Thunder CEO Sees Both Media and Creative Strategy Changing in 2018

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Looking ahead to 2018 and 2019, Victor Wong, CEO of marketing tech company Thunder, sees big changes in store for marketers.

Rather than applying marketing information based on devices, marketers will increasingly be able to target actual people, Wong told Street Fight in an interview. Knowledge about customers is more precise, and that’s going to change both the media and the creative strategy.

“Location has always been a big part of the story for dynamic creative,” Wong says. “Everything from serving local offers based on who you are and where you are at. That’s always been a fundamental part of the story.”

What’s going to change for brands, Wong says, is people-based marketing and how that ties in with local: “So people-based marketing really refers to getting a persistent cross-device ID on a person. This has been the holy grail of digital advertising for a long time.”

Now, the industry is getting to a critical point in its evolution where that’s possible: data from one system can be applied to the data in another system, providing a more complete picture of individual consumers. The adoption of mobile is what has enabled this change, affording a much more accurate dataset.

“Where I see this all feeding in is once you have a consistent cross-device ID on a person, you’ll be able to tie mobile data to desktop data,” Wong says. “Then you’re able to build a longer-term profile on the user, which allows you to do some pretty interesting stuff around conversion tracking.”

For example, knowing that a customer has used a wifi network at a particular restaurant or retail chain would allow a brand to tie that information to what messaging the customer was exposed to and what location they were at.

“It all ties back up to messaging,” Wong says. “Just because I’m sitting in the financial district in San Francisco at this moment in time doesn’t mean everything about me or how I spend my time. Instead, it’s about having a fuller picture that helps marketers drive a story.”

Thunder works with some of the biggest brands, agencies, and publishers in the U.S., including Anheuser-Busch, Charter, Time-Warner Cable, and Dex Media. Many of them are using location data to serve local advertising to customers, Wong says.

“It is becoming more and more common because of technology like ours, but also because of companies like Facebook and Facebook’s custom audience program,” he says. “The next level is how we’re starting to see a lot more people-based marketing.”

Big brands and SMBs are matching CRM records with physical addresses to media platforms to gain insights about which datasets can create a fuller profile of one customer. It’s already standard practice for brands to change their messaging based on a customer’s proximity, for both bigger and smaller companies.

“There’s a national CPG company that we work with and their offers are really based on location in order to do one of two things,” Wong says. “There is the pricing optimization exercise. They only want to give promotions to people who may not have purchased with them already. So they’re trying to break into markets where brand awareness is lower.”

The second reason is to generate better marketing attribution, referred to by some as “the next stage” of marketing. Marketing mix modeling exposes different groups of consumers to different levels of ad exposure, allowing brands to understand the efficacy of their ad campaigns.

“Some markets get promotions and others don’t, and by doing that you can do what’s known as an incrementality study,” Wong says. “So you want to figure out, for the additional increments of advertising, what sort of impact they have on sales. One way to do that is to serve in one market no ads at all, just completely exclude them. Or for example, serve them a public service announcement, and then in another market serve your actual ad. So it’s measuring the differences between the two.”

But attribution modeling has always been problematic. Brands found that they wasted half of their marketing budgets, but they have no data to identify which half.

“As digital has become an increasing percent of the budget, the ability to track spend has gone up,” Wong says. “Previously, on channels like TV and print, it was difficult to know if anyone even saw the ad at all.”

It’s not perfect yet, but the ability to track ads using location and other identifiers, and modeling to make better assumptions, is becoming more precise. Also, brands don’t have to buy targeted media in order to deliver a targeted message, Wong says.

“With audience data, I can personalize to individual people even if the media wasn’t in that specific geographic area,” he says. “That’s the part that is a new concept in a sense. Now you can buy media as cheap as you want and use creative technology to personalize.”

April Nowicki is a staff writer at Street Fight.