GumGum’s Rob Hall: Advertisers Can No Longer “Rely On Binary Descriptions” Of Consumers

GumGum’s Rob Hall: Advertisers Can No Longer “Rely On Binary Descriptions” Of Consumers

Rob Hall, founder and CEO of Playground xyz, now GumGum’s global head of data, has hailed the integration of Playground’s APAC media offering into GumGum’s overall offering, saying that the digital advertising market had moved on significantly in recent years.

“The internet is changing from following people around based on their past behaviours. The fact that I was undertaking a bunch of activities on the internet a week ago does not speak to my current mindset or receptiveness to an ad,” he told B&T at the Sydney launch event of the new integrated service.

“We’re trying to drive a shift in thinking. The macro trend is the disappearance of cookies but our mission is to make advertising more relevant. Don’t rely on binary descriptions of people — if you’re a man or woman, aged 18-24 or whatever. Think about the mindset that users are in.”

To that end, B&T revealed yesterday that Playground’s media portfolio had been integrated into GumGum’s APAC business. While Playground was acquired by GumGum in 2021, the integration marks a new chapter for both businesses and the clients they serve.

Now, media agencies and marketers will have access to Playground’s creative formats such as Hang Time, Super Skin and Hoverboard plus its Attention Intelligence Platform, and GumGum’s contextual intelligence platform, Verity. To be clear, adland will still be able to buy those products individually from GumGum but Hall said the true value is found when the trifecta of products are used in combination.

“We’re not pushing particular products or services on the customers… It’s really a choose-your-own-adventure. Yes, these are modular offerings but the real magic is happening where they meet” he explained.

“You’re no longer receiving a report on just attention. You get an attention report where context is a key dimension and you can understand attention by context, topics and keywords. Who would have known that Taylor Swift would have a relationship with the NFL? If you’re an advertiser targeting Taylor Swift keywords, all of a sudden the zeitgeist moves and intersects you with the NFL.

“We’re there measuring the context and attention and we can understand these phenomena better than anyone else. We can turn that into planning and insights tools better than anyone else and turn it into activation and reporting.”

There are, of course, a range of providers that offer these services individually — think Amplified Intelligence in the attention space, Bonzai in the creative space and the likes of Integral Ad Science in the contextual space.

However, offering them together gives GumGum’s clients something they desperately crave, especially at a challenging time for the industry — time.

Niall Hogan, GumGum’s new APAC general manager, explained that “agencies are always looking for efficiencies, it’s as simple as that.

“Their teams are stretched and they’re under-resourced. If they have one supplier who can do three things, rather than having to deal with three individual point solutions with different pricing models, platforms and UIs, it will drive efficiency,” he explained.

In fact, GumGum and Playground came together because the three products fit so well together.

“We both had creative, Playground had creative and attention and GumGum had context and creative,” said Hall.

“If we didn’t do a partnership, either side would have tried to build the technology to round out the proposition. In the end, partnering through an acquisition was the best path forward.”

There were also a range of geographical benefits to the acquisition. Hall explained that Playground had a very strong presence in Australia, New Zealand, Singapore and the UK and had started to make in-roads into the US. GumGum, meanwhile, had been a more US-centric firm with no presence in the Antipodes or Singapore. It did, meanwhile, have a presence in Japan, while Playground did not.

Also speaking at the launch event were three staffers from Zenith, Havas and UM. All three honed in on the challenges faced by agencies with the deprecation of third-party cookies — now delayed until 2025 — and moving away from vanity metrics and producing meaningful results for clients.

“What we want to do for our clients is evaluate success from a brand’s perspective,” said Havas’ national head of partnerships and adtech, Kevin Fernandes.

“We don’t give a shit about CPMs, CPCs, CTRs, VTOs. Attention, even, to me that’s a hygiene metric. If your brand doesn’t ask about that, educate them but start talking about customer retention, lifetime value,” he said.

“When I speak to marketers, all they want is growth with the same budget year-on-year.”

Talking after the panel, Hogan said that agency folk across the market are on the edge of what could be a “quite scary” period.

“They were delighted [with the merger]. They’re looking for options. They were sat there saying we want good contextual solutions from people we can trust. It’s a win-win for agencies in Australia.”

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