Q and A with Turn’s VP of Product and Marketing Philip Smolin

At Internet Week in NY, Turn announced it’s new data management platform (DMP), called the Turn Audience Platform. According to the press release, the platform, “integrates Fortune 500 brands and leading advertising agencies into the industry’s first open ecosystem for audience targeting, enabling them to discover and connect with the right audiences; plan intelligently across all media channels and devices; and understand how to allocate marketing budgets to maximize advertising ROI.” AdMonsters asked Philip Smolin, VP of Product and Marketing a few questions about the new platform, audience targeting, multi-channel ad operations, and how to move more brand ad spend to online.


Q: How does the Turn Audience Platform differ from other offerings in the DMP space?

‘DMP’ is a general term that every vendor defines differently.  For the Turn Audience Platform, our focus is to empower advertisers to: discover the right audiences for their brand, intelligently plan how to connect those audiences across channels and devices, and know  where to spend their marketing dollars.  There are a lot of features and technology cranking that goes on behind the scenes to make all of this happen, and  there are several areas in particular our customers tell us are the most differentiated.  The first isn’t very glamorous but it’s incredibly important: scalability.  The Turn Audience Platform is designed to support the massive volumes of real-time data collection required to support clients like Akamai, Experian and OMG’s Accuen Trading Desk.  At the Turn Audience Platform launch, scalability had already made Turn the industry’s largest DMP, processing over 500 Billion data events per month.  Moreover, we’re able to plug our clients into the first open ecosystem for audience targeting.  This means advertisers get the benefit of instant access to every major 3rd party data provider in the industry, while still having the ability to maintain direct relationships and unique contract terms with each data provider.  All of this combined gives advertisers the largest pool of audience data available and that translates directly into increased audience reach.  Each audience can then be synchronized with a broad range of DSPs and media providers to be reached across multiple channels and devices.

Another key differentiator our clients really care about is analytics.  Part of the Turn Audience Platform is a full, event-level data warehouse that stores every element of audience and marketing campaign data collected by the advertiser.  For customers with an in-house analytics team, we can provide direct query builder access that allows them to design any type of custom analytics and insights. 

Lastly, Turn’s DMP has access to the industry’s full real-time bidding (RTB) stream for ‘universal’ audience reach and frequency forecasting.  Why is this important?  Because it’s easy for a DMP to provide an analysis that tells you how many consumers are contained in your CRM or website retargeting audience, but what really matters is knowing how many of them you’ll actually be able to reach if you were to execute a media campaign!  Often these two numbers are very different from each other, and it’s an incredible time, effort and cost savings to know which audiences have the necessary scale to warrant creating campaigns to connect with them. 


Q: Could you please give us more details about the offline and online audience analytics and targeting mentioned in the press release? How does that work exactly?

In conjunction with CRM data onboarding partners, like Datalogix and TARGUSinfo, we bring a brand’s high value offline data online in a way that is completely anonymous and privacy compliant for use in targeting.  Once integrated, this enables brands to design audiences based on both offline and online activity, such as brick & mortar purchasing history, phone orders, direct mail responses, and other data for both audience analytics and targeting.  This means understanding where and why consumers are engaging with the brand, and having the ability to retarget those consumers across all media providers and channels.  This ‘CRM Retargeting’ is dramatically more powerful than traditional website retargeting.  Offline data is also instantly joined with the audience data available from every major 3rd party online data vendor which enables advertisers to do extensive research into audience skews and patterns, and identify entirely new audiences that look and behave like the brand’s existing customers.


Q: In your opinion, what are the benefits of using a data management platform for advertisers and brands?

The Turn Audience Platform enables a brand to centrally define their audience(s) and connect with them everywhere, across both offline and online media channels.  Not only does this expand the brand’s reach, but it dramatically increases marketing efficiency.  Now advertisers can synchronize their messaging to consumers across media channels, manage universal frequency controls, and have a single centralized view of the performance of all media and data.  These are concepts the industry has talked about since the mid 1990s and which are finally becoming a reality. 


Q: At Internet Week we heard a lot about how we as an industry need to increase brand advertisers spend online. What are some of the things that you think we can do to accomplish this?

Well for starters there’s still too much friction in the system.  It’s simply much easier for an advertiser to reach a broad audience segment with one broadcast media buy.  The adoption of DSPs and auction markets has solved this problem in remnant inventory, and the next step is for the auction markets to support guaranteed sales of premium inventory.  We’ll actually be there in the near future, and it’s going to be an absolute revolution in workflow efficiency for media planners and ad ops when it happens.

At the same time the industry standard ad units have to become bigger, more engaging and immersive.  30 second TV spots enable the advertiser to evoke an emotional reaction.  When was the last time an online advertisement made you laugh or cry?  Dramatic increases in Internet bandwidth have now made this possible and the IAB is making good progress with the new proposed ad unit standards, but publishers and the industry as a whole need to move more aggressively in upgrading the ad unit experience. 

The last component is creating a universal view of the audience, and that’s why the DMP innovations are so exciting.  When you can design an audience once and connect with them across all digital media via a single click of your mouse, the effectiveness and efficiency of online media increases dramatically vs. offline and where that capability will never exist.


Q: Where do you feel that audience targeting fits in with the whole media buying picture?

Traditionally, advertisers have used content as a proxy for reaching audiences.  The emergence of DMPs, such as the Turn Audience Platform, is empowering advertisers to change the game and target audiences directly.  Don’t get me wrong – content still has a lot of value – but in the new world of digital marketing it all begins with audience.  And this isn’t just theory, it’s already reality.  Over 75% of the ad impressions delivered through the Turn Media Platform (our DSP) utilizes some amount of audience data for either targeting or bid price optimization.  What the Turn Audience Platform enables advertisers to do is now extend this concept across all media channels and devices.


Q: Mobile and Video are fast growing segments of the digital advertising industry. Can you give us some best practices for multi-channel ad operations, audience targeting and data management?

Different channels are better suited for different stages of the marketing funnel.  Advertisers should utilize video when the goal is upper funnel to support brand discovery, awareness and engagement. Mobile is lower in the funnel and better suited to brand reinforcement and driving to conversions, particularly for geo-based objectives (such as retail sales). What matters is to centrally manage all of your media  channels and data vs. breaking them out into separate campaigns and operating them in a silo.  When the data is centralized it enables you to synchronize your messaging across channels, and leverage audience targeting across both guaranteed premium buys as well as auction-based remnant inventory.  This makes it possible to coordinate all media planning, buying and optimization to drive a level of marketing effectiveness and media buying efficiency that has never previously been possible.  It’s very cool stuff.


Philip is VP of Product and Marketing at Turn, where he leads product management and all marketing functions for the company. Previously, Philip served as the General Manager of Turn’s Platform Solutions Group, which was created in 2009 to provide Turn’s media optimization technologies to global agency holding companies, independent agencies and direct advertisers.
Prior to Turn joining Turn in 2005, Philip held product director positions at MatchLogic, Excite@Home and PayChoice, where he developed many of the industry’s first 3rd party ad serving platforms, rich media tools and CPM yield management systems for internet portals and top tier publishers. Having specialized in online advertising systems since 1997, Philip is a recognized industry expert on ad exchanges, behavioral targeting and performance optimization for display advertising.