On His Hustle As An AdTech Entrepreneur, Industry Insights, And More: Interview With Digitalks Founder, Mohit Jain
Mohit Jain has been working in the AdTech space for over a decade in various capacities, the recent being the founder and chief consultant in his own venture- Digitalks in Dubai. He is passionate about data analytics, and particularly enthusiastic about the endless possibilities with the integration of technology and marketing. He has spent the last 15 years working focused on digital advertising & data and has worked with some of the biggest & brightest agency names in the MENA region.
Today he shares with us his thoughts and insights about not just the latest developments in AdTech, but also his hustle as an entrepreneur at Digitalks.
Mohit, firstly, tell us what made you take the leap from your already established career to starting your own venture, Digitalks?
I have just loved working with the agencies throughout my career span and that’s where I learnt the skills which made me whatever I am now but at some point, the work became quite repetitive, dealing with similar challenges over & over again, enormous work pressure and 14 – 16 hours working days was impacting work-life balance. On top of that, I wasn’t able to develop new skills to keep up with the pace of the industry. That’s when I decided to take this leap and take control. I am very glad I took this decision at the right time.
What unseen opportunities do you aim to tap with Digitalks?
I don’t know about unseen but I am trying to position Digitalks in between a world that sits between Marketing & IT i.e. Ad Tech. I think of us as “technical marketers” who understand how marketing communications succeed in the digital world and who can code at the same time and tie both worlds together with the help of data and that is why we call ourselves “Data Whisperers”.
Speaking about AdTech, what recent developments are you most thrilled and concerned about? You can cite one example for each.
Frankly, I am more concerned about how advertisers make use of existing AdTech they have access to.
Agencies are great in promising bells and whistles and sharing incredibly beautiful stories using words such as big data, artificial intelligence, deep learning, machine learning, etc but they fail miserably in fixing the foundations and most basic things in their AdTech. I’ll be very happy if they can simply just use Excel and Google Analytics properly to their full potential, to begin with.
How much importance or budget do today’s Advertisers give to data compared to their marketing budgets? Do they have separate budgets allocated for data alone (similar to marketing budgets)?
The true fact today is that the budgets for projects related to data come out from overall marketing budgets. Unfortunately there are not many advertisers who set budgets aside specifically for data specific work in the region we operate in but the situation is rapidly changing. Businesses seek more accountability and this can be only measured by data so things are already shifting. I believe that Covid-19 pandemic is going to further strengthen the budgets in this direction.
Is DMP mandatory for all the Advertisers who are spending their budgets across multiple platforms. Isn’t that a costly affair for small & mid-sized Advertisers?
DMP is an enterprise technology and definitely not for SMEs. In my opinion, DMP is a dying technology which is severely impacted by walled gardens from Google & Facebook, the war of browsers against cookies, GDPR & similar laws, and most importantly it is dying because DMP ad tech companies oversold & overcharged advertisers to a great extent and then they failed miserably in delivering the business results.
Marketers often get confused between DMP & CDP. Can you please simply state the difference between them both and which one should the Advertisers pick first?
Both of these terms can be confusing for someone who doesn’t work with these platforms closely. The confusion is understandable as both technologies claim to collect, unify, segment and activate customer data across digital channels. In simple words, think of a DMP as a big database that collects addressable “cookies” of your prospects & customers and provides a capability to push this data to outside activation platforms so you can reach them with the right message wherever they are or use this data to personalize their experiences on your website or app. On the other hand, think of CDP as a “data pipe” to pass your own customer data to multiple places depending on the use cases such as when someone fills up a lead form on your website you want to send this data to your CRM, to your email marketing vendor, to your SMS vendor, Google’s & Facebook’s of your world so you can target these users online and then also trigger a workflow to your contact centre partner in India so they can schedule a call with your sales team.
What’s your take on Google disabling the third-party cookies in Chrome? How is it going to affect the data industry of advertising?
It does mean the honeymoon is over for some companies and it is going to impact the audience sizes available in your DSP based on interest and affinity however as the biggest budgets are going to Google, Facebook, Amazon and new social channels such as Snap and TikTok – these guys have built their companies on data they own so I am sure nothing is going to change for them as they will figure out a way however for consumers it does mean more “privacy”. I think it was a very smart move from Google as they prepared themselves clearly to tackle this situation before they announced the change to the world. They gave themselves a 2 years deadline too. Cookies track consumers on the web but things would really change when this rule will be applied on mobile apps as well where cookies are not present and the glue is the device ID of the consumer which is a more powerful piece of data than a cookie. It would be interesting to see how the future will unfold on this front.
Should Advertisers keep buying third-party data from DMPs for their campaigns on programmatic? Is it really worth spending those additional dollars on this data?
It depends on what is your objective. If you are a CPG advertiser looking for mass reach, then these 3rd party datasets can be useful but if you are a performance-driven advertiser then in my experience these 3rd party datasets don’t bring the results they seek. 3P data bought from a DMP or through a DSP is more or less the same but the data volumes of a DMP-based 3rd party data could be higher depending on how that segment was configured.
Coming back to your company Digitalks, how do you plan to increase your verticals and business overall? Is there any expansion plan on cards?
We are a talent-driven business and expansion for us means bigger team sizes. A lot of companies prefer the “hire fast fire fast” approach but that is not my style.
I am not too concerned about the business as there is too much work out there if you know what you are doing. In addition, I don’t want me or my team to end up working 18 hours a day.
What would you suggest to the young Digital Advertising professionals who are looking to build their career around data science? Is there any specific course or education that you would want to recommend to them to enhance their skills?
I think the first piece of advice I give to young professionals entering into the world of data is to understand where they want to start first. I see 3 very broad categories-
- Folks who focus on data collection and who can code, build data pipes, build data lakes, work with APIs, etc
- Folks who can take this data and give it a shape in the form of a report, dashboard, analysis, etc
- Folks who can go beyond and use this data in machine learning, artificial intelligence, statistical modelling and beyond.
At some point when you keep working on multiple projects, the lines become blurry and you start learning skills outside your core focus area naturally. Once you determine where you want to start then choose a course of your choice. There are so many providers out there that the choices have rather too many and confusing to choose. Coursera, Code Academy, EDX, Udacity, Udemy, Data Camp, Pluralsight, etc… the list goes on and on. However, folks who are interested in developing skills more focused on digital advertising & surrounding ecosystems than I highly recommend CXL.com. In all cases, newcomers should first start using the free training courses from Google, IBM, Harvard, Coursera and other technology providers which provide specific pieces of training related to their platforms.
The last question- During this unprecedented Coronavirus phase, brands are becoming conservative about their marketing strategies and spends. How do you think this will affect the overall Digital advertising industry? Does data have a role to play here to help the marketers float through?
The need for measuring every dollar spent is always critical but now due to the CoronaVirus situation, this demand is at its peak. Data has played a great role and will continue to do so in bringing this clarity to advertisers. The advertising budgets were already shifting to online but I think CoronaVirus will work like jet fuel and will speed up the journey of all advertisers who were missing out and will also fuel more money coming to online channels from offline channels.
More and more consumers will go online and as a result demand and supply both will increase however I think brands will be more driven to spend on performance campaigns than just branding campaigns. That right mix between branding & performance will make or break sense from a brand’s advertising budgets. Data will continue to proliferate and how advertisers make use of this data will be the only differentiator left between a successful brand vs average brand.