SundaySky’s Flaharty: He’s A Believer

Mark Flaharty, the new EVP of SundaySky, speaks to the power of location data in personalized video ads.

Last month, Mark Flaharty joined customized video ad company, SundaySky as its EVP of Advertising. Formerly the SVP, North American Sales at retargeting specialist, Criteo, Flaharty has more than 20 years of experience in the digital marketing industry. In a conversation with GeoMarketing, Flaharty tells how he’s gone from a cynic to a believer in the powers of video, and details how location can factor into and shape personalized video messaging ads.

Mark Flaharty, EVP, Advertising at SundaySky
Mark Flaharty, EVP, Advertising at SundaySky

GeoMarketing: You’ve held positions at Yahoo, Google (YouTube), and most recently Criteo. How did your journey in digital marketing lead to you new post at SundaySky?

MF: Through Criteo, I was connected with SundaySky and was just completely impressed by their team. One thing led to another, we got to know each other over a period of time, and eventually I thought it was time to go help them build their business of helping clients connect with their customers using personalized video.

Having been in the business since the ‘90s and experiencing the rise of digital, how have you come to embrace video as a marketing medium?

There was a time when I would have told you that personalized video advertising just isn’t possible because of the complexities behind coding the actual video. Video is so much more complicated than text or display. But at YouTube, I built up a love for video, and saw the video advertising world develop in the digital space. Then I went to Criteo, where we built a performance display business ultimately helping clients, particularly commerce marketers, figure out a way to do personalized marketing in a display world to drive commerce transactions. That’s done very well and the company has been very successful.

How is SundaySky delivering on the promise of video as a personalized marketing tool?

Our mission is to combine that power of sight, sound, and motion, and to pull together all of the strategic imperatives of personalization and data and quality and performance, and obviously, video. We look to combine all of those elements to help [our] clients connect with their audiences and to do prospecting with video marketing in a personalized, accountable type of way.

It all comes down to first party data that our clients have permission to use from their customers. I would argue that [data] is the most valuable marketing asset, and by the way, it’s free for them to use. In some cases, they have a small amount of data on a set of customers. In some cases, they have a ton of data on a customer-by-customer basis.

We help [our clients] understand how to use that data, to process that data, and to understand what data should be used — and what data shouldn’t be used — to inform video communication.

SundaySky partners primarily with companies using e-commerce platforms, but also works with brands with an offline presence. How might SundaySky leverage location data to promote in-store activity by consumers?

One of the data elements that you can use is the IP address of the user. Through that, we can observe [user] behavior, so as to be able to send an ad to that person showing them a product that they viewed, or a product that they’ve put in their cart. And we’re able to do it [by targeting them based on] the area in which they are at that moment as shown by their computer’s IP address.

Our work with one top home improvement retailer is a great example. We [can create] an ad showing you a tool shed that you viewed and not only display the tool shed to you, but also give you some ideas on how to best use it. We can pull in some ratings and some comments that other users have made about that product and how it was helpful for them. I can also help you understand that the shed is available today, at this moment, at your local store.

Users will tell a [major chain]  what their local store is, so when they go to the retailer’s site, we will know exactly what their local store is regardless of where they are. For those who haven’t done that, we can still do it based on IP address. Based on where you are, we can tell you exactly what store it’s available in, in your area and you can buy it online or pick it up at the store.

Do special offers at local stores also come into play in SundaySky’s messaging strategy?

We’re exploring taking the local circular data that retailers have that is more and more being digitized to help the user understand that these are the local products that are on sale in your area today. It’s not always relevant to the individual, but it’s certainly relevant for the retailer as an important marketing channel.

As you mentioned we work with a lot of e-commerce folks. The reason that a company like SundaySky would work with folks in the e-commerce space is because they have a plethora of data. An offline retailer has hundreds if not thousands of stores, so we can utilize those as additional data points to further make the message personalized, more relevant.