Trust: The Lifeboat in an Uncertain Digital World
By Randy Wootton, CEO at Rocket Fuel Inc.

As a long-time sailor, I resonate deeply with Simon Critchley’s (a modern philosopher) use of tides as a metaphor to describe how we experience and process anxiety. Most of the time, he suggests, we float along at high tide, so busy and occupied with what we do that we don’t notice those “rocks” that might otherwise keep us up at night. There’s simply too much to do, and it is hard to actually see these rocks below the water without the aid of radar, sonar and charts (my extension of his metaphor). But on occasions, the tide subsides, and we find ourselves standing there, looking out and seeing the rocks and asking ourselves questions about why we do what we do, what we really know and how we conduct ourselves given these realities.

Critchley obviously isn’t talking about digital marketing, but I think the lesson works just as well for our industry. So often, there’s so much to be done, and so much data with which to do it, that we just don’t have the time for the deeper reflection. This is unfortunate, because over time even the best swimmers tire from treading water. And when we’re awash in a sea of data, beyond the human scale of understanding, we need something — a lifeboat of sorts — to hold onto and keep us afloat.

That “thing” is trust. Two weeks ago I suggested that extended trust, a form of trust built around partnership and shared vulnerability, was a necessary corrective to the difficulty comprehending the enormity of the data we use to process even a single programmatic action. This isn’t an abstract motivation for us at Rocket Fuel, and as I mentioned in that previous post, I saw the value of providing actionable transparency first hand during my time at Salesforce.

At Rocket Fuel, we’re taking steps to build that extended trust. We recently announced a partnership with IAS, making us the first DSP to offer IAS Enhanced Video Quality Metrics for brand advertisers, which means we can provide verified brand experiences while significantly reducing fraud. Our partnership with IAS, and our work with other companies like Moat and comScore, allows our customers to assess their own risk when turning to us as a marketing and advertising platform. They can trust that we are making their marketing truly meaningful.

These types of verification are a necessary but insufficient part of the trust equation. They help provide a helping hand for all those marketers swimming at high tide. But they don’t help us understand more deeply, to build more strategic and mutually empowering relationships, in those moments when the tide recedes and we’re left wondering if we even know what we think we know. That’s why we’re taking concrete steps to be there in those moments of marketing anxiety. We recently launched our Marketing that Learns graph a real time, interactive tool that visualizes the variables our machine learning has discovered are most is considering to enhance and refine our look alike and act alike modelling, for the benefit of their campaign. The Marketing that Learns graph provides powerful insight not only into what we do, but into what we can know about that magical intersection of right time, right message, right audience. That’s information marketers can use long after their campaign has finished running.

And in the next few weeks, we’ll announce the launch of the Rocket Fuel Institute, a research group housed here at Rocket Fuel and that analyzes our roughly 72 petabytes of stored behavioral campaign data to provide new perspectives and new insights that marketers can use, whether they work with us or not. As a company that succeeds because of its ability to process data, and in an industry that needs to better understand its own practices as defined by that data, I see it as our responsibility to contribute to our collective body of knowledge, to be a source of information in those low tide moments when marketers are otherwise left wondering. Our first Rocket Fuel Institute research paper, for example, will examine the effect of household influencers on the purchase decision in key verticals, and the impact that advertising to influencers can have on the eventual conversion decision. This research will help anyone who wants to improve their campaign or think about their attribution models, and we’re excited to deliver something that benefits our industry.

We need to move beyond contractual trust to extended trust to address the trust crisis in our industry. Customers need to trust that they’ll be supported, that you’re not just in it for yourself, that you care about their success and the health of the overall industry. I think, in reality, that most martech and adtech companies do truly value customer success — even our biggest competitors — but I think it is incumbent on all of us to do more than just care. To be customer obsessed in the digital marketing space is to contribute more, verify more, and deliver more. We call this being “Customer First” and it is a core value for all Fuelers. We are bringing it to life in all that we do, what we build, what we say and how we are going to engage our customers, partners and the broader ecosystem.

Originally published at

One clap, two clap, three clap, forty?

By clapping more or less, you can signal to us which stories really stand out.