Andy Monfried was already a successful entrepreneur when, on a visit to Israel in 1997, a bomb ripped apart the restaurant in which he was dining. One of only a few survivors, Monfried returned home to the U.S. with a torrent of emotions: grateful to be alive, yet shaken by the loss he’d witnessed. Though he’d been an early employee at a company that sold for hundreds of millions the previous year, the money almost seemed irrelevant, as ephemeral as an early spring rain.
Many people might have chosen to hang it up right then—to thank their lucky stars and enjoy the rest of their days with a renewed sense of gratitude and their toes dug into the warm sand of a beach far away from the reach of bombs and terrorists. But for Monfried, who today heads up Lotame, the largest, cross-screen platform for managing marketing data, that near-death experience brought everything into sharp focus.
“I think it’s helped me on this path through life,” he says. “It certainly helped me articulate what matters better. It helped me analyze what I should be focused on.”
Part of that focus has taken him back to doing not only what he loves, but what he excels in: finding and creating value at the intersection of data and markets. Lotame, the start-up he pivoted in 2011 to focus on its original intent , for instance, is already one of the most successful data management platforms, or DMPs, in existence. More than 200 brands use Lotame’s systems to manage global consumer data, called first-party data, or information that users provide when they view websites of various brands.
According to Lotame’s research, anytime a consumer interacts with content on the web, they leave behind a digital footprint about their behavior. This data is only valuable if you can both collect and figure out how best to use it.
This is where Lotame comes in. The SaaS (software as a service) platform enables brands and publishers to capture consumer-specific data in order to create tailored marketing and advertising campaigns and content strategies across a host of platforms, from desktop to laptop to mobile. Lotame plugs into everything from a digital environment, such as ad servers and attribution engines, but it also connects to data collected by TV companies—an industry that has traditionally been tough for ad tech companies to touch.
Part of the problem in targeting TV audiences lies in the long time delay in measuring the incremental impact of TV advertising on sales — TV advertisers typically require 104 weeks’ worth of sales data to measure an ad’s impact, says Monfried, citing the example of “finding the person who went to an auto site to look at a car and connecting them to their TV-watching history.” Because of this, Monfried says, “broadcasters and operators are having a tremendously hard time in real-time taking online behaviors and sending them to TVs from when data is amassed and used for targeting. After 4-6 weeks the auto intender is no longer in-market.”
But Lotame is able to make those connections seamlessly, and in real-time. This, he believes, is the next frontier in the ad tech space—using a customer’s digital footprint, their “digital kernel,” as he puts it, to better target TV audiences. “When someone sees a commercial, we’re matching up in a household a TV, a mobile device and a desktop all connected to a household. We’re getting a better profile of people in those homes and households overall. And that is the type of data that we’re managing that I think is a game-changing event.” Monfried calls this the “premier TV DMP.”
Monfried has been in the cutting edge of technology since he entered into that world in 1998. But his early years were much more low-tech. Growing up, Monfried worked on his grandfather’s New Jersey dairy farm. Watching his grandfather and grandfather’s 10 siblings taught him the tried-and-true values of persistence, hard work, perseverance and, as he puts it, “how to get things done.” He also learned how to take and manage risk, as he watched his grandfather pivot their business from being one of the largest dairy farmers in NJ, to being a premier real estate developer and owner of commercial properties across the state.
With the support of his family, Monfried studied political science at the University of Bridgeport in Connecticut. During his time at University, Monfried hustled and earned money through a variety of low-tech jobs: a messaging service,a mortgage processing company, and by starting a window-cleaning business.
In 1995 he started working at a legal document company called NightRider, which was later sold to Ikon Office Solutions. Then in 1998 Monfried, through a friend, met Scott Ferber, founder of Advertising.com. Ferber convinced Monfried to leave his successful job at Ikon to join a field he knew very little about, the ad technology world . He asked Monfried to run the New York head office focused on agency sales and publisher relationships. Under Monfried’s leadership, the start-up generated $100 million of revenue in four years. “The word ‘no’ to me didn’t mean that the door was closed,” Monfried recalls of those days. “It just meant that I had to do something different to get a ‘yes.’” AOL bought Advertising.com in 2004 for $435 million.
While at Advertising.com, Monfried began to understand that publishers selling media to ad networks “were virtually giving away their impressions in exchange for pennies and they were not mining the gold in their data,” he says. With this in mind, he started Lotame (short for Locate, Target, Message), built around helping both publishers and advertisers manage, control and activate consumer data.
Monfried’s ultimate goal is to create an open framework to enable brands to seamlessly input any type of data into its system and to do it in a format that requires little human intervention. Lotame currently tracks three trillion events a year on behalf of its global customer base, providing rich and powerful data points, which in turn enable a “360-degree view of your consumer,” Monfried says. “Consumer behavior is changing so rapidly that you need one central hub to manage, activate and understand how a person interacts with your brand.”