Based in the Boston area, Alexandra (Alex) Theriault is an ad tech veteran who joined the industry after following in her mother’s footsteps. Her mother was a pioneering executive in the research and digital marketing industry and an influential role model for Alex, who hopes to see more women reach digital advertising’s upper echelon of executives.
We touched base with Alex recently about what’s top of mind for marketers and media companies, the most poorly understood areas of digital advertising, and why she would be running a B&B on a horse farm if she wasn’t working in the industry.
Based on your work with Lotame’s customers, what’s top of mind right now in digital advertising and data strategy?
It varies based on customer type, which I bucket into marketers and media companies.
Marketers are focused on maximizing their actionable first-party data footprints. They are testing addressable targeting methods that offer effective and efficient alternatives to third-party cookies. They are also trying to figure out what the heck clean rooms are and how to fit them into the mix.
Media owners are at various stages of deploying, optimizing, or being frustrated with their subscription strategies and associated efforts to maximize authenticated traffic. They are testing direct-sold and programmatic methods that offer scalable alternatives to third-party cookies. Like marketers, they are trying to figure out what the heck clean rooms are and how to fit them into the mix.
Digital advertising is constantly changing. What’s one thing that surprises you about the industry?
What’s old continues to be new again. July will mark my 15-year anniversary at Lotame. I have presentations from 2008 that are as relevant today as they were then, addressing market challenges and outlining data, audience, and industry solutions. That said, the means by which the mar tech and ad tech industries are addressing these needs have improved and become faster, more precise, and also complex.
Retailers, such as a grocery store, are a perfect example of what’s old is new again. They have adopted the age-old publisher model of monetizing their customer data both onsite and via extension, aka retail media networks. A decade ago, I didn’t give my local grocery store any personal information or access to my digital profile. Now, savvy grocery stores offer a worthwhile value exchange to the end customer for consented first-party data.
When COVID hit, I switched from one local grocery chain to another, solely because of their service to shop for me and bring groceries out to my car. I’m a loyal customer now who authenticates into their website on my desktop, as well as their mobile app on my cell phone once a week. And in exchange for the hour of grocery shopping per week I no longer need to do, they classify me into consumer personas—such as “pays too much for organic eggs and milk” and “mom who lets her kids indulge in nostalgic cereals like Fruit Loops and Lucky Charms”—and sell my data to brands.
In your opinion, what are the most poorly understood areas of digital advertising?
The conflation between third-party cookies and third-party data. We ran a fact check series in 2019 on this topic, and yet the industry continues to conflate the two. Third-party cookies still do not equate to third-party data, and the deprecation of third-party cookies does not equate to the death of second- or third-party data.
Third-party data is information collected by companies that don’t have a direct relationship with consumers. Survey and panel providers are a great example of companies that collect data and sell the aggregated information to interested parties. Auto dealerships, for instance, source third-party data from market research companies to learn what profile of consumers have recently visited competitive dealerships. Provided the information gathered from the market research company is able to be aggregated and transferred against a persistent identifier and is obtained in a privacy-compliant way, the demise of third-party cookies does not jeopardize the supply or demand in this scenario.
Humble brag: Lotame future-proofed its global data marketplace in 2020 with the introduction of its cookieless Panorama Identity solutions. And, we have a ton of case studies to prove it works today.
How do you keep yourself and your team educated and abreast the latest developments in digital advertising?
U of Digital for one! Teed me up for a shameless plug, I see.
Collaboration is one of our core values, so it’s in our best interest to be insatiably curious about our industry. All of that intel feeds our innovation.
So, in addition to the great content delivered by U of Digital in the form of weekly newsletters and live sessions, we have deployed a few knowledge-sharing resources. We hold bi-weekly product team office hours where we roll out the latest product developments to our sales and customer success teams and tie them to relevant industry trends and pain points. We have both #industry-news” and #you-are-the-expert Slack channels. The first is where anyone can share the latest and most exciting industry news with the org; the second is where employees can ask questions and get answers from subject matter experts within Lotame. And last but not least, our marketing team has built both competitive and complementary battle cards that are in constant need of updating.
Who are your digital advertising heroes and why?
There are many. But my mom, Ruth Habbe, was the first and most impressionable. She was among an elite few females in the ‘90s and early 2000s with an executive role in a marketing and sales capacity in the research and digital marketing industry. She was an early employee at Forrester Research, as well as many successful startups she helped take public or be acquired. I remember interning during summers in high school, and the energy in these small “internet” companies was infectious. No surprise that I majored in marketing and business and landed where I am today with her as a role model.
I had the benefit of growing up in a world where my mom was the primary contributor to our family, she worked long hours, and, frankly, she was a boss lady in the office. I didn’t know how rare this was. I hope to see more women in digital advertising have the opportunity to rise to the top and lead by example.
If you weren’t in digital advertising, what would you be doing?
Running a boutique B&B in upstate New Hampshire or Maine on a horse farm. I don’t ride horses and don’t have much desire to, but I find watching them incredibly relaxing and beautiful. I have a vision for building small stand-alone barn-like units that we’d rent and would offer more privacy and serenity than most B&Bs, where your room is within a shared house. 2040 life goals!
What’s the biggest piece of advice you would offer advertisers and publishers right now?
Double down on trusted and reliable partnerships. Advertisers should be developing preferred publisher partners and making sure all parties are adopting the same future-proofed technology that speaks the same language across their activation workflow. That means the same identity framework, as well as SSPs, DSPs, and ad servers that also support that identity framework.
We have an opportunity to improve upon legacy advertising methods, but it will take some initial investment from all sides of the industry to build new engines that will fuel the next decade of ad tech.