Pictela’s Greg Rogers on Clay Christensen, Big Data and Brand Content

Greg Rogers is the CEO of Pictela, the next generation display advertising platform that was acquired by AOL last December to power the portal’s Project Devil ads. Greg and I worked together at both MEC and then at Pictela. We spoke recently about his background and how data and brand content are changing the digital media industry.

The Makegood: You worked with Clay Christensen when he was writing The Innovator’s Dilemma. What role did you play in the development of that book?

GR: My first job out of college was as a researcher and case study writer at Harvard Business School. I was fortunate enough to be paired with Clay Christensen who back then was a relatively unknown associate professor but someone working on radical new thinking about how companies innovate.  I performed the background research to support his theory.

The Makegood: Many consider Christensen’s theory to be revolutionary. Why would you say this book is so important?

GR: Clay’s belief is that new technologies, often considered at the time rudimentary, can eventually have market consequences far beyond their original intent. This is what Clay termed as disruptions. The book is revolutionary because quite simply it creates a framework for understanding why some innovations end up significantly impacting our world.

The Makegood: You were the first “numbers” guy in MEC’s digital group. Can you tell us about your role there? What has been the impact of analytics on media agencies and the industry since then?

GR: I have to smile whenever someone refers to me as a “numbers” guy. I was never terribly adept at statistics. And yet when Alan Schanzer, who ran The Digital Edge (now MEC) offered me the job to build out an analytics and insights team, I jumped at the opportunity. He and I shared a belief that all the data we were starting to see in the Atlas and Doubleclick servers had to be a treasure trove of insights. And indeed it was!

I was not aware of it at the time but that data was the start of an incredible market disruption. At first we were crushed by the sheer mass of it. But then curious entrepreneurs began to manipulate it, expanding our abilities to report, expanding our notion of media planning and buying, and ultimately starting the revolution of machine intelligence we currently see today.

The Makegood: After that you became the VP, Sales Strategy at TACODA. Can you tell us about your role there? How would you characterize the impact of behavioral targeting on the online media advertising industry?

GR: I think for some, Dave Morgan’s (CEO/Founder of TACODA) decision to bring in an analytics guy to lead sales strategy must have been a strange one. Dave took a chance on me. He realized that behavioral targeting was not a traditional sale. Because it was about buying audiences, you could rarely point to a web page and say to a client, “There’s your ad.” Instead the sale was based on data about audience quality and ad performance.

My role as head of sales strategy was to help bring TACODA’s audience numbers to life in a way that made sense to buyers and to teach our sales teams to communicate value with data — one that was quite different than many of their experiences selling contextual. In terms of its impact, behavioral targeting was the first step in the development of an entire science around better ad targeting. I am amazed at how complex and effective that science has become over the last 5 years.

The Makegood: Tell us about your role as CEO of Pictela.  Can you explain how Pictela enables online display ads to work better for brands?

I and my business partners started Pictela because we realized that the next evolution of online advertising would go beyond great targeting – to also delivering an amazing ad experience for the consumer. We believed that the best display ads are ones based on brand content, especially high-definition, high-resolution content that brings beauty to the webpage and intrigues the consumer.  Pictela is a platform that manages and serves as much brand content into an ad as a marketer might like in a format and design that achieves groundbreaking consumer engagement.

Thank you Matt for sharing our vision for Pictela.  We wish you all the best in your new venture.

The Makegood: Thank you, Greg!