We're delighted to welcome back Tim Flagg from Advantagious to PI LIVE this month who will be hosting a number of key sessions over the two-day conference on October 15-16.
Ahead of Flagg’s appearance, PerformanceIN caught up with him to discuss how the company is doing since it's launch last year, his stance on GDPR in affiliate and performance and what he's most looking forward to at PI LIVE.
Hi Tim, great to have you on board as a host for PI LIVE once again. What are you most looking forward to from this year's event?
Tim Flagg: Apart from catching up with acquaintances and seeing the latest product demos, I enjoy being able to immerse myself in the world of performance marketing for two whole days. No longer am I the only person in the room who wants to talk about data, digital and marketing technology – suddenly, I am surrounded with thousands of people who are all experts. It’s the comic-con for performance geeks like me.
It's been a while since you launched Advantagious, how has the business been doing?
TF: This time last year we were just launching into closed beta with our first product, a browser plug-in. We’ve taken the learning and feedback from users and earlier this month we launched a full suite of products for the consumer including an updated browser plug-in, mobile apps and a web dashboard. Do sign up at advantagious.com if you haven’t already, I’d love your feedback. Users we’ve spoken to have been really interested in our mission, particularly as ‘personal data’ has been so prominent in the news over the last year. We’re now focused on building out communities of new users, refining the product and developing the platform for businesses who want to reach our members – we’ll be announcing more in this area soon.
So GDPR came into force this year and there's been a number of key debates and approaches from affiliates, networks and performance marketers. What's been your stance on it and its impact on handling personal data?
TF: The GDPR is about more than just Data Protection, it sets out to shift the balance of power back to the consumer. Our mission is to empower the consumer too, so I’ve always seen it as a piece of legislation that reflects a growing trend, whilst also acting as an accelerant. When we started building Advantagious over two years ago we identified this shift. Consumers are becoming aware of the value of their data and they want control. The GDPR gives consumers sovereignty over their data, at the point where the volume and value of personal data is set to increase.
Any business that wants to collect personal data about a subject will only be able to do so with their permission, which has led to businesses having to delete large parts of their marketing data. Of course, this has had massive implications for those businesses that are based on buying and selling personal data. But…data is still being traded without the expressed permission of the user, and without the user getting any share.
We think any model that treats the user as ‘serf’ is increasingly anachronistic and that the new model must be consumer-centric. We’re building the platform that puts the user at the centre of the transaction, giving them the value of their personal data whilst giving the advertiser the ability to access insights about the user, that are accurate, up-to-date and user validated.
How has Advantagious responded to the regulation, particularly in the process of customer data?
TF: Transparency and education are key. The GDPR requires that any business that wants to access a user’s personal data must explicitly state why they want the data, how they’re going to use it and how long they’re going to keep it. We’re completely transparent with our members. We exist to empower our users, so they know that anything we’re doing will be in their interests. We were built around the principles of the GDPR, so we have privacy and security have been designed into our products and systems from the beginning. Part of our platform gives users the ability to monitor their data profile and to help make it more accurate. So there is a high level of transparency for any data processing that we do because the output is shared with the user on our web dashboard.
Performance marketing continues to be in a constant shift with new ideas coming in. How has the role of the channel evolved over the last 12 months?
TF: Actually, I’ve been quite disappointed by the lack of innovation in performance marketing in the last 12 months. The majority of brands and martech vendors have been reacting to the GDPR legislation. Tech giants such as Google and Facebook have been given significant fines for selling access to users data and the result is fewer advertising options for brands, and less accurate targeting.
Because GDPR is such a challenge for business we’re still waiting to see how the dust settles, but it means there has been very little evolution. What we have seen is a massive clean up and audit of mailing lists and databases, and that’s definitely a good thing for consumers and well overdue. Marketers have had to become much more familiar with data protection legislation (we haven’t even mentioned ePrivacy yet!) as well as the custodian and champion of the customer database. Even 2 years ago, I can’t imagine many marketers would have been able to get the board to agree to spend time and money on building one company-wide database, integrating from legacy systems. But many boards are now telling marketers to ensure post-GDPR compliance and making one single customer database – as this is the only real way to ensure that a user’s full data record can be erased (or ported) as GDPR requires. The long-term consequence is better marketing, to customers who are more engaged.
You’ll be in the thick of the action at PI LIVE; which sessions or topics on the agenda have really caught your eye so far and what talking points could drive the most debate?
You can’t talk to a marketing tech company these days without mentioning AI and Blockchain. But beyond the buzzwords, these technologies provide solutions to some of the biggest challenges the industry faces.
Remember big data? It was a big problem because there was so much of it. Whilst AI can mean lots of things and have many different applications, it is machine learning and pattern recognition that is most immediately useful to find the signal in the noise within our massive data sets.
Another growing challenge for all marketing and advertising technology vendors is around privacy and security. It’s interesting to see a number of advertising businesses already talking about integrating blockchain into their tech stack. I’ll be interested to see how far they’ve got at using blockchain, and the alternatives.
Lastly, I’ll also be hoping to hear about solutions for voice search and visual search. They’re both big areas, with considerable investment in the latter, and they present big challenges that a lot of performance marketers need to get up to speed with to remain discoverable in the years ahead.