In July this year, programmatic direct mail platform PebblePost raised $47 million. We spoke to Adam Solomon, Chief Product Officer at PebblePost, to understand how the new funding would help the company improve its programmatic direct mail platform.
MTS: How do you see the European market for programmatic capabilities faring in comparison to the US?
Adam Solomon: Programmatic is very sophisticated and more centralized in the European market than the U.S. because of the outsized power that agencies maintain in Europe. Programmatic buying and selling has been controlled to date by agency trade desks. The burning question today is with the GDPR and new data regulations — and different flavors of those controls by country — how will these factors affect buying and selling? Will it slow the great gains the European market has made? If so, the result may swing more control to publishers and to those entities with direct relationships with consumers. The centerpiece of GDPR and its offshoots is this notion of a notice to the consumer to opt in/out of sharing their data. Only entities with those direct relationships with consumers can ask those questions.
MTS: What are the major challenges that PebblePost foresees in the programmatic marketplace?
Adam: I always like to ask, ironically, is programmatic a strategy or a tactic? The programmatic marketplace and its technologies have been marching down the road toward efficiencies but not necessarily efficacy of a marketer’s message. There’s been a great deal of work done to improve efficiencies, such as header bidding and various ways of buying and selling media, but what gets the short shrift is creating effective experiences for consumers, and, therefore, brands. So the challenge is how do you take these technologies and bring them together with approaches and creatives that actually help the marketer achieve some objective? Where is the intersection between art and science? The pendulum has started to swing back to publishers and media owners on one side and the brands themselves on the other side, without a lot of intermediaries in between. Their collective goal remains figuring out how to engage consumers and using programmatic as a tactic to achieve that end rather than a strategy.
MTS: How would the latest hiring and funding enable the company to deliver truly integrated marketing platform?
Adam: It’s all about a healthy balance between staffing up our sales and marketing capabilities, including customer service/success to make sure we understand brand challenges and propose solutions that meet their unique business needs. We’ll continue to pursue our aggressive innovation goals for the Programmatic Direct Mail solution with new hires in product, analytics and engineering, to create the tools and technologies that brands want and need.
MTS: What new markets is PebblePost looking at? Would your product innovation strategies change with the latest funding?
Adam: We launched the Programmatic Direct Mail solution with online retail, but are gaining rapid traction in real-world retail store brands where 90% of all transactions occur. To serve these brands, we’re investing in research and development to connect the dots across sales channels in never-been-done-before solutions.
Beyond retail, we are exploring other verticals like finance and travel, and plan to expand further in 2018. In terms of markets, we have hired a General Manager of European Market Strategy, who is laying the groundwork to explore regional and country-by-country potential for expansion of the Programmatic Direct Mail solution.