Curt Viebranz is the CEO of Korrelate, a company that links digital marketing efforts and product purchases. Before Korrelate, Curt was President of Platform-A, the ad network division of AOL. He was also previously the CEO of TACODA and has held a number of management roles over the course of 17 years at Time Warner. We recently spoke with Curt about his experience in media and Korrelate’s current focus.
The Makegood: Curt you have worked at companies like Time Warner, TACODA and AOL. Can you tell us about your background and what led you to found Korrelate?
I started my career out of business school at HBO. It was incredible because when I joined HBO the average employee age was 28 and we were all one page ahead of each other. Contrarian thought was encouraged. A group of us helped make HBO a household name while truly re-inventing television as it was known then.
I spent eighteen years at Time Warner and my last job was head of HBO International. I also ran Time Inc.’s publishing businesses in Europe. The thread you’re looking for began in the mid-90s when I was the first head of digital for Time Inc. I like to say that I was Randall Rothenberg before digital was cool.
Ultimately I had this epiphany that I no longer wanted to be in a big company. My time at Time Warner was great but I was really looking to do something smaller. I went on the board of RealMedia and when Dave Morgan was starting TACODA I also joined that board. Eventually I joined Dave full-time at TACODA and helped build the business that we sold to AOL in late 2007. I was immediately tapped for a bigger job within Aol but I only lasted six months. I’m a great partner but a lousy employee. Let’s just say that I don’t do well in an environment where intellectual honesty isn’t valued.
Fast forward to why we started Korrelate. While at TACODA we pioneered the Natural-born Clickers study with comScore. We wanted to prove that a disproportionate number of click-thrus came from a very small number of users that weren’t even the right target market. Korrelate is an extension of that thinking. We are not trying to supplant the click-thru as a success metric but we are trying to show that tying digital spend to purchases in the offline world can lead to numerous insights that will change the way marketers invest their marketing dollars.
The Makegood: Korrelate (formerly Ad Summos) rebranded last year to focus on connecting online media usage with offline purchases. What would you say are the most significant changes that interest marketers with regards to Korrelate’s updated offering?
Marketers are clearly interested in tying digital ad spend to actual purchases in the offline world. We think it’s one of the keys to moving more money into digital. They are particularly interested in our census-based solution as an alternative to a panel or sample. Underpinning our offering for the automotive category is our partnership with RL Polk; through this partnership we have access to household level make and model purchase data which drives our sales matching process.
We are moving beyond the click-thru and other engagement metrics as we believe that optimizing campaigns based on those factors alone will ultimately result in potential purchasers being optimized out. There are a number of very compelling analyses that we are providing marketers that are useful for them at all stages of the purchase funnel.
The Makegood: You recently mentioned that privacy is an issue that brands are concerned about when it comes to online. How do you reassure them?
The norms as well as the regulations around tying together online and offline data are evolving rapidly. There is going to be more intense scrutiny of accepted practices. We worked hard to establish TACODA as a leader in privacy and transparency and we approach everything we do at Korrelate the same way. Korrelate’s Dual Blind Attribution technology makes it impossible to tie a browser to an individual or to offline data sets. We are regularly asked by brands to explain why working with us won’t result in a front page mention in the Wall Street Journal for the wrong reasons. Our matching process has undergone intense scrutiny both by Polk and by the networks, agencies and advertisers we could as our current clients. We believe this process sets the standard.
The Makegood: What sets Korrelate apart from other companies in the space?
We are not selling media nor are we selling data so we are not conflicted. We are selling a group of breakthrough insights around actual product purchase in the bricks-and-mortar world that will inform a marketer’s audience targeting, creative and contextual decisions. We have made inroads into the automotive vertical and we will shortly be moving into other categories. We think we can establish the “korrelate” as a key standard for assessing the success of one’s online marketing efforts.
The Makegood: Thanks, Curt.