Gil Dudkiewicz, CEO of Start.io, shares his perspective on 2021 as well as his outlook for 2022 and beyond. He covers trends around how consumers use their mobile devices and marketing's shift towards contextual segmentation, with the growing importance of diversity and inclusion leading the way.
What are the key takeaways from the COVID-19 pandemic, and what will 2022 look like?
Dudkiewicz: Last year saw a shift in consumer behavior that is reflected in our mobile audience data. The best example we saw was a 30% rise in the use of meditation apps, pointing to consumers’ need to deal with stress. In addition, a significant part of the workforce had to reinvent itself, seen in the growing demand for operating apps such as VPNs, which spiked by 60% compared with 2020.
In 2022 we expect to see an acceleration in the shift to digital interaction and services. Customers are adapting faster and willing to explore new digital products and services. This trend should lead brands to revisit their strategies and product offerings to meet emerging consumer expectations.
There are many workforce changes playing out across various industries. Could you share your perspective on agencies?
Dudkiewicz: First of all, the Great Resignation is underway, and people are changing positions in higher numbers than ever before. We’ve seen a 27% jump in mobile app usage on the topics of careers and employment. Employees are looking for opportunities at companies that support their personal and professional growth and provide them with tools that make their day-to-day workload easier.
In terms of agencies specifically, teams spend a lot of time doing manual work, but marketing technology companies are developing tools to eliminate those tedious activities. For example, we will be launching Maia, a mobile AI audience platform that is an easy-to-use, single-frame platform for audience exploration and activation. Having standard software for campaign creation can help onboard and maintain an agency's day-to-day operations. Agencies that employ these kinds of tools will be much more attractive to new talent.
What would be the key marketing themes for 2022?
Dudkiewicz: The marketing industry is being transformed rapidly in many ways. We face changes in the marketing tech ecosystem, changes driven by the pandemic as well as a growing focus on uplifting and promoting minority voices and inclusion as a whole. The marketing industry has an opportunity to become a beacon for women in more traditional sectors. Moreover, advancing racial equity in the workplace is a system-level challenge ranging from the structural inequities of geography to underrepresentation. Closing racial gaps across the economy are not only about righting historical wrongs, but also about choosing a more dynamic and inclusive future and realizing the full potential of an underutilized source of talent that benefits all companies.
Would you describe the focus on minorities and inclusion as social justice or a business opportunity?
Dudkiewicz: I genuinely believe it's a huge opportunity. For example, serving the Black American consumer is evaluated by McKinsey to be a $300 billion opportunity. We see brands showing interest in minorities, viewing them as an untapped audience. We expect to see companies serving and addressing this market with specific minority-driven strategies.
Apple has disrupted the ecosystem with its Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA). What do you think the long-term impact of this change will be?
Dudkiewicz: Veterans in the marketing and advertising industry are not surprised by Apple's move. The mobile app industry has been around only for about 10 years, but it has undergone constant change in that short time, and industry players are used to adapting to new technologies, regulations and policies.
According to IDC, the mobile app advertising industry surpassed $100 billion in 2021. That means the mobile device is a CMO superpower, and mobile will continue to be a dominating trend. We see a pretty high consent rate of 40% for IDFA opt-in, but we've constructed our platform to be future-proof, enabling it to handle any segment and audience on a contextual basis. That allows advertisers to find their audience and measure the impact of their ad investment. Privacy policies and initiatives balance innovation with relevant limitations, and that's a good thing. For marketers, mobile targeting will be the most powerful tool in their toolbox today and going forward.
What shifts will agencies make when it comes to their clients’ media spend?
Dudkiewicz: The pandemic accelerated the digitization of the advertising industry. Performance players paved the way for brands, and now it's clear that mobile is front and center. Traditional advertising channels like TV are losing ground as consumption continues to shift to streaming services. Now, advanced marketing technology that includes easy, precise segmentation and measurement is more attractive, and the ad dollars that used to be allocated to TV budgets can be used much more effectively in the mobile space.
As we’ve all experienced the past couple of years, the only thing we can expect is the unexpected. But we’ve also learned that the brands and marketers who are prepared to jump on opportunities that arise from mass disruption are in the best position to succeed.
Gil, co-founder and CEO of Start.io, is a serial entrepreneur. He was previously entrepreneur in residence at the Cedar Fund, and before Start.io he was the CEO of SweetIM, which he joined as a pre-revenue company with five employees, leading the company to high profitability and winning the Technology Rising Star Award by Deloitte Fast 50. SweetIM was acquired by Perion Network (NASDAQ: PERI) in 2012. Gil was also the founder and CEO of MyDTV/MeeVee, a personalized TV Guide and TV search. He holds an MBA from the University of California, Berkeley, and a B.Sc. in engineering from the Israel Institute of Technology.