Gimbal Expands Proximity’s Promise With LED Display Maker NanoLumens

As Jeff Russakow approaches his sixth month as CEO of the geolocation marketing platform, his goal is to digitize all physical businesses.

Gimbal's Jeff Russakow
Gimbal’s Jeff Russakow

Proximity marketing services provider Gimbal has racked up several partnerships in the last several months designed to enhance the connection between online, mobile, and specific locations from retail stores to outdoor stadiums to out-of-home billboards.

The San Diego-based company’s new alliance with LED billboard manufacturer NanoLumens is part of what Gimbal CEO Jeff Russakow says is part of an overarching goal to connect and digitize all forms of traditional, brick-and-mortar marketing. (Read the release)

Russakow was named CEO in July. He’s held executive posts at SAP, Adobe, and Symantec. In addition to those jobs, this current post has Russakow also calling on his experience in digital media and advertising as EVP and chief customer officer at Yahoo and his most recent role as CEO of talent acquisition firm Findly.

“In addition to increasing our strength in retail of every flavor, from big box store to department stores to grocery, as well as hospitality, transportation, dining, all the way through to quick service retail, coffee chains, we’re also looking for continued growth to come from events and out-of-home,” Russakow told GeoMarketing last week. “One reason OOH is so important is that it easily furthers our goal of growing our physical network. You can grow it in store, but in order to experience marketing in the widest way, you have to move with consumers out of the store.”

For NanoLumens and its ad clients, Nate Remmes, NanoLumens’ VP of Strategic Alliances, says the Gimbal partnership will help address two major challenges in the digital signage industry — relevancy and attribution.

The partnership is a first step in creating a digital display platform that will help bridge the information gap between the mobile user and the brick-and-mortar world. It will help the company to deliver targeted ads in real-time to audiences that are standing in a specified area around the display.

“Using beacon technology to trigger content changes is a powerful way to deliver more relevant messaging,” Remmes emphasized. “Our focus is to create fully-enabled displays that can be integrated with content management systems, interactive campaigns or any future developments.”

While Russakow looks to additional platform partners, NanoLumens expects to have the first Gimbal-enabled display solutions in the marketplace early in 2016.

GeoMarketing: You’ve had a pretty varied career — what attracted you to Gimbal?

Jeff Russakow: Two things. First, it was the growth of the proximity market itself. More broadly, I was attracted by the enormous opportunity around location, proximity sensors, and a platform — and all the things you can do with it.

To me, it’s very clear that the market for this will be huge and the number of applications for it will be literally in the thousands. The reason is because there’s a need to basically bring the physical world across the digital device, or to unite the physical and digital worlds.

When looking at a market, I’m always attracted to who’s the biggest brand with the most traction with largest enterprise customers, the most use cases and the best momentum. Gimbal is one of the early innovators in the space and it’s probably the most strongly endorsed by the ecosystem. My thinking was, if I was going to join the space, Gimbal was the company with whom to do it.

What in your background made you the right fit for the CEO role there?

I did a PhD in technology back in the early mid-90s, focusing on robotics and automation. Even then, I saw the opportunity for local marketing and what you could do with it. At the time, we were creating a GPS program we called “pseudolites,” — like a fake satellite.

The GPS satellite was the size of a deck of cards, about the size of a current beacon. We were placing them in the room, or in the factory, and trying to actually do things with that. This is something I personally was fascinated by 20 years ago. Now, it’s come full circle. The technology is just so simple and the cost structure is so low. And with the mobile revolution, where you now have millions of people who are kind enough to walk around with radio receiving devices in their pockets that are internet accessible, it’s all so easy, compared to 20 years ago, when you really had to be a rocket scientist to do this stuff.

Looking at the current commercial opportunity, where you connect this technology to restaurants and ordering your coffee, to checking into a hotel and finding about offers at the door, on to having a great experience at the museum, a sports stadium, or a movie theater. We never imagined 20 years ago we’d be thinking about a clear consumer application. In a sense, this is deja vu all over again.

Gimbal has gone through a few phases since its incubation within Qualcomm in 2013 and its spin-off from the chipset maker roughly a year later. How do you see the company’s identity progressing?

If you think about the phases of Gimbal, I think of it more as an evolution than a straight line, though it’s been maturing for quite some time. During the incubation period, it was more of a component technology or set of technologies, largely targeting technical and developer community.

Clearly, all long it’s been moving towards more of a complete, vertically integrated solution and an ecosystem of partners to be more of a business solution much more clearly serving marketers, as well as people who are focused on customer and consumer engagement and experiences.

We’ve got a base layer around geo-sensing and proximity sensing of beacons, [inaudible 00:08:33] analytics, and then more recently with our Phigital acquisition, as well as our partnerships in the out-of-home space and other areas. Our clear purpose is provide people a single turnkey solution where brands and marketers can incorporate location and proximity into whatever their mobile app experience is.

So the way to see the trajectory of Gimbal’s expansion is that we’ve been evolving from technical componentry to a marketing solutions platform all along. In terms of what I view what I bring to it, there are a couple things. I’ve spent about half of my time in more B-to-B or enterprise marketing area and the other half of my time in B-to-C, consumer-facing business. I know what it’s like to sell to large enterprises, but I also know what it’s like to sell to large enterprises and their consumers.

Where do you see Gimbal’s growth coming from?

We’re now in a world where people are spending more than half of their total digital time on a mobile device walking around. The devices aren’t mobile, the people are.

Ironically, this whole beautiful digital world that we created over the last fifteen years where we know everything about a consumer … The web-based world got cut off at the knees.

How do you mean?

When a person hits a website, I know they’re there. I know how long they’ve been there. I, in many cases, know where they came there from. I know all their favorite locations. I know who their friends are, and I can see at the product level what they’re interested.

Once you have the analytics telling you all that about , and then I can turn around and do all kinds of things with it in real time. I can put information in front of them. I can show them an experience. I can give them an offer. There’s this whole industry that allows me to do that almost as easily as moving money around in a mutual fund.

Then, along comes mobile and it cuts that all off at the knees. Like, “Well, now I have consumers that are still going to sites.” They’re just going to physical sites, websites, and then it all breaks. It’s like, “Well, if they’re outside, I can see them with GPS if there’s satellites over their head, but I can see them at a course level.”

It’s not enough to know they’re in front of the door at Tory Burch versus another shop next door. The minute they walk inside, where wi-fi, for example, takes over, that whole telemetry feed just gets cut off and heavily compromised. I’m not getting that data about how long they’ve been there. I certainly can’t see at a product level or rack level. If they’re in front of the Tommy Bahama rack or in front of some other brand.

I also don’t know what their favorite locations are, and I don’t know who all their friends are. “Who’d you actually get together with in person for coffee?” All that stuff’s out the window. My ability to then turn around and do something with that real time is also pretty poor.

To me, the frustration as a digital marketer and/or as a customer experience person, has been that The great news is mobile’s awesome, but we also retrograded, in terms of the infrastructure of data available to us, hat we could do with it on the PC or the wider connected world.

How do you and Gimbal propose to solve that issue and tie all those loose marketing strands together?

We literally want to digitize the physical world. If I can make every one of those physical places act like a website — meaning that we can give that marketer the exact same telemetry feed and analytics capabilities that they’re used to getting on the web when someone visits, and enable them to retarget using the same techniques, that’s how we all win.

About The Author
David Kaplan David Kaplan @davidakaplan

A New York City-based journalist for over 20 years, David Kaplan is managing editor of A former editor and reporter at AdExchanger, paidContent, Adweek and MediaPost.