I hope you had a chance to watch the fall edition of Quantcast Virtual NOVA, which was held September 14-16 in North America, Europe, and Asia Pacific. In addition to announcing new innovations to the Quantcast Platform, we brought together key industry leaders to discuss the future of advertising. I had the honor to host a session titled “Technology Companies Address a Changing Advertising World,” where we discussed the challenges and opportunities for companies who want to reach their audiences more effectively and efficiently.

Below is a quick recap of my conversation with Dan Silmore, VP of Digital Marketing at Autodesk, and Steve Weeks, Director of Performance Marketing at Adobe. Dan heads up a team inside Autodesk known as the Digital Media Center. Their focus is on maximizing reach and return by amplifying the Autodesk story through global digital media. Steve oversees the performance marketing group for the Adobe document cloud business. Their objective is to generate revenue, which is measured by their in-house attribution model. 

Over the last 12 to 18 months, how have you weathered all of the adversity that we’ve seen with COVID? What were the opportunities inside each technology vertical? 

Quantcast Nova Screenshot

Travis Landrum interviews Steve Weeks and Dan Silmore during Quantcast Virtual NOVA.

Steve Weeks: From an Adobe perspective, we did see a shift in our audience behavior. Our company is about changing the world through digital experiences. As people had to stay home during the pandemic, they chose to be more creative; they chose to be more productive. And while we saw an increase in demand for our products, we didn’t just sit still; we had to adapt to the changes in the environment.

Dan Silmore: We were also positioned pretty well, for all these folks were at home, logging on to their machines or mobile devices, and starting to explore options from their new home environment. We saw the decision-making cycle shortened in some places as much as 20-30%. But what we’ve seen post-COVID, particularly in the lower funnel, is a big increase in the amount of traffic that we’re seeing from mobile devices. 

Can you talk a little bit about how you both are looking at audiences, and how you’re going to connect with those audiences?

Dan Silmore: Basically, we want to stay relevant and be where the audience is. We saw some shifts in behavior, but we really were trying to move where the puck is, where the audience is, and learn along the way. 

Steve Weeks: The thing that was very important for us was making sure that we were empathetic with our audience and were on message. We also wanted to learn which messages resonated in different channels in different formats.

You mentioned messaging and the way that you were connecting with your customer set. Did you make any changes in messaging at all, early in the pandemic? 

Steve Weeks: Last April, we looked at every piece of creative and thought, “What are we saying—are we saying this in the right way?” But at the same time, we also wanted people to still be creative and be productive.

Dan, you talked about the real importance of maximizing reach across your audience; Steve, is that top of mind for you as well?

Steve Weeks: We have an in-house attribution model for display, search, and email, so we can tell relatively quickly where we’re seeing pockets of success and where we need to optimize, right down to message, the format, and the audience.

Dan Silmore: We’ve got an internal multi-touch attribution model as well and we look at things the same way. So we’re optimizing and maximizing a set of KPIs, and we’re trying to be more predictive. 

Given the need to optimize, the need to be predictive, the need to understand how your audience is moving in real time, and how to get that right messaging in front of themwhere does Quantcast come in?

Steve Weeks: We’ve partnered with Quantcast for seven or eight years. The thing that your team has really embraced with us is understanding that we have certain goals and certain objectives. And those goals and objectives are going to be different from Dan’s goals and objectives and Autodesk’s different goals and objectives. You work with us to find what is right for us—and the solutions and the products and the tactics that are right for our business. And you keep iterating on that. We’ve come a long way from where we were eight years ago, yet we still find opportunities; we still find ways to find the audience in a meaningful way, for a good return. 

Dan Silmore: A big thing that jumps out for me is my history with your team. When I first started looking at this business, on behalf of Autodesk, we had lots of different teams potentially advertising to the same audience; we had conflicting messages; we might have three groups advertising to a single audience. Your team has helped a lot in terms of calling out overlap and conflict. The Quantcast Platform also helped us extend and expand our audience, and helped us with look-alikes.

Do you find your partnerships with your teams and vendor partners more important today, or the same, or maybe more important than in the past?

Dan Silmore: I’m looking to our partners to help not just from that data perspective, but also from an analytics and optimization perspective. I see an increasing need to learn from others and understand best practices.

Steve Weeks: The environment of the landscape is changing so much, and there’s so much unknown, that you have to rely on a tech partner to help navigate your way through that. And the landscape is going to change again!

The other massive theme in our industry right now is the deprecation of the cookie. Can you both speak a little bit about how data plays a role in what you do every day in informing audiences, informing media decision-making, and informing optimization?

Dan Silmore: You know, we’ve got great first-party data: we’ve got a lot of information about what folks are doing on our sites, what they’re purchasing, and whether they’ve attended an event, a webinar, or downloaded a trial. But it’s the connecting of all of that—plus the third-party platforms and everything else—where there’s definitely room for improvement. How do we connect it, and how do we do it in a way that’s respectful of privacy in the future?

Steve Weeks: Data fuels our attribution model; data fuels all of the decisions we make.

Data attribution model

I think both of you really called out two pretty big challenges, right? So Dan called out the challenge of post-third-party cookies. How do we get all of these pieces of tech to work together?

Steve Weeks: We don’t know what we don’t know. We’re doing a lot of listening—we’re listening to publishers, we’re listening to the tech providers, and we’re listening to the data providers. 

Dan Silmore: One of the proactive things we are doing is presenting customers with something relevant that makes them want to either log in with us, start a trial, or do something other than navigate around anonymously. And just like Steve said, we do a whole lot of learning and testing from there. 

This is a really exciting time; we’re witnessing the rebirth of digital media and that brings a lot of opportunities. Is there anything that would really help you as you look forward?

Dan Silmore: Getting help to do this in a productive way is one thing I’m hoping will happen as we evolve. The ultimate goal is to be deeply relevant to the customer without violating privacy. But we also know that they use our software—they need us, and we need them. We have to find a way to stay relevant in this equation. I hope to do that in a really productive way with partners. There’s this tremendous opportunity to connect the dots and make it a connected experience for the customer. Everything is becoming more digital and more seamless.

Connect with consumers

Steve Weeks: This is an exciting time! I like navigating new areas. I enjoy learning what other brands, tech companies, and publishers are doing. 

You can watch this session as well as other sessions from our recent Virtual Nova event here.

Interested in Learning More?

To learn more about the Quantcast perspective on major trends and solutions for the cookieless future, check out In a World Without Third-Party Cookies, What Happens to Advertising on the Open Internet?  

You can also join us for our upcoming webinar, Unlock Cookieless Environments with the Quantcast Platform, on October 14th at 9 am PDT / 12 pm EDT.