Q&A with Kamakshi Sivaramakrishnan, Founder and CEO of Drawbridge

Kamakshi Sivaramakrishnan, Founder and CEO of Drawbridge

Kamakshi Sivaramakrishnan, Founder and CEO of Drawbridge

The CreateTech Conference has always been about the present and the future. Where is the industry today, and where is it headed? To answer this question we engage the thought leaders, visionaries and experts in the field and ask them to share their insights and POVs. This year, in addition to having these people speak at the conference, we’ve also asked them to be part of our online content initiatives. This gives them an opportunity to explore topics and ideas beyond their conference presentation, and also allows those unable to attend a chance hear from these industry leaders.

In this edition, we connect with Kamakshi Sivaramakrishnan, Founder and CEO of Drawbridge, the leading anonymized cross-device identity company. Prior to Drawbridge, Sivaramakrishnan was lead scientist at AdMob.

CreateTech: Today’s consumer has multiple devices, and potentially multiple online identities. How must marketers design communications that reflect this reality?

Kamakshi Sivaramakrishnan: It’s a great question and one that’s been top of mind since the inception of Drawbridge. We live in a time of unprecedented device proliferation and adoption – especially on mobile. It’s safe to say that all of us have at least one phone and one computer, maybe more, and many of us probably have a tablet or a wearable or a connected TV as well. As consumers, this has made our lives so much easier. But for marketers this device proliferation has led to identity fragmentation, making it difficult to deliver personalized customer experiences online.

One way to get around this is to force a login, like Facebook or Google, or for that matter Amazon or Netflix. These are each highly customized environments across devices, as long as consumers are in those platforms. But how can marketers deliver personalized customer experiences across the rest of the Internet, where it can be very fragmented?

I think ultimately it’s less about marketers designing communications to reflect the multi-device, fragmented-identity reality, and more about using technology to get around that, and deliver those customized experiences regardless of platform or channel. To do that, marketers need an independent, accessible, scaled solution for digital identity. A democratized alternative of what the Facebooks and Googles of the world have – a universal currency for anonymous digital identity.

CT: Consumers can no longer be counted on to follow a linear path to purchase. How does that affect the design of communication?

KS: Not only is the path to purchase no longer linear, but the landscape for marketing channels has exploded. In the past, brands had only a few ways to connect with consumers outside of a direct relationship with them. But today we have computers, smartphones, tablets, watches, even cars with screens in them. In addition, we have social media, video, native, and myriad other formats to take advantage of. This can create a lot of noise for consumers if marketing is done haphazardly.

Consumers are getting more and more sensitive to being constantly overwhelmed with messages across every channel and medium possible. Today there are methods like universal frequency capping that can limit the exposure from one brand to help protect brand sentiment, or sequential messaging that can help guide consumers through the purchase path across devices. But at the end of the day, this is less about designing specific communication messages, and more about using data to deliver the richest experiences, which translates into more effective communication.

It’s also important to make sure marketing is measurable. Ultimately every brand wants to get a consumer do do something – click an ad, watch a video, visit a site, download an app, or even do something offline like visit a store or make a physical purchase. In order to efficiently drive those actions, we need to understand who consumers are across all of those devices and channels. It comes back to having a seamless digital identity.

CT: How can advertising agencies (and their executives) learn to work with people and organizations that have skill sets unfamiliar to the world of advertising?

KS: Advertising and marketing are colliding. Everyone is bringing in more technology partners or even building tech stacks themselves, so this is becoming more and more important as these worlds join forces. There’s a balance between art and science where the math doesn’t displace creative, it makes it stronger. To that point, something that has always rung true to me, regardless of who I’m speaking with or what the topics is, is that you should trust data. Whether it’s a piece of advice, a new technology, or pure methodologies, if it’s backed by sound data, it can be easily trusted. If you’re coming to the table with something new, no matter how unfamiliar, come with the data to back up your points.

CT: We seem to be on a path from social to AR & VR storytelling. What impact will that have on communication design?

KS: It’s definitely still early days, but I think the potential for AR and VR is tremendous. I’m very interested in seeing where this goes. Today the vast majority of the AR/VR applications are pure consumer experiences, so it will be interesting to see how the marketing and advertising players explore and adapt to the this new channel.

It also remains to be seen how an enterprise value can be derived from AR and VR. Marketing and advertising are ways to create value, but will consumers stick around? Certainly brands will continue to use this medium creatively, but is there a larger data play? How does the technology and data involve, and evolve from, the pure creative aspects? There’s an interesting dialog here around this divide between data and creative.

CT: When designing communications, which comes first, consideration of the platform, or consideration of the audience?

KS: It’s definitely a mix and every brand and enterprise needs to find the balance that suits their specific needs. I tend to go back to the audience first. If the audience isn’t defined and understood, the platform is irrelevant.

For example, if your business is purely enterprise B2B, and your audience doesn’t exist in the social media sphere, then there may never be a social media strategy that’s right for you. Likewise, if reaching millennials is key to your strategy, traditional TV spots may not be an effective means of reaching this digital-first generation.

Defining and being able to reach your ideal audience is key – then you can adapt the message for the platform. The platform is irrelevant if your audience isn’t right.