The Future of Digital Advertising with Beam.city DNA
John: It's never been easier to sell a consumer product, right? There are website eCommerce tools everywhere. You have your product, you push some buttons, and your done. Wait. See, the road to sale starts with marketing, and a key part of that is advertising. And guess what's out there. Many, many places. Facebook, Google, whatever, you get the drill. Look, digital advertising is broad and complex. You have to run campaigns, you have to do targeting. And what platforms do you use? All of them. Sure. Oh, and by the way, when you've done it, how do you know how you've done? Today I'm talking with Zeze Peters. He saw what I just took you through as an opportunity. He's the founder and CEO of Beam. city DNA, which simplifies the advertising process for SMBs, with AI. We're going to hear about the company. We'll also hear about Zeze's background in robotics and aeronautical engineering and how that helped in many ways that might surprise you. Zeze, let's get started by hearing the 30 second pitch for Beam. city DNA.
Zeze Peters: I'm Zeze Peters. I'm the founder and CEO of Beam. city. My background is in aerospace engineering out of Cornell University. There I did microgravity robotics. I've also worked on a UAVs. I've worked on healthcare robotics. But I spent a good part of the last 15 years building applied AI systems, eCommerce platforms, big data processing systems. But I've also worked on consumer goods all in that time span. And what I noticed is whenever I had something new to bring the market, it's like, oh man, something just kind of slows down. And I paid attention and I went to take a look, and it turns out that that digital advertising is complex. There are a lot of tools that exist to help you kind of get started, but there are at least 14, 15 steps you have to go through to make a great campaign. This takes thousands of actions. I'm talking strategy, research, actual targeting, doing the actual step of publishing, reporting, monitoring, optimization, attribution. I mean, it just goes on and on and on and on. And so for most people, it means you're wasting a crap ton of time, making campaigns. It's repetitive. Like everything you do on Google, you have to learn how to do the same thing on Facebook and Pinterest and anywhere else you want to be. And to me, that's extremely inefficient. So what I did is I put together a team of overachievers, and that's what I call us, to build really what will be the future of digital advertising. It's a simple and powerful platform that lets you run all your digital advertising that is search, social, video, eCommerce, from one platform. And then AI helps you to do a lot of the key steps, including targeting, optimization, monitoring all your campaigns, and allowing you to get the best results out of your advertising. So that's what Beam. city DNA is. And right now we've got 18 ad channels. That's Google, Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, Yahoo, Bing, Twitter, LinkedIn, Amazon, YouTube, and more, so that you can come in, get that full spectrum, digital advertising power without having to be an expert in the first place.
John: So most of the revenue, therefore most of the money that your customers spend are going to go to Google and Facebook.
Zeze Peters: Go to all the ad platforms through us.
John: And you don't care. You're just going to help them do a better job of what they put out there. Is that a fair categorization?
Zeze Peters: Yeah. Step one is the ability to publish without having to stress out about learning each platform. Step two is helping you manage the budget that's actually spent on each platform so you're not wasting it in obvious, silly ways. And then the AI helps you with optimizing your targeting so the money is spent on the right audience. And whenever the system finds that you're spending it wrong, it shuts down those targeting options so that you don't waste your dollars.
John: And do you help determine what's the appropriate content per channel?
Zeze Peters: That is on the roadmap. But right now we do not.
John: Quite often, there's a challenge with a lack of transparency on the part of Facebook or any of these other big platforms in terms of the effectiveness of the ads, avoiding bots, making sure that their money is being spent correctly, as opposed to being sprint fraudulently. How do you make sure that the money you're having your customer spend is being spent effectively?
Zeze Peters: Right, so our system effectively does 24/ 7 monitoring of your actual ad reports. So it's built by having direct API integrations to do the publishing step, as well as the monitoring and optimization step. And as part of the monitoring and optimization step, it's looking at your ad reports every 15 minutes right now. And it's really relying on the reporting that comes back from the Googles, Facebooks and others to make decisions, but then it does actually make decisions. So it's an active intelligence system. It's not passive. It doesn't give you recommendations after seven days of running ads. Instead, if the next 15 minutes timeframe shows something that it deems bad performance, it will shut that down and allow your dollars to focus on where you're going to not have bad performance. And in this way, you're able to really wean out the dimensions, the options that you're using for your targeting to figure out what's working and what is not. So you can start off with a slightly bigger plate, shrink it to the stuff that works, and then it will take the good stuff and scale that out for you.
John: And this may be an obvious machine learning question, but I should ask. Pinterest works well between 7: 00 PM and 9: 00 PM where people sitting with their laptop on their computer, and then Facebook may work in the middle of the day when people are checking it during lunch. You say your monitor is every 15 minutes. So you're going to be able to redirect to where it's having the most impact very quickly.
Zeze Peters: So right now we redirect within platforms. We're working in our roadmap to do cross- platform throttling, but we don't yet do it. That's something that... And I like the way you're thinking about it. That's really our goal is to say automatically spend my dollars where it will be the most value to me after a short learning period.
John: So, it's funny, roadmap keeps coming up. And I guess I am a product guy at heart. So let's go 18 months from now. What do you think the AI will be doing for your customers?
Zeze Peters: What we're aiming towards right now is what I call preemptive advertising. So our aim, isn't just oh yeah, I'll come in and manually do my stuff. No, that's not the game. For people who are data- oriented and we're going to help our customers become data- oriented, their AI brain, because every customer has his or her own AI brain in our system, would have learned enough about your ideal customer audiences so that you can create triggered ads. And then the system will create, trigger, manage, and monitor your ads for you directly targeted to the ideal audience before that audience has shown intent on a search engine. So that's how ahead of the curve we aim to be. But this won't be using PII information. We're using persona- based targeting model that uses a lot of personas signals so that we can use all these signals to predict the right things about the customer based on where they are, based on weather, based on news, based on other factors so that they can see the right ads, the right solutions at about the right time for most categories, and then make the decision right away. I mean, at that point you can see that the cost would be the least because the ad platforms themselves don't yet have that signal. And then for the customer, it's a really pleasing web experience because you're not getting chased around the internet by remarketing. You instead see the right solution sooner and allows you to make the right decisions quicker. So that's where we're going.
John: The question that comes to mind then is what's your thoughts on the changes that Google's making in terms of the way they are changing tracking? Because you mentioned persona based ID, which I really think is the future, but take me through where you were and what the Google changes have been for you.
Zeze Peters: Well, the Google changes haven't had a significant impact for us just yet. The bigger impact is the Apple changes that affects how people interact in Apple. So the Apple changes are the iOS 14 changes that make it much harder for tracking, for Facebook to track you off outside of Facebook. Because the current way Facebook does that tracking, using the Facebook pixel, is cookie- based. So when you've got no cookie and Google's kind of doing that too, they're rubbing it in real deep, but when Facebook loses the ability to track your ability and your intent across multiple websites, they effectively can do really good levels of guessing who to show the ad to. Because part of my understanding of Facebook's algorithm, they call it the learning phase and all of that kind of stuff, but really it's meant to be, hey, you know what, of all the cookies who we've shown, or we could show this ad to, which are the people who have additional intangible signals that Facebook perhaps is not allowed to advertise, will have the best intent so that we can have the best chance of them doing the final action. But without those signals, Facebook has a big problem, which is why they got so mad about it.
John: Which is kind of fun to watch, though.
Zeze Peters: Right? But then the way we see it is that's why we're doing a multi- platform strategy. Because most people use one platform or the other. Google's a platform and Facebook does not have Google cookie data. Google makes sure of that. But we can have some of that by using the ads, statistics that comes back to us. And by also having integrations with Google analytics and Facebook pixel, any other analytics API package that you might have embedded on your site, it will allow us to have a better 360 view of at least the platform- oriented traffic. And frankly, most traffic is on platforms, of your customers. So we will be able to do a better prediction job than otherwise. Not as good as perhaps Facebook would be able to do by tracking your cookies across the entire internet, which we too would have been able to do. But with the new cookie change, we'll rely on the statistics, the audience- oriented statistics across all the platforms that we integrate into.
John: But that's a classic big data Cloud value add. You've got to Pinterest and the Google data and the Facebook data, which will give you hopefully smarter ways to deliver things on a Facebook, even if you don't have there.
Zeze Peters: That's right. And in fact, frankly, we already have the ability to do cross platform targeting now, but we're not yet doing the cross- platform data aggregation and decisioning. So that's another step in our roadmap. One piece that we can do more easily, sooner than later, is actually build like a hundred million node predictive targeting map. What I mean by that is, what if you could tell what keywords intense behaviors people who visit specific sites' groups and pages have when they're on those pages. So that instead of basically think about like a persona reverse targeting, based on your persona and the time of the day and the intent, where are you likely to be on the internet, and show the ads there. So that's one of the things that we want to do too. Because there's a lot of ways to skin this chicken. The aim though, is to make it easy for the advertiser to just use the interface to show their intent. And then we can reverse engineer the personas on the one hand, but really the places those people should be, so that the ads have the highest intent and therefore the highest conversion. So that's a roadmap thing. Today though, we allow you to publish target and we optimize your existing target.
John: I like that we're doing this future roadmap stuff because anyone can make a future of where this world is going to. Another future thought, and there's no right answer, every CEO has got a different point of view and kind of AI. One might say AI is going to get rid of people, and that's valid. Another person, the AI is going to augment the people I have, make them more efficient, smarter. I also look at, when I think about advertising, there's a whole creative side of things. And yes, there's AI writing stuff and there's some generators. I'm curious how you strike balance of the automation and the ad side, the digitization, digital marketing versus kind of the creative and content. How do you strike that balance and how do you work with the... Or how do your creatives within the companies you sell to get engaged?
Zeze Peters: Yeah. So we sell and tell those companies that noun de creatives have more power. So previously they'd need to have the creatives, they'd need to have the strategist, they'd probably need to have a whole pile of data analysts. And everybody's got to do a big huddle before they can make almost any moves. That's a bit challenging because data analysis takes a lot of work and a lot of time, and frequently humans are just not very good at seeing the patterns in the data. That's just not what we're good at. And frankly, the way the data comes back into reporting, unless you properly timeframe, that means you have snapshots of how the data is changing, you don't even get the full picture. You're just dealing with aggregates. But our platform is able to do that, so that you can get some of these patterns that a human just won't catch because you're dealing with aggregates. That's on the one hand. So the way we see it is the creatives will have more power in bigger companies. They'll have more power to say," Hey, you know what? I want to try this thing out on seven platforms." And just come on our platform, pump it out there and see what comes back after one or two days, because now they can see some of those minutiae. Of course, they'll still need the data analyst to kind of understand some of it, but really for the smaller and medium sized companies, our aim is actually to automate some strategy. And we've already built some internal tools. We just aren't mature enough to bring out to the market that will also help with some creative automation. Think about this, John, what if I could whip up my phone and say," Hey, you know what? I want an ad." And just like if I'm talking to an agency, I can say," Hey, you know what?" The agency knows that I'm a restaurant, for example." I'm a restaurant, there's this holiday coming up in six weeks. I want to really get people to come to my store. So create something for me that has humans, that has my food, that's going to make my food look appetizing. And the people will see that campaign and opt into my promotion or come to my restaurant." You can literally have a system go out, go into Unsplash or into iStock Photo, find images that have food that is interesting, assemble it, put your branding around it, pay iStock Photo automatically. And then you as a store owner, see a few options, you pick one or two, and boom, you've got an ad. So there's some pieces of the creative aspects you can automate. But pure, innovative creation, that's humans. So for big companies, pure, creative innovation, they will have it. For small companies that have nothing today, you can automate some of the lower level.
John: So I started an interesting interview with you talking about kind of AI in the future. And they asked you to categorize where it was going to impact. And the three things you actually said were research, account- based marketing, and advertising. But I'm going to want you to pick one. Those are your top one. Where do you think AI is going to have the most impact? I'm going to put you on the spot. And tell me why that's the case.
Zeze Peters: Okay. So it's going to be very contextual. So in the context of this conversation...
John: That's fine. We'll go with it.
Zeze Peters: In the context of this conversation, it's-
John: I'm genuinely curious because account- based marketing is so cool and advertising is really interesting. And they're the same and they're different. And I figured you could handle it.
Zeze Peters: Yeah. I mean, we do both. So, the answer I'm going to give is account- based marketing. But account- based marketing still has advertising attached to it. So let me kind of give you my rationale based on what we're doing right now. So in our company, we know what our ideal client's profile is. But with the tools that exist today, we can literally find every single one of our ideal clients. So instead of doing the pure advertising play where they kind of come across you and trip over you for a bit before they decide or something, what we are doing right now is we have tools built to find and pre- qualify every single one of these people so that we can target them specifically. We don't need to target everybody else. We just need to target the people who are our buyers. And that means from an intelligence perspective, that would allow businesses that have the ability to pre- qualify using AI, to literally have an end- to- end customer finding qualification and sales process, frankly, for the specific people who will buy their product without having to give noise to everybody else. That's a much better experience on the internet for buying things. For B2B, that's really the way to go. But for B2C, that's going to be possible too. So in the future, B2B advertising, account- based marketing will go from B2B to B2C, much bigger dataset, using platforms like I already mentioned. But to answer the actual question that you asked, the bigger financial effect would really be in advertising just because in advertising, the effects are human happiness while you're out on the internet. If you have better advertising coming to you, then the internet's not going to be so annoying where you're kind of blanking out everything. Important stuff will show up to you more frequently, which is good for the customer experience. It's better for businesses because it means advertising would be a lot less expensive than it is today.
John: Indeed. So, we're coming out of COVID, there's a change. Obviously there are stores, I've heard CEOs talk about, they need less square footage in a store because people are going to consistently, maybe do take out, pick up and things like that. So there's a little bit of change there. So brick and mortar is going to evolve a little bit. And of course, in this particular past year plus, small businesses had to absolutely reach out and digitize more. So take me through your predictions. Look at your crystal ball. And I know you particularly focus on small, medium enterprises. Tell me where they're going to go. Yeah. Tell me where they're going to go.
Zeze Peters: Yeah. So it's an interesting thing, because before we pivoted into focusing just on the AI advertising piece, this was the same key question. Where is retail going to go? The issue for small, medium sized businesses, I mean, right now we do more direct to consumer CPG and franchises. But for small and medium sized businesses, and frankly, every business, they are going to have to think about digital the same way they think about leasing. It's got to actually start at the same point. So that means that when you're creating a business, you want to have a business in a city, any city anywhere, you're going to have to have a strong digital presence immediately because already I think one of the Google stats is what, 80% of people search before they go to a physical store. So if you have no online presence, even your physical store is going to have a lot of problem because you have extremely fierce online competition, and they can deliver. And most of these guys cannot.
John: I want to switch. I want to talk about you a little bit. You've been bootstrapped. Talk to me about how you went out, how you plan to go out and find funding, what it really means to be a Black entrepreneur in North America, Black entrepreneur in Canada, maybe even the US, if you have any feedback on that.
Zeze Peters: A few things. I mean, being fully bootstrapped was by necessity. So I started out this company, I raised some money from friends and family. I got quick, early traction. I was able to hire a couple of people, get some people who used to work for me to even do some work for free. And then I went out to raise money, and till date, I've not been able to raise almost any dollars. So part of that journey is just kind of recognizing a few things about what VCs and other funders are looking for. And for me, the narrative that works best for me is they're not used to me. So I come to a room, I don't look like what you're used to in funding. And frankly, for a while, I wouldn't introduce myself as a rocket scientist. I'd just say I'm Zeze. And people would just wouldn't care to talk. And so you'd go in a room and like," Oh yeah, I'm Zeze. I'm starting a company." And you can kind of tell that people are not ready or not interested. They're like," Oh, well, I mean, what is it that you're going to bring up?" Because people are used to either credentialing or pattern matching. So I had to basically change quite a few things. So I stopped kind of going out looking like a tech bro. So I wouldn't go out with my hoodie. I wouldn't go out even dressed like this. So that I'd come in the room and people look like maybe I could give them money. And so the conversations are easier to start. Then digitally, I introduce myself now as a rocket scientist, founder and CEO, so that when people get to that line, they're like,"Hm, maybe I should do a little extra thinking and talking." And that has allowed me to go a lot further. So as a Black entrepreneur, it's not that doors are closed. It's just, the doors are not as opened as I would hope. I wasn't part of almost any networks, period, where the people who could help fund my company were. So I had to go ahead and join those networks, create some opportunity for myself. So I joined a lot of organizations in Ontario, really worked really tough and hard to get into accelerators. Just finished a Plug and Play Media& Ads, Batch 3, out of California. We're part of eCommerce North, out in Toronto right now. I was part of the DMZ out in Toronto. And so just breaking in and being in these networks gives you better access and additional levels of credibility, in addition to having the title, rocket scientist, founder and CEO, so that people take you more seriously. And at that point, then you can talk about traction. But before people take you seriously, you can't get to the right parts of the conversation.
John: I just want to thank you for taking the time to be with me today. It was a fabulous discussion. Thank you so much. I appreciate it.
Zeze Peters: I love this job.
You might think that selling consumer products has never been easier. Not so fast. Sure, e-commerce is everywhere and is becoming more user-friendly by the minute, but where do you start? Who do you market to? How and where should you advertise? Digital advertising offers myriad of options, but with options, come decisions. Big decisions. That’s where Zeze Peters and Beam.city DNA come in.
In this episode of the Georgian Podcast, we’ll be talking to Zeze Peters, Founder & CEO of Beam.city DNA, to understand how digital advertising and AI go hand in hand.
You’ll hear about:
· How to spend your advertising budget effectively
· The future of A.I in digital advertising
· Striking a balance between the creative side and the business side of advertising
· The effects of COVID-19 on retailers and what retail is going to look like in the future
· Fundraising as a black entrepreneur