While at SXSW, I met up with Amy Caplan, VP of Strategic Partnerships at Ninth Decimal. Ninth Decimal and MediaMath work closely together—they were our first location-based audience partner. We continue to look for new and innovative ways to work together to break new ground in the programmatic space. In the short time we’ve known each other, I’ve come to respect Amy as an industry veteran and have also been involved with planning some of her “Women In Technology and Marketing” events. While sipping coffee in Austin, I got a chance to ask her a few questions on her career progression and learn a little bit more about her as well as Ninth Decimal.
- Your career trajectory seems to have put you ahead of the curve of digital evolutions, such as your move to HomePortfolio.com, an early player in the online aggregation of the home design industry. What was your process for making these strategic career decisions?
In 1998, when I was asked to join the start-up of HomePortfolio as VP of Sales, I had been at CBS Broadcasting for over 18 years. My career at CBS had been wonderful. I was given countless opportunities to learn, challenge myself and develop as a professional. It was early days for women in broadcast management. There were few if any women in managerial positions but somehow I did not see the barriers. I kept going and felt quite supported by my colleagues as my career developed.
By the late ’90s, the Internet was booming. For the first time, I was restless to leave the comforts of the broadcasting world I knew well and take on the challenge of helping to develop a company in the uncharted waters of the “web.” Although I’d love to call the decision “strategic,” it was all gut. I could feel that the world as I knew it was in the grip of a once-in-a-lifetime change and if I did not jump in, I would find myself on the wrong side of history. There are moments when gut trumps strategy and, looking back, I am grateful to have jumped and not over-thought my way out of the extraordinary opportunity that I had been offered. Had I fully understood what I was getting myself in to, I believe I never would have taken the plunge.
- What was the learning curve like to make that transition? Was it tough?
The learning curve involved in the transition from the “layup” of selling CBS news and sports to selling an Internet product no one understood, from a company that no one had ever heard of, was extreme. We had the weight of investors on us as a daily “full court press.” Producing and making the most of the moment and the marketplace was not an option. Necessity being the mother of invention, I did what had to be done to learn, get up to speed and get a product in the market that customers would buy. I have never learned so much, so quickly under teeth-grinding pressure, and I am so grateful to have opened that crazy door to HomePortfolio in 1998. I have never looked back.
- You host “Women in Technology and Marketing” dinner events. What are some of the topics you think should be on the radar for women in tech in 2016?
We started hosting these events to give women who sit in leadership positions in our business a place for community. We know well the strength of communities of women to accomplish what they have determined to be of importance.
Our focus has mainly been trying to understand why there are so few women in the “C” suite and on company boards. We challenge ourselves to not only understand the diagnostics of “why” but further to identify why the industry is compromised by not having women at the “table.” I do believe that as a result we have created strength in the community, a shared purpose to up our game in identifying more opportunities and a determination to help other women along.
- Having met you at CES earlier this year and now at SXSW, how do these environments help facilitate connecting with the audience you’re trying to reach?
All industry gatherings represent ideal opportunities to gather women together to continue these conversations. As a matter of fact, being at conferences such as CES, SXSW, Cannes, MWC, the optics alone tell the story. It is abundantly clear when the industry gathers that there is a lack of women present. We attend the sessions, we learn and we feel inspired by the innovation. We then sit at the table of women and challenge ourselves to identify how our skills and accomplishments can add unique and important value to the development of the industry.
- Your CEO Michael Fordyce recently wrote that, “Data is at the front and center of our industry conversations, and this is the year where brands truly realize and embrace the significant power of real-world data.” Why will 2016 be the year?
Companies are awash in data. The eco-system offers companies endless choices of how they can ingest that data to better understand their customers and their opportunities. What Mike is referring to and what we know well at NinthDecimal is that no matter how much data they have, there is no substitute for that simple, but powerful, real-world behavioral data.
I work with multiple Fortune 50 companies with the most sophisticated systems for managing their customer data, and yet they have no information about what their customers are doing in the real world. As an example, think of a luxury car company that is targeting “in-market” auto intenders. Through existing data, they can see what their prospect searches for, which sites they go to, their relevant input on social media and what they “like.” All of these are important inputs that help the brand understand their prospect. Real-world data and only that data can tell that car company that their prospect was at dealerships. Our data fills in that “blind spot” to allow brands to see that essential signal of where their prospect goes in the real world.