MarTech Interview with Justin Choi, President and CEO, Nativo
MarTech Series | April 12, 2019 - Nativo CEO, Justin Choi, sat down with MarTech Series to discuss his experience as a successful founder and CEO and Nativo’s unique position within the increasingly important mid-funnel. Read an excerpt below, and check out the entire conversation on MarTech Series.
Tell us about your role and journey into ad technology.
[JC] I got one of the first Apple IIGS computers along with a modem when I was 11 years old. I haven’t stopped tinkering since.
In 1998, after graduating from California State Polytechnic University-Pomona, I co-founded Cie Digital Labs (CDL), a corporate innovation partner that creates enterprise apps and technology startup studio that spins our ventures. CDL is still a thriving company today and one that partners with Fortune 1000 brands and promising startups on co-venture deals as well as produces startups of its own.
One such startup is Cie Games, a leading developer of social and mobile racing games, which built one of the largest applications on Facebook and went on to build the No. 1 racing game on mobile. It was acquired in a large exit in 2014.
Another innovative product of Cie Digital Labs was called PostRelease, and it enabled brands to place and measure sponsored posts across multiple blogs simultaneously. By 2012, the industry had started to call this “native advertising,” and we realized we’d already built deep technology for this brand new ad category — way before trend had even been properly named.
Native advertising, we realized, was the way that our industry was, at last, going to be able to bring scale, measurability, and predictability to content marketing. And we further realized there was a deep need within the market for an end-to-end native advertising solution for publishers that enables them to easily activate, deploy and manage native ad placements across all their media properties. In time, PostRelease evolved into Nativo as we looked to fully deliver on that need. Today, the Nativo platform enables the distribution and measurement of branded content cross-publication and cross-device with scale, control and relevancy.
Going back to the roots of my early days with computers, I’m first and foremost a technologist who loves to create software that solves business problems. It’s been an amazing journey thus far, with three companies in different industries, two exits, seven patents, and the opportunity to work alongside hundreds of driven co-workers.
How is the ad industry different than it was a few years ago?
[JC] In recent years, our industry has gone down a rabbit hole in pursuit of data and scale. It’s been a rapid evolution from humans to machines deciding where ads run. This has led to both good and bad outcomes for advertisers, publishers and the industry as a whole.
When it comes to the recent evolution, marketers have focused on being early adopters as a means of gaining an advantage over competitors. There have been plenty of important scale and technology shifts within our industry, but as advertisers have arrived at the bottom of the funnel through programmatic pipes, they’ve found that they’ve hit a point of diminishing returns.
It’s a lot like the IT boom of the ‘90s in which the advantage was being the first in your industry to invest in IT systems. Just like no one thinks of IT as an advantage today, we are going to start entering the phase in which marketers have to look elsewhere for their advantage.
For this reason, we’re seeing a recalibration begin to occur in the industry — one where marketers are broadening their focus and paying closer attention to the full breadth of the marketing funnel. That means, at last, getting a better handle on their mid-funnels and how the most important tactics within the mid-funnel — that is, content marketing and native advertising — are helping to influence audiences and convert awareness into action.
This had historically been an accepted blind spot for marketers, but it’s no longer acceptable. Now that the lower funnel has reached a point of diminishing returns, the mid-funnel and its role within the fuller customer journey is starting to get the attention it’s always deserved. This year, Nativo will be deepening its focus on helping brands understand their return on content in this vein.