Interview with Dustin Engel, Head of Analytics and Data Activation at PMG
In MarTalk Stacktastic we talk with marketing practitioners about their MarTech stack components, experiences, challenges and opportunities. Join us as they share what MarTech means to their business.
Read Dustin Engel, Head of Analytics and Data Activation at PMG talks about proprietary tools and technologies to solve large problems such as data automation, cleansing, blending and visualization, audience activation andstructured data media activation. His tip to growing agencies is to avoid dependencies but create efficient workflows and economies of scale. In his over 17 years of experience, Dustin has led digital marketing activities internally for brands such as Match.com and Blockbuster. He is a well-recognized digital advertising and retail industry expert, and a contributor to highly regarded industry publications such as MediaPost, iMedia and DM News
Could you tell me a little about yourself and how you came to be the Head of Analytics and Data Activation at PMG?
My role at PMG is to oversee our data and media activation teams. These include the Advanced Media Team (AMT) which encompasses our programmatic media buying and digital brand media activation, the Analytics and Data Science Team which manages our data blending, visualization and insights along with our data science capabilities including experiment design, statistical analysis and machine learning capabilities. Recently I have taken responsibility for our Audience Management team which oversees audience products and services and product management of our Audience Management Platform (AMP) and our Data Innovation Team which oversees data products catered to media optimization and workflow efficiency.
How this came to be, is a passion for the intersection of data, technology and media. This was developed over many years of serving in roles that were either completely new roles without a playbook (that I then had to create) or the role itself was to identify and iterate on new ways to solve problems. I found that the combination of and developing a keen understanding of data, technology and media typically created the easiest path to obtain a result. The market then shaped up to map to those skills. PMG ended up being the manifestation of that intersection in terms of services and solutions we provide to clients.
Are you happy with the buy-in for Marketing Technology that exists at PMG? Do you think the investments being made are adequate or could be more?
The buy-in for martech at PMG is beyond adequate. It is an essential part of our DNA as an agency. For one, we utilize more than 50 unique 3rd party platforms, tools and technologies to create value for clients. In addition, we have developed more than 30 proprietary tools and technologies to solve large problems such as data automation, cleansing, blending and visualization, audience activation, structured data media activation. A high percentage of our proprietary technologies are what we call “gap technology”. Meaning they fill in the gaps between ad technology built for the widest audience possible and unique client needs. The practical example is that
existing ad technology may cover 60–70% of a client’s needs. Our job is to fill in the remaining 30–40%.
We accomplish this through a high allocation of resources towards engineering and data science (about 25% of the organization). As best as we can tell, the industry average for agencies (outside of technology consulting agencies) will be in the 5–10% range.
We have a saying that agencies love to build Version 1.0 things. They hate 1.1 and beyond (cost of maintaining and iterating with the big payoff already behind them). We thrive in 1.1 and beyond and that endears our clients to us and the value we provide.
What is the key problem you are attempting to solve with marketing technology implementation — could be 360 customer view, better customer experiences, crafting better journeys, full circle attribution?
While we cover a range of problem areas, the areas in highest demand in 2017 are:
Audience activation -
With the bevy of audience activation opportunities across digital media in channels such as social, paid search and display, marketers have found the process of activating media consistently and in a privacy compliant manner has been a challenge.
While the original version of our Audience Management Platform (AMP) was designed to address the activation and privacy compliance, it is now a complete audience platform. New features included advanced segmentation and compliance and clean integration with traditional DMP’s and business intelligence solutions.
Attribution — Having been an early pioneer in digital attribution (going back to 2004), I have seen the ups and downs in demand and satisfaction in media attribution for marketers. This year is noticeably different. Marketers are seeing multi-touch attribution as table stakes and something they can no longer delay.
However, a lot of the same challenges to attribution apply. 1) Clean data going into the attribution platforms. 2) Making optimization easy for media planners and buyers. 3) The unheralded but biggest challenge of change management.
PMG’s heavy investment in our cloud-based data infrastructure allows for a massive reduction in these roadblocks. For starters, our data infrastructure has a net output of millions of processed and blended rows of data per week. Coupled with a robust data standards and governance process, we end up supplying the attribution platforms with clean data and reliable cost automation. Lastly, we take the raw log files out of those same platforms after the attribution is computed and integrate performance directly into our data visualization suite so that media planners and buyers don’t have to think about attribution…they can just go. The log file processing allows us to create custom visualizations for clients to address change management such as reconciliation of data between the attribution platform and legacy systems.
What are some of the challenges your team faces from a technology & integration perspective?
The primary challenge we deal with from a technology and integration perspective is the combination of rapid growth in the MarTech space, in terms of the amount of players, but also the rapid consolidation by the marketing cloud providers. For the former, we need to be extremely agile in adding new API integrations into our technology stack and quickly maximize their use. For the latter, consolidation creates change and in the underbelly of technology, namely the data, that can be complicated. Sometimes the consolidation is beneficial in that a smaller company gets access to more resources and new data. In other situations, innovative companies can lose their soul and with that, a lot of the value and roadmap innovation.
What is your take on the massive explosion of MarTech cos across so many categories? Do you feel spoilt for choice or is it just more of a chore to evaluate additional options?
This is tough to pencil down to one take or even an emotion.
The breadth of MarTech and the depth of the marketing clouds makes enterprise decision making paramount.
Choosing the right technology can have a positive or negative effect to an organization for 3+ years, which many marketers cannot afford to miss based on a bad decision. Many marketers we speak to also have tech stack fatigue. Too many platforms. Too little expertise in all of those platforms and very little integration across platforms. That is an area where we provide value by jumping into those platforms for clients and providing integration services. However, I see the breadth of MarTech competing for a finite share of wallet of and enterprise. Where PMG is a friend to both the MarTech providers and to clients is to help be the bridge and jump into implementation support to make sure it gets done right and on time. This is not something we really saw coming from a business perspective, but something we’re seeing a lot more regularly.
What is the one area of investment you’d like to make in the immediate future from a marketing tech perspective?
For us, our largest near term investment will be focused on resources to execute against our roadmap. This includes further investment in current skills such as data science but deeper expansion of skills that are in increasing demand such as customer segmentation and machine learning. Technology investment that is already underway is tied primarily to adding sources of data that can be blended with our own and with client data to create a fuller picture of new opportunities and areas of risk.
Build your own stack or buy into a pre-built martech cloud — what team are you on?
We are on the build your own party bus but believe it needs to be built it in a modular way that allows you to swap in pieces. If a pre-built martech cloud has better pieces or pure plays come into the market that can solve challenges in a better way, you need to be flexible. You never want to be indentured to any piece of technology if you don’t have to.
The trick is avoiding dependency but creating efficient workflow and economies of scale (very important for a growing agency like ours).
We build all technology and process under the assumption that a better one could come along. While our technology holds up for the most part and provides tremendous value, it also enables us to provide the most possible value to a client if a better solution comes along at some point.
Could you share for our readers, an infographic, list or description depicting your marketing stack (various marketing software products or platforms your team uses or subscribes to)?
PMG’s technology stack is comprised of 3 core platforms and more than 30 different tools all living within the PMG Cloud to address data automation and blending, audience onboarding and activation and structured data activation. In addition, PMG has developed custom applications for algorithmic bidding enhancement, experiment design and statistical analysis and forecasting for the wider agency. All of these proprietary platforms are designed to be modular and integrate with more than 50 third-party technologies and more than 1000 unique data sources across our client base.
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