Acquisition

CEO ChoiceStream Eric Bosco on Evolving Advertising Industry

Eric Bosco-headshot Eric Bosco is currently the CEO at ChoiceStream, a a full-service Demand Side Platform that offers branding and pay for performance digital advertising services based on its programmatic media buying platform. Bosco was previously the COO at ChoiceStream, and CPO at comScore. The Makegood recently spoke with Bosco about his expectations for the future of advertising technology.

The Makegood: You have quite the track record in the advertising and technology industry, from your pioneering AOL’s Instant Messenger to the creation of Advertising.com. Having seen the growth in the industry, could you give some insight on how reactive and geo-targeted ads are walking the fine line between being helpful and being “creepy”?

The reaction that consumers still have to new technology is very interesting. They tend to distrust it. All the way back in 1996, the Buddy List idea failed usability studies at AOL. Most people thought it would be “creepy” if other people could tell if they were online or not. Luckily some of us at AOL chose to ignore that feedback and launch AIM anyways because we knew it was going to be revolutionary. Fast forward to today and can you envision life without Facebook, which is essentially the Buddy List idea with meta data attached?

So, I would argue that we need to focus on the positives of techniques like reactive and geo targeted ads, not on the negatives like “creepy”. The positive is relevant advertising for consumers, pure and simple. The online publishing ecosystem is primarily advertising revenue supported. If consumers want to enjoy great content, they need to see ads. Given that, all providers of ad technology should focus on how to make the ads more relevant to the consumer, how to always be on the helpful side of the line. This is a combination of great use of data and great creative – ads that look good and entice consumers. Too few companies focus on the latter as well as the former.

The Makegood: As the CEO of ChoiceStream, you have a vast amount of knowledge about programmatic advertising. How does ChoiceStream effectively predict trends in programmatic, and how does the company turn data into information?

Well this goes at the heart of our intellectual property. Our core belief is that there is no “one-size-fits-all” approach when it comes to turning data into information for the purposes of campaign targeting. An approach that works for one advertiser might not work at all for another advertiser even if on paper they are similar (e.g. both in the same vertical like travel or ecommerce). So our system pits hundreds of algorithms against each other for each and every campaign we run to pick the winner that will most likely meet the performance objectives of that given campaign. This “automated-custom” approach at scale is what has given us an edge and has allowed us to be a top performer on virtually every plan we’ve been a part of.

The Makegood: How does ChoiceStream use science in conjunction with creativity? In other words, how does the company utilize both the algorithmic technology necessary for programmatic advertising as well as the creative brains necessary to create the ads?

Science fuels creativity, but science can’t over-ride creativity. At ChoiceStream the algorithms do the heavy lifting and most of the work, but they are supervised by incredibly passionate and creative people. People who can design ads that are beautiful and engaging but whose elements vary based on the data at hand. People who spot check the algorithms to see if anything out of the ordinary, like false positives, is occurring and tweak the settings to make sure it does’t happen. People who present insights back to the clients and help them make great decisions for the next version of their campaign. At CS we are powered in equal parts by data, creativity, and a desire to provide stellar service to our customers.

The Makegood: Being the brains behind AOL’s AIM, why do you think messaging apps are blowing up so quickly? How do you believe Facebook’s recent acquisition of WhatsApp is indicative of the growth of messaging apps?

Messaging appeals to the core need of humans to communicate with each other. What we’ve seen is that as soon as a new messaging mechanism is released it gets adopted incredibly quickly as long as it is intuitive and useful. Old methods become secondary or obsolete. Think of the telephone, voicemail, email, and instant messaging. All incredibly successful, all adopted as soon as consumers were able to access the capability. WhatsApp continues the trend enabling messaging for masses of people who are cost conscious and have a smartphone as the primary device they use.

What I find interesting, if you look at the history, is that none of the pioneers in any given messaging wave were able to hold on to their initial monopoly. AT&T for Voice, AOL for IM, Hotmail for email, all now relatively marginalized and supplanted by other messaging systems. Fundamentally I don’t believe consumers are loyal to a messaging service the way they are loyal to a brand like Nike or BMW. They will and do jump ship if something better comes along. I don’t expect WhatsApp users to stick with it long term, so the Facebook acquisition reads a lot more like a defensive move. WhatsApp gained incredible popularity with a feature set quite frankly that was not much different from what Facebook could offer within its own App. FB could have easily built the remaining WhatsApp features, but was smart enough to realize that even if they had the full capability, they really had no way to entice WhatsApp consumers to switch. So if you can’t win them join them.

I would not at all be surprised if in 2-3 year’s time another messaging service will develop massive popularity and FB or someone else will be forced to buy them to remain in the game.

The Makegood: How has the emergence of new advertising technology, and the increasing popularity of applications, changed the advertising industry? Do you have any predictions for the future of advertising in relation to apps and technology?

To me the single most exciting thing that is finally occurring is true 1-to-1 marketing at scale. Advertising has been around for thousands of years and for thousands of years advertisers had to resort to proxies for targeting: I’ll put my ad on a bill board or in a publication in the hopes that I connect with my audience. The new technology stack that is being enabled by programmatic technology across all screens now enables an advertiser to connect directly with specific consumers to give them a specific message that is relevant to them. This will transform the landscape of how advertising is thought of, planned and executed in a way that has never happened before. It is an incredibly exciting time to be in this industry.

The Makegood: Thank you, Eric.

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