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AiThority Interview with Ross McNab, President, North America Advertising at Cardlytics

Hi Ross, please tell us about your journey in technology. What inspired you to start at Cardlytics?

I started my career in Australia in digital advertising sales before pivoting to adtech with a firm I co-founded, Kinected. When Kinected was acquired by MediaMath I took over their North American operations for about 5 years before joining Cardlytics.

I recognized immediately that Cardlytics was directly solving some of the key challenges b2c advertisers face in a unique way. By targeting consumers and tracking ROI at the purchase level (which required a massive investment by Cardlytics founders to build those financial institution relationships and technical integrations) advertisers who use our platform are able to prove that they’re driving incremental sales with their ad spend. Provable incrementality and the ability to drive business goals like new customer acquisition, existing customer retention and lapsed customer reactivation are the holy grail of advertiser Return on Ad Spend.

How have digital advertising trends evolved during the pandemic? What unique challenges and opportunities did you identify in these last 18 months or so?

Advertisers have needed to grapple with omnichannel relationships, both in terms of how they market to their existing and prospective customers as well as how they deliver their goods and services. The industry was probably already headed in this direction, but the need to socially distance really accelerated this trend.

This has made it even trickier for advertisers to evaluate what is and isn’t working. It’s a lot harder to connect the dots when you need to consider whether your customer is buying from you online, in the store or through a third-party delivery platform.

The flip side of this is that there’s also more ways than ever to give customers their ideal buying experience. It’s also an environment where the Cardlytics platform has a huge competitive advantage. Because we aren’t relying on 3rd party cookies and cross-platform tracking and are instead tracking when a customer activates an offer linked to their credit or debit card and then makes a purchase, it doesn’t really matter how the customer engages with the brand, we can show the advertiser the sales they drove with Cardlytics across multiple purchase pathways almost every single time.

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We are seeing new forms of digital advertising, especially in the form of audio advertising, in-gaming, and native videos. How should advertisers and publishers prepare for these disruptive platforms in the coming months?

Cardlytics and the concept of card-linked offers is itself a disruptive platform. I think you’ll see that forward-thinking, outcome-driven marketing and advertising leaders are always going to ensure that they’re testing new platforms or channels to engage their customers.

And it’s always going to be the teams that really understand how they impact their business and how their work drives revenue that will define the next evolution of digital advertising, because they’ll naturally invest more time and resources into whatever helps them drive a better ROAS.

Tell us more about your views on “Cookiepocalypse.” What predictions do you have for this phenomenon?

What you’re seeing right now is consumer-driven recognition that privacy is a human right. I think it’s wonderful that there’s a vibrant discussion about how digital advertisers can distinguish themselves by focusing on providing value, in the form of relevancy for customers without needing to veer into manipulative, exploitative or voyeuristic practices.

Some of the largest names in consumer technology have already recognized that there is an opportunity to lead this change rather than being dragged along kicking and screaming.  And that’s because they’ve seen that the topic has a level of critical mass that means it’s unlikely to peter out. It’s becoming a moral imperative for all players in the digital ads space to be on the right side of consumer privacy.

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What are the alternatives to third party data platforms and sources? Are they trustworthy and compliant as per laws of the land?

I can’t speak in generalities about 3rd party data platforms or their legality, but I think we’ve all seen how collecting personally identifiable information has had vast legal, financial and reputational ramifications for many brands.

Certainly the laws are not going to become more permissive or lax in how consumer data is collected, stored and shared. If your advertising strategy hinges on that type of information, you would be wise to start working on a new approach.

Alternatives are out there today, without question. Cardlytics is proof of that. We provide a platform for advertisers to be hyper targeted and relevant in who they reach and empower consumers to monetize their purchasing preferences by earning cash back. And we do this without seeing, analyzing or storing any personally identifiable information or using any sort of 3rd party, cross-platform cookies.

Advertisers and publishers are among the top adoption centers of blockchain, crypto and NFT. How do you analyze these trends at Cardlytics? Any warning or advice you have for new players in this space?

Leaders in this space will always define the future by aligning their business goals with new technologies. We’re certainly looking to foster our own relationships with partners in this space with the goal of bringing our cash back offers to even more consumers, but it’s still quite early to pass judgment or give advice.

What kind of talent are you looking to hire to expand your market share?

Carlytics is growing so quickly there isn’t a department I can think of that isn’t looking to grow its existing team. Due to our aggressive growth and growth targets we’re a great fit for people with an entrepreneurial spirit, but having a culture of diverse thinking across the sales, customer success and product development teams is crucial for building a thriving company spirit.

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What do you think about the “great resignation” trends and how do you ensure talent retention at your company?

More than anything the senior leadership at Cardlytics has tried to be as supportive of our people as possible. We’ve been transparent about what this period of uncertainty has meant for Cardlytics and have done our best to provide visibility into our future as a company.

We’ve worked hard to foster an environment of trust where people feel comfortable talking about their personal and professional ambitions, and someone discovers they need to take their career in a different direction to achieve their highest sense of self and ultimate purpose, that’s ultimately a good thing.

Your favorite podcast as of recently?

The CPG Guys, because I just appeared on that one as a guest!

Thank you, Ross! That was fun and we hope to see you back on soon.

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Ross McNab joined Cardlytics as President, North America Advertising from MediaMath, an independent programmatic company for marketers. While there, he tripled the company’s revenue from leading marketers by forging strategic improvements to commercial strategy as their North America Managing Director. In his role at Cardlytics, McNab has joined the executive leadership team, and will lead the North America advertising team to drive continued revenue growth for the company.

A native of Australia, McNab co-founded Kinected in Sydney, Australia in 2012, which would eventually be acquired by MediaMath. Prior to its purchase, Kinected operated ad technologies in Australia, New Zealand, and the wider APAC region. As Co-Founder and Chief Revenue Officer, McNab oversaw sales, client service, finance, and HR. Prior to Kinected, McNab was the Director of Global Business Development at MediaMind, where he incubated a managed-service demand-side platform offered in North America, EMEA, and APAC.

Cardlytics is a digital advertising platform. We partner with financial institutions to run their banking rewards programs that promote customer loyalty and deepen banking relationships. In turn, we have a secure view into where and when consumers are spending their money. We use these insights to help marketers identify, reach, and influence likely buyers at scale, as well as measure the true sales impact of marketing campaigns. Headquartered in Atlanta, Cardlytics has offices in London, New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Austin and Visakhapatnam. In March 2021, we acquired Dosh, a transaction-based advertising platform and in May 2021 we acquired Bridg, a customer data platform.

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