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AiThority Interview Series With Domenic Venuto, Chief Operating Officer of Amobee

Domenic Venuto, Chief Operating Officer of Amobee

With AI, much of what’s being discussed in the industry is traditional machine learning or deep learning, and it will have a transformative effect.

Know My Company

Tell us about your interaction with AI and Data Science? How did you arrive at Amobee?

Over the course of my career, I’ve been part of some of the world’s most innovative companies that have achieved groundbreaking work in the fields of artificial intelligence, machine learning, data strategy, programmatic media, and ad tech.

Joining Amobee has given me the opportunity to work for a company that is shaping the future of a growing industry. As global telecommunications players arise and lead the next generation of digital advertising, the potential for Amobee–with backing from Singtel–is unlimited. No sector understands consumers the way telcos do and it’s a natural extension of their business to support the digital marketing landscape.

As Chief Operating Officer, I’m focused on scaling global operations to bring Amobee’s innovative technology and digital marketing solutions to marketers worldwide to increase our global footprint. I’m also leading the integration of Videology’s assets into the Amobee platform.

The industry is at an important inflection point with addressable TV advertising and the addition of Videology’s advanced TV buying platform, sophisticated planning tools and access to premium video inventory allows Amobee to lead the digital and TV convergence. We’re able to bridge TV and digital ad data to help marketers meet growing consumer demand for premium video and connected TV content.

Amobee is delivering next-generation advertising solutions for leading brands and agencies by allowing them to see across the walled gardens to better understand and orchestrate the consumer journey and understand how each channel is performing.

Prior to Amobee, I was General Manager for IBM Watson’s Consumer Division & Watson Advertising, where I worked on the launch of the world’s first patented AI-powered ad unit, helping transform AI and machine-based insights into predictive, high-impact solutions for marketers. At Publicis Groupe-owned VivaKi, serving as Global President of Data, Technology & Partnerships, my team was focused on all aspects of product development, from strategy and technology to experience and data.

What are your interactions with intelligent technologies in your daily life, including Alexa, Siri, self-driven cars, etc..?

I’m fascinated by the intelligent assistance and anything that will help support and facilitate my busy lifestyle by giving me time back in my day and allowing me to multi-task. I use Alexa at home to control lights and music, among other things, and I’m a heavy user of Siri on my phone. I religiously use the Weather Channel app with Watson; its accuracy and anticipation of my daily activities are unmatched.

The technology has come a long way and is becoming much more intuitive; it’ll only increase in functionality to connect devices across time and space. Voice activation and assistance in cars is the next frontier and will come to the realization very quickly, first as a safety feature and then as a necessity. I’m incredibly bullish on self-driving cars and how they will transform society.

As a mentor in the tech industry, how do you think should young marketers and sales professionals train themselves to work better with AI, machine learning, and virtual assistants?

Fundamentally, they shouldn’t fear technology.

Rather, they should be curious, hungry and devour the technology to figure out how to use it in a practical application. Young marketers have the benefit of being on the front lines and can pressure test, apply and provide feedback on how new technology can improve.

The right applications of AI are already better automating buying and optimization to free the marketing and agency teams to focus more on strategy, messaging and creative. Science and technology should augment and power the art of marketing, not replace it; you absolutely must have the right data and the right technology. You also need the right team interpreting the analytics and developing the strategy, AI alone will not move the needle for your business.

Tell us about your insights on the role of blockchain technology for digital advertising.

Blockchain is already helping solve challenges in the advertising industry, including transparency, cost reduction, increased efficiency and the elimination of fraud, making it a natural fit in the digital ecosystem and supply chain. I’m supportive of anything that prevents fraud and increases trust and transparency.

There’s been a seismic shift in the digital landscape with transparency and brand safety top of mind for both marketers and consumers alike. Brand safety only enhances customer experience, both for our clients and the consumers they’re looking to reach. Our long-term, advanced brand safety and fraud prevention initiative ensures we’re able to align brand and agency clients with the highest quality inventory to support campaign objectives by delivering ads that are in view and seen by a real audience in a brand safe environment.

What makes understanding AI and blockchain so hard when it comes to actually deploy them?

It can be hard to separate the hype from reality. Our industry gets really excited about new tech and race to deploy it without fully understanding the problem we’re trying to solve. There are lots of technology companies that have variations of algorithms and machine learning and AI; but many are the manifestation of good marketing, rather than good technology.

Among myriad other applications, Amobee’s platform uses AI to help automate day-to-day tasks, so the marketer is free to focus on strategy. Our data science team has built an ensemble of algorithms that provide feedback and take action in real time, allowing marketers the ability to significantly improve and optimize their campaigns in-flight quicker and more effectively. By leveraging AI to ensure the data coming in and data going out is more accurate and predictions are better and more precise, marketers will inherently drive better ROI for their clients.

How do you consume all the information on digital advertising and the impact of AI on the industry?

There’s so much information at our fingertips that it’s hard to consume everything. I read the trade publications and news outlets that I follow and trust. I also attend industry conferences and, most importantly, talk to people. Having that extensive network in place helps feed relevant information to pull the signal from the noise.

I also use advertising as a discovery tool, paying close attention to the content I’m being served to see how brands are bidding for my business. For instance, I’m looking for a new work bag; after a few strategic online searches I’m now sitting back and watch the ads I’m served as I go about my digital day. It’s an interesting way to discover new brands that I may not have previously considered. If you don’t already, I suggest you let advertising work for you in that way; you’ll learn something valuable about how we’re reaching and talking to consumers.

Where do you see AI/Machine learning and other smart technologies heading beyond 2020?

We believe a critical evolution is the interpretability of AI. It’s one thing to have a black box making decisions for you, but it’s another for the black box to actually be transparent. Artificial intelligence should inform human intelligence, not just replace or automate it. Good AI will be prescriptive; guiding users to understand the options, trade-offs and the predicted impact of decisions which can be made.

A very different dimension of AI is the emerging tech surrounding speech-enabled communications, which will be critical in personalizing the experience for B2B platforms. On the consumer front, voice-activated platforms will make digital advertising more personalized.

Additionally, with the shift of advertising dollars from traditional TV to streaming services on the rise, the unique ability to understand audience behaviors through contextual AI across linear and advanced TV will provide marketers deep insight into cross-platform media planning for advanced TV, mobile apps, and the web.

Fundamentally, what’s going to differentiate AI isn’t whether it’s a specific or branded product, it’s the data that’s fed into it and the interpretability of what comes out. Having the right strategy to activate data-driven marketing is something the modern marketer can’t live without; it informs everything from creative decisions to campaign performance. AI-driven insights and technology allows ambitious marketers the ability to go beyond merely knowing the customer but more effectively orchestrate the messaging and consumer journey across the right channels and devices.

The future is in production now and we’ll start seeing what emerges over the next 18 months.

The Crystal Gaze

What AI start-ups and labs are you keenly following?

There’s a few that I’ve been keeping my eye on. Bytedance has $3.1 billion in funding and combines the power of AI with the growth of Mobile technology to revolutionize the way people receive and consume information and its content platforms are enabling people to enjoy content powered by AI technology, including through one of the most popular mobile apps in China. Crowdstrike focuses on cybersecurity and is the first cloud-native endpoint protection platform built to stop breaches.

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Finally, Microsoft-backed Netradyne is focused on driver and commercial fleet safety, something that will be incredibly important as we move toward an autonomous driving world.

What technologies within AI and computing are you interested in?

With AI, much of what’s being discussed in the industry is traditional machine learning or deep learning, and it will have a transformative effect. Some of the most important applications of AI will revolve around helping marketers do their job smarter, better and faster.

But while these tools are highly effective for automating mathematical analyses such as media performance optimization, it’ll take a little longer for it to scale in creative-based functions such as messaging, and creative or content design. And much of the dependency, quite simply, is about feeding in the right data v building a better algorithm.

For example, most of the technology for voice search advertising is already in place, but the key is having a sufficient diversity of brands and voice creatives, so the experience can be tailored and highly relevant for the consumer. When AI and machine learning applications are able to understand natural human speech tap the right data sets to drive an outcome–when you’re able to talk to your laptop and ask a detailed, complex question and get an answer–that’s when this technology will really start to transform the way we work.

This is why telcos have the potential to be major disruptors in digital advertising. With proper consumer consent and privacy protocols, they can have a comprehensive view and understanding of customers. Many of them have recognized this globally and have invested aggressively in digital.

Telco operator data can help enrich AI applications and solve broader marketing needs that allow for better personalization, relevance, and a more seamless experience that consumers have come to expect.

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In a few years time, AI will be everywhere we look, but its use and outcomes will only be as good as the data being fed into the learning algorithms. Data will continue to be the differentiating component.

As a tech leader, what industries you think would be fastest to adopting AI/ML with smooth efficiency? What are the new emerging markets for AI technology markets?

The fastest to adopt has been in smart home automation. We’ve seen rapid consumer adoption with smart speakers that have a voice assistant, connected entertainment, appliances, smart thermostats that save energy and it’s poised to continue its growth.

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As far as emerging markets are concerned, it’s going to be autonomous driving. A fully autonomous vehicle is still years away, but automakers are aggressively rolling “smart” cars and trucks off assembly lines today. The industry has to overcome a number of challenges before autonomous vehicles can truly replicate the “human side” of driving, but once it does, it’s going to change everything. With less human intervention and decision-making, our roads should be safer.

And, our environment will be cleaner due to less fuel being consumed.

What’s your smartest work related shortcut or productivity hack?

It’s trying to solve for my email inbox!

I have a lot of filters and rules set-up to parse-out email and be able to focus on what’s important. I rely heavily on these automated tasks and prompted responses because email is my workflow and a central part of my communication method in both my business life and with friends and family.

Tag the one person in the industry whose answers to these questions you would love to read:

Anybody that’s creating the future right now, I would love to have over for dinner. Anyone that’s in an R&D lab, building the products that I’m going to see and use in 2025 are fascinating company to keep.

Thank you, Domenic! That was fun and hope to see you back on AiThority soon.

Domenic Venuto, Chief Operating Officer of Amobee, is a seasoned marketing technology executive with over 20 years of senior management experience. Domenic is an expert in creating and managing global operational scale in complex environments, including programmatic media, ad tech, and AI and machine learning. Domenic is responsible for scaling Amobee’s operations worldwide to serve marketers and agencies with the most innovative technology and digital marketing solutions globally.

Prior to joining Amobee, Domenic served as the General Manager for IBM Watson’s Consumer Division & Watson Advertising, where he was responsible for leading the company’s consumer digital business.

Amobee is a technology company that transforms the way brands and agencies make marketing decisions. The Amobee Marketing Platform enables marketers to plan and activate cross channel, programmatic media campaigns using real-time market research, proprietary audience data, advanced analytics, and more than 150 integrated partners, including Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat and Twitter. Amobee is a wholly owned subsidiary of Singtel, one of the largest communications technology companies in the world, which reaches more than 650 million mobile subscribers. The company operates across North America, Europe, Middle East, Asia and Australia.

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