Here's What Happened to Ogilvy Vet and Data Evangelist Dimitri Maex

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Dmitri Maex
Dmitri Maex

Dimitri Maex, longtime Ogilvy exec and data evangelist, has begun a new chapter with Sentiance, a mobile data analytics firm, where he recently joined as global president. Mr. Maex, former president of OgilvyOne, Ogilvy's data-centric customer engagement agency, will set up Belgium-based Sentiance's new office in New York, and hire a small team of business development and tech staff there.

Mr. Maex, author of "Sexy Little Numbers," a book about growing business through consumer data, put in his notice at Ogilvy, where he was for 17 years, this summer.

Ogilvy's data leadership has going through some upheaval, with many execs leaving the firm recently. Todd Cullen, former Ogilvy chief data officer, moved on to KPMG in April. Mark Donatelli left Ogilvy and Mather, where he served as global head of data strategy and planning, in September. Tom Hutchinson, previously director of marketing services at OgilvyOne and former Acxiom exec, joined WPP's data hub Data Alliance in March.

Mr. Maex started with Sentiance on Sept. 1. His original plan was to launch his own firm, and he'd just begun consulting with companies to help them find new ways to make use of their data when he got a call from Sentiance's founder: Would he like to help build their New York business?

He agreed to take the gig. It didn't hurt that Sentiance had scored a series B funding round of $5.2 million about a year ago led by Samsung Catalyst Fund.

"We are growing rapidly as some of the world's biggest companies are adopting our technology. This is why it is crucial for us to build out our U.S. presence," said Sentiance CEO Toon Vanparys, in a statement supplied to Ad Age.

Sentiance is on the cusp of a burgeoning yet rapidly growing sector that merges technology and data gathering and analysis. The company gathers background mobile device data that reflects location and movement -- the idea being to isolate patterns that can reveal the daily routines of users and infer things about their behavior.

Rather than gathering behavioral data showing device owners' interests based on which apps they download or their mobile web interactions, the company gleans time and location information from what Mr. Maex calls "dumb sensors" such as gyroscopes and accelerometers, which measure the orientation and directional movement of a device. Along with data showing when a phone is used and where, Sentiance aims to understand behaviors such as typical sleep patterns or commuting routines.

"The algorithms can pick up on the differences of vibrations," said Mr. Maex.

The firm also partners with makers of wearables and in-home security systems that connect to apps with Sentiance technology, helping it detect things like a family's movement patterns within a household in order to understand when cooking usually happens in the kitchen, or when someone is cleaning.

"We don't look at what people are looking at on their phone; we prefer to look at very dumb sensors mainly for privacy reasons," said Mr. Maex. The company does not require any explicit privacy notifications when consumers use an app with the Sentiance SDK.

Currently, the firm is working with clients including a pharma data company and ride share company, neither of which Sentiance would name. The company has been developing ways for its clients to analyze the mobile and IoT-related data to better understand their customers. In the case of the pharma data firm, for example, data illuminating phone use routines can help determine someone's sleep schedule, and thus help to better target drug prescription adherence reminders. There are, of course, marketing applications, too, such as targeting messages based on inferred behaviors.

The firm first develops custom plans for its clients for a flat fee, then charges a cost-per-user-per-month once a project is underway. A user can refer to an individual device or a household.

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