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Growing a business in an Evolving Adtech Landscape: An interview with Sloan Gaon

The Native Society

The Native Society
June 8, 2017

My NativeAdVice:

Bio:

Sloan Gaon is the CEO of PulsePoint, leading the company’s vision and mission to deliver integrated, value-based digital marketing solutions for advertisers and publishers. A renowned industry veteran, Mr. Gaon has executive management expertise in global digital marketing, content and e-commerce. Prior to joining PulsePoint, Mr. Gaon served as CEO of Dotmenu, the leading online food e-commerce company, where he successfully navigated its acquisition by Grubhub. Through Dotmenu’s flagship sites Allmenus and Campusfood, Mr. Gaon successfully grew reach and revenue for the biggest network of restaurants across the nation. Prior to Dotmenu, Mr. Gaon was General Manager of the Web Content channel of Adknowledge, (the 4th largest ad network in the world) where he was responsible for managing the strategy, product, sales, business development and P&L of the group. Mr. Gaon also held numerous management positions at MIVA/Findwhat including SVP, Consumer Entertainment and Corporate Development where he was responsible for managing the M&A activity and strategy of the company, including the sale of the MIVA ad network assets to Adknowledge and Spill.com to Hollywood Media.

How did you get into the industry?

I distinctly remember watching the iconic 1984 Apple ad air during the Super Bowl. After the ad was over, I turned to my dad and said, “I need a new Macintosh.” Looking back, this moment showed me the impact that successful advertising can have on consumers and the power of that connection. I knew I wanted to be a part of that. I’ve spent my career building and growing internet companies that create meaningful connections with consumers.

Any emerging industry trends

In a world where customization is more critical, marketers will increasingly look to sequential storyselling as a way of delivering relevant and appealing content to consumers. By telling a sequenced story to a consumer across multiple forms of advertising over time, marketers can more effectively target consumers during specific life events – and can customize the messaging based on the stages of that experience, such as connecting with an expectant mother over the course of her pregnancy, a new homebuyer during the purchase of a home, or an auto-intender as they research and buy a car. These events go through stages, generating a lot of signals for an advertiser to use to form a bond with consumers. The main concept behind sequential storyselling is telling a time-bound story to consumers across multiple forms of advertising to make a connection and ultimately, a sale.

Advances in the relationship between healthcare and technology are also hugely interesting and exciting. From wearable devices and the power they can ultimately have in monitoring and improving health, to virtual healthcare, to technological advances in medical devices, the potential in this arena is limitless.  It is so inspiring to think about how technology can help enhance wellbeing and enrich lives.

Any industry opportunities or challenges?

At PulsePoint, we’re committed to creating next-generation programmatic solutions for advertisers and publishers to simplify the marketing process of connecting the right consumer, with the right message, at the right time, in the right environment. This has different applications in different areas of our business.  For our programmatic exchange, this has meant providing a solution that gives publishers a unified view of their entire bid landscape so they can easily make decisions which will increase their monetization.  Our Content Marketing Platform is also rooted entirely in simplifying the process for marketers by providing a unified platform for distribution across top social media channels, native platforms, content discovery platforms and premium websites at global scale.  This consolidates workflow and simplifies execution for brands as they continuously look for ways to differentiate themselves and connect with their core audiences in an increasingly fragmented marketplace.

 Shift in healthcare ad spend to programmatic

When it comes to programmatic, healthcare finds itself behind other industries in terms of knowledge and market share. PulsePoint has built a platform to propel the industry forward by creating an entry point to facilitate programmatic advertising for this key segment. PulsePoint Health helps healthcare marketers navigate the complex world of real-time advertising with custom data packages and advanced content marketing opportunities, while ensuring brand safety. In addition, we have created the Programmatic Health Council (PHC), an advocacy group comprised of 30 select programmatic and healthcare advertising experts committed to leading advocacy efforts to advance programmatic advertising among health brands/agencies and publishers.

Inspiration for the business idea, and your vision for the Business?

PulsePoint formed as the result of a merger of two digital media companies: Datran Media, an award-winning audience measurement platform, and Context Web, a pioneer in contextual targeting and one of the first real-time bidding ad platforms. In order to foster growth, we restructured the merged firms to create a business focused on our core competencies – programmatic solutions and contextual targeting.  At our core, PulsePoint is, and always has been, a company about making ads matter. We do this for both publishers and marketers through innovative products and capabilities that make the process easier. All our offerings are designed with this end goal in mind.

What's next for the Business in the near future?

We just launched an enhanced SaaS platform for content marketers.

o    Key benefits of our Content Marketing SaaS platform include:

•    Unified distribution across top social media channels, native platforms, content discovery platforms and premium websites at global scale.  

•    Platform metrics to optimize post-click engagement.

•    Real time and dynamic optimization of campaign configuration to eliminate under-performing content, channels and devices.  Additionally, the platform’s intelligent technology iteratively learns from data to continuously update algorithm for maximum performance

•    Scale for precise targeting to highly relevant audiences in contextual environments.

In 2017 we will continue to advance programmatic marketing for the healthcare category, we are actively exploring M&A opportunities and we remain committed to innovating and making ads matter.

Your key initiatives for the success of the Business?

Our goal is to drive value for our partners by focusing on solving the larger challenges in play. Consequently, our product suite reflects significant opportunities to advance programmatic advertising, and each offering represents a critical area of growth for the market. Healthcare marketing is a $50B advertising industry – and programmatic spend dramatically under indexes. PulsePoint Health addresses this by helping healthcare marketers navigate the complex world of real-time advertising with custom data packages and advanced content marketing opportunities, while ensuring brand safety. Another area of complexity has been the increasingly fragmented programmatic landscape. Publishers now need a solution to help unify operations, streamline optimization and maximize monetization. Vision, PulsePoint’s publisher solution, facilitates monetization of every ad unit on the page in real time. And, as brands continuously look for ways to differentiate themselves and connect with their core audiences, the role of content marketing continues to grow in importance. Our content marketing platform automates the distribution of content marketing to the right audience at the right time across social, native and content discovery channels.

Your most difficult moment at the Business? (and what did you learn?)

One of the greatest challenges PulsePoint has faced is sustaining momentum as a result of rapid growth. We knew that a strategy grounded on innovation would drive us forward. This has led us to systematically enter new verticals where there is significant revenue opportunity. Additionally, once we hit a phase of rapid growth, continuing to hire the right people has been more important than ever. We firmly believe that corporate culture and a strong team are what drove growth in the first place, so in order to continue on an upward trajectory a quality workforce must follow suit.

Ideal experience for a customer/client?

The truth is consumers don't care whether the message they receive is sponsored or not - they care about how it relates to them and whether they find it meaningful. Programmatic technology has evolved to allow marketers to get more specific in delivering the right message to the right audience at the right time – which ultimately provides something of value to consumers. We help marketers make these types of connections with their audiences – regardless of the format of messaging they are using or the environment they are targeting – from content marketing, to video, to any creative format across any device.

How do you motivate others?

Goal setting and transparency are things we take seriously at PulsePoint. Alignment around goals helps to ensure uniformity of mission and a sense of shared purpose. In addition, we practice transparency to foster trust. To be successful everyone in an organization needs to be on the same page and operate with complete information. We don’t hold back – we are honest and frank – encouraging an open exchange of information and ideas. These two key tenets have helped to ensure that our team feels connected with our mission and is galvanized to achieve greatness together.

Career advice to those in your industry?

I live by the Jack Welch quote: Change before you have to. In ad tech, this phrase is not only an inspiration, but also a survival tactic. The marketplace landscape is shifting daily, with a new M&A transaction occurring every minute, so the mantra of keeping your head above water is no longer enough. Consumers and investors alike are fixated on the future. It’s important to always look for ways to innovate and differentiate. Identify the white space in the market and go there. Additionally, I stress the importance of being exposed to multiple disciplines within an organization. Understanding how the business is run and how the sausage is made is critical to making informed decisions and ultimately to advancing one’s career.

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