Oz Etzioni of Clinch: The Future of Retail Over The Next Five Years
One thing that has grown during the pandemic was the need for personalized ads. Consumers today are constantly subjected to advertisements, and they are adept to tune out generic ads that have no real connection to them. We see brands adapting to the changing times by showcasing personalized ads that take into consideration three major factors: time, context, and location. By incorporating these factors, brands were able to target their audience with accurate, relevant, and personal advertisements.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Oz Etzioni the CEO and co-founder of Clinch, an AI-powered omnichannel personalization technology platform. Clinch’s platform combines brand, product and consumer data with dynamic creative messaging to generate unlimited personalized versions of advertisements for programmatic and social media video and display ads.
After spending years leading user experience, design and innovation teams at major agencies, Etzioni founded Clinch to take advantage of the explosive growth in programmatic and address the need to provide data-driven video creative at scale. As CEO, Oz has led advanced omni channel, personalized campaigns. Today, Clinch is the only creative technology company to enable advertisers to use data to personalize videos regardless of platform to deliver the right message to the right customer at the right time.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Early in my career I was focusing on digital consumer products that connect the online and offline worlds. As user experience became more and more essential and core to a brand’s initiatives, it was clear that personalized content that is relevant and tailored to the individual will be crucial for digital advertising, so we started building Clinch solutions.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
The funny / absurd fact is that we actually built Clinch as a video solution first, however back in the day every brand we talked to told us “What would I do with video??” or “Can you offer me the same solution for HTML5 banners?” Priorities were different then, but at that point we realized we needed to build more capabilities that address all the different channels and executions, and on the same core technology, as building a separate solution would add unnecessary cost, and complexities. That was when we started thinking of omnichannel and the potential of actually learning between the channels and executions of display and video. Soon, video became the hot commodity, and the demand quickly turned from HTML5 banners to video…and our video solution was already battle-proven and fully integrated into the full omnichannel solution. That initial clients’ “rejection” to our offering truly helped us shape our product vision going forward.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson or takeaway you learned from that?
A lesson about the importance of brand guidelines and the subconsciousness of ads…In the early days, a client from the travel industry asked us to create ads for a “hot sale” event, for which we developed an amazing animated ad with elements that were on fire, and an amazing animation of a plane flying acrobatically through the ad. We were very excited to accomplish such a complex level of animation in HTML5 at scale. Then the client feedback came and we were roasted on the fact that not only it seem that the plane was on fire and out of control, but the animation ended with the plane disappearing into the lower left edge of the ad, in the worst possible angle, giving the viewer the notion that the plane did not have a successful landing. From that point on, brand guidelines, emotional takeaways, and storytelling became essential components in our solution, and just as important as the tech itself.
Are you working on any new exciting projects now? How do you think that might help people in the industry?
Video advertising has caused many marketers to hit a rough patch. From lack of efficiency, speed, and cost many industry experts fall short. We recently launched the industry’s most advanced and efficient video rendering engine, called Clinch Xenon. Our new innovative technology replaces existing common rendering solutions for video advertising personalization at scale. Clinch Xenon provides customization and control for video editing and significantly reduces processing time, making it far easier and cost-efficient to produce the scale and variations of video assets required for true omni-channel personalization. This gives industry execs the ability to streamline the process, removing unneeded steps where errors may be introduced. Because of its lightweight, cloud-based design, error-reduction, and speed, Clinch Xenon can reduce rendering costs by 90%. You can learn more about Clinch Xenon here.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Stay true to the vision but be aware and attentive to clients’ needs and market trends and be bold enough to iterate the product and positioning accordingly (don’t fall in love with your initial concept). Your team is an essential part of your offering to the clients, they are the real engine of the company. Choose the right people, take good care of them, and most importantly, empower them.
Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
My family and my co-founder. No one in the startup world can succeed without the support from their closest people; they all become co-founders in one way or another, and all carry the burden and challenges and ups and downs of building a company with a vision that starts from scratch and grows. A good, honest, ego-less and target-oriented relationship between the co-founders is crucial (make sure to pick right for the LONG TERM!).
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I sure hope so. We built our tech to make sure that we help our clients and their consumers provide value for each other. The idea behind personalization, not only in advertising, is to make things relevant and customized for me as an individual, so I can enjoy and maximize the benefits from everything I do or experience. It could be to save time, save money, even just entertain. Regardless of the specific goal, I dedicate my time and attention, and I want value in return. So we are trying to always improve our tech to build value and help consumers get what they want or need, when they need it.
Can you share 5 examples of how retail companies will be adjusting over the next five years to the new ways that consumers like to shop?
The COVID-19 pandemic changed the way consumers will shop for the foreseeable future. The major adjustments made were:
- E-commerce: This experience opened the door for the e-commerce industry, consumers were flocking to online shopping during the pandemic and brands took clear notice by offering pick-up and delivery services. The industry has now seen major growth in e-commerce and consumers have now acclimated to the current reality, the ease of use has been a major player for the new consumer mindset. The path to purchase has become more digital-reliant and retail will become a showroom / experience.
- Ad Consciousness: Advertisers had to change the way ads were seen, displayed and positioned to consumers. Within the matter of months social gatherings were considered taboo and ads needed to reflect the current reality. The key is to ensure that the content being consumed is as relevant, personal, and geographically applicable as possible (e.g.: offering delivery messages in ads to people in locations with a stay-at-home order, and to offer curb-side pick up messages to people in less restrictive locations. In the upcoming back to school campaigns, when we are setting up personalization parameters, we not only have to consider geo on a state level, but also at the county-level, in order to determine messaging that resonates with schools that will operate in-person vs. remote). Seeing ads that didn’t reflect the current reality would not seem relevant to the consumer, and doesn’t connect with your audience. Brands need to stay conscious of the types of ads displayed for their client base. The most successful ads resonate in a relevant manner by “addressing the times” head on, and remain authentic to their brand. Avoiding the issue altogether has its own set of risks.
- Personalization: One thing that has grown during the pandemic was the need for personalized ads. Consumers today are constantly subjected to advertisements, and they are adept to tune out generic ads that have no real connection to them. We see brands adapting to the changing times by showcasing personalized ads that take into consideration three major factors: time, context, and location. By incorporating these factors, brands were able to target their audience with accurate, relevant, and personal advertisements.
- Transparency: Just like the ‘organic’ movement in the food industry and the demand for food sources transparency, ingredients, and transparent process of production, etc. The retail industry might experience a similar process which they need to prepare for. Consumers want transparency with where and how products have reached their warehouses and shelves. Safety and health conscious consumers are more prevalent now than ever before. Brand messaging needs to have a purpose, not just a vague “we’re in this together.” Viewers want to know: Who are they helping? Is it believable and authentic? Is the brand doing its part? Can I trust this brand? Do I share its values? Where did it come from? Is it safe? Brands will need to showcase supply chain management, efficiency, and sanitation needs to keep consumers at ease while shopping both online and in-store.
- Dynamic Audiences segmentation: DMP segmentations will continue to generate audiences that are too broad. The idea of identifying and segmenting audiences based on engagement, preferences, and context will drive retailers to start segmenting audiences in a more granular, precise, and dynamic way. This will allow the retailers to address consumers with much more relevant and personalized content, and form much better and frequent communication that is beneficial to both sides.
If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
I would focus on food and water resources, as this is accelerating to become a global issue that needs to be addressed well ahead of time and not when encountered, as it’ll be too late.