C-Suite Conversations: An Interview with John Snyder, Co-Founder and CEO, Grapeshot

Article ImageWe’ve all been there: followed a bit too long, and a bit too closely. Hopefully not in the real world, but it certainly happens during our digital travels, as advertisements clued in to our search and browsing behavior dog us for hours, days, and weeks on unrelated sites—and well past the point of purchase decision. “In the world of digital ads, the consumer is disenfranchised—they’re being stalked or else they’re turning on ad blockers,” says John Snyder, co-founder and CEO of Grapeshot, which uses adaptive machine learning algorithms to improve ad targeting, creating a more contextual experience.

By integrating its Live Context Marketing Engine into media platforms such as AppNexus and MediaMath, Grapeshot seeks to take the creepiness factor out of the audience’s online experience. It also strives to enhance brand safety by allowing brands to understand and avoid ad placements that are potentially harmful to their reputation—think Volkswagen’s ad near an article on diesel fuel.

“Context has become fundamentally important in making brands relevant to a live audience,” says Snyder. “And social media conversations can change that context by the day and hour.” He adds, “Publishers are becoming marketers, and advertisers and brands are becoming publishers.” That makes the need for real-time analysis and insights to provide globally sensitive context more critical than ever.

Trends He’s Watching

“Digital content is getting far more personalized. Data we’re collecting digitally lets us build profiles with adequate insights to personalize not just ads, but also landing pages and creative [content]. We also see fake news driving ad budgets into the hands of fraudsters and a need to separate out the noise from that fraud. There’s been a real impact on society already—how do we prevent its spread?”

Challenges He Faces

“We are facing a fundamental digital revolution, but companies have different levels of uptake. Most B2B and B2C companies understand this, but every company is creating its own econtent now and will be getting more digital in all their interactions. I’m surprised at how much companies have underestimated this digital revolution. Another challenge is hiring enough staff to do all we want to do, especially as we open new offices in San Francisco, Shanghai, and Hong Kong. Finding skilled people is still hard.”

Dreaming Big

“I’d give consumers a tool to articulate exactly what they want, an overt way to impact their experience. Let the consumer define relevance—maybe it’s ‘kite surfing’ and ‘saxophones.’ Because the best ads are the ones where the consumer says, ‘That’s not an ad. It’s a piece of information that informs and entertains me.’”

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