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A few months back we decided to try something new. Instead of our usual industry analysis, we thought it would be fun to tell a story that captures what it’s like to be a digital marketer today. The hero of our story was Kim, a fictional character based on the real-life marketers we talk to every single day. We weren’t sure how our marketing tale would go over, and so we were pleasantly surprised by the great response. Now, by popular demand, Kim is back. And this time she’s got a whole new marketing dilemma: How to make “real-time” marketing truly real-time.

A quick reminder for those of you who missed our earlier story Kim is a fun-loving digital lead at a Fortune 500 company who is known for her smarts and gift for number crunching.

Yesterday's technology slowing you down? Put some Hustle in your step!

Yesterday’s technology slowing you down? Put some Hustle in your step!

What we didn’t tell you last time is that before Kim decided to go into marketing she’d studied to be an engineer. It was only when Kim discovered that her left-brain skills gave her an edge in the data-centric world of digital marketing that she changed directions — it helped that marketers throw much better parties than engineers.

Switching from engineering to marketing is no small thing, but when Kim has a goal she doesn’t waste time in achieving it. She enrolled in the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern where, in addition to watching the Northwestern basketball team get its butt kicked night after night, she had the chance to study with legendary marketing professor Philip Kotler.

Among other things, Professor Kotler is known for stressing the importance of being first to market, and since Kim ran track in high school, she was already predisposed to the advantages of the need for speed. Sure, speed and operational excellence don’t always go hand-in-hand, but Kim also knows that it’s harder than ever to get consumers to pay attention, especially Millennials, who take speedy communication as an almost to be a God-given right. Which means that Kim’s company has to be faster than the competitors.

Now, you might think that real-time marketing would be the perfect fit for someone who loves speed. Kim, who runs her company’s innovation group, has a passion for data-driven marketing, starting with ad networks and real-time bidding; she likes to call herself a “millisecond marketer.” Kim knows that purchase decisions are made in a flash, and that if you want to run a successful digital campaign you need to be front and center the moment that customer is to ready to have that decision takes place.

So, why did Kim find herself frustrated in attaining her speed goals? Well, turns out that when Kim looked into how her new DMP vendor was identifying its targets she discovered something truly disturbing: her vendor’s data was only being refreshed once a day – a screeching monkey-wrench thrown into what she thought was a well-oiled speed machine.

That meant Kim would not be able to target consumers in the heat of the decision-making process, but rather hours — sometimes a full day — later. (At this point, Kim is retroactively thrilled she had opted out of burritos with the team for lunch that day because she is feeling a little sick to her stomach.) Real-time bidding if it wasn’t based on requires real-time data.

Kim put her engineering background to work and began to investigate his odd disconnect, and it didn’t take long to find her answer. The failure to find an audience in real-time (milliseconds) is traced to the methodology most vendors rely on to process their data: MapReduce. This programming model It can take many hours for the processing to complete — hours during which customers are moving onto other things.

The good news is vendors are already moving beyond MapReduce and can now find and target an audience in milliseconds instead of hours. Rather than relying on MapReduce, elocity-optimized vendors use a program known as Hustle that leverages compression algorithms (such as bitmap indexes, iZ4 and prefix tie compression) to process lightning-fast queries across huge data sets.

Kim dug out her old pocket-protector and hunkered down to research this new technology. Another attribute more obvious: their platforms weren’t jerry-rigged ad networks engineered with spit and rubberbands then labeled “real-time targeting.” No, their platforms were built from the ground up to deliver authentic real-time results. And to Kim, who believes that great technology is all about early decisions, that made all the difference.


Ben Plomion is the VP of Marketing at Chango. Prior to that he was at GE Capital, where he established the digital media practice.

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by Brandon Gutman
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Brandon is an expert connector and seasoned business development professional. As Principal of Brand Approved, he's led the advisory to become the bridge between brand marketers and best of breed service providers that are reshaping the industry.

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