400,000 tweets during the weeks of the Republican and Democratic national conventions.

“There is so much out there. How do we make sense of it?” Al-Dhubaib said. “Operating a business today without depending on competitive data analysis is kind of like driving a car blind — except you’re driving a really big car and it’s going really fast. “

Jeff Epstein, the director of the Cleveland Health-Tech Corridor, said companies are attracted to the biomedical, healthcare, and technology district for a variety of reasons, starting with the sense of community that the corridor provides.

“That is at the core of what the corridor is trying to do,” he said. “You can operate a business here and have neighbors that are like-minded. In a way that is kind of hard to do at a strip mall 30 minutes out of downtown.

“Also one of the great things about Cleveland is that within a week you can get a meeting with a top person in your particular field,” Epstein added, noting the presence of Case Western Reserve and Cleveland State universities, Cuyahoga Community College, and Cleveland Clinic and University Hospitals. “You’ve got companies who don’t have to buy multi-million-dollar piece of equipment because they can go use it at Case.”

Equally alluring are the RTA Healthline and a low cost of living.

“From a talent perspective, everybody in university has free Healthline passes, so they can zip up and down the corridor very easily. It’s easy to get interns and attract talent,” Epstein said. “From a cost perspective, a lot of companies are looking for cheap space, flexible space. The cost of living is 30 to 60 percent lower than on the coasts.”

Kevin Goodman, partner and managing director with BlueBridge Networks, said the region should not be complacent in the wake of recent accomplishments in the fields of technology, bioscience, health services, data centers, and cyber security.

“The risk of having good days and good times and celebrating victories and championships is spiking the ball at the 9-yard line and saying, ‘Oh, we get six points,’” he said. “We still have a lot of good work to do. A lot of that (revolves) around certification, training, educating, retooling, rethinking, and executing in what has become, really, an attraction.

“We are poised to be the best mid-sized city on the globe. My message is to be who we are. Be where we’re at. Be the best mid-sized city that we can possibly can be.”

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