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Criteo’s fusion of man and machine in the Middle East

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Criteo’s fusion of man and machine in the Middle East

Blast off

Upon the launch of Criteo’s new Dubai office, coming this summer, the company’s presence was felt at the recent ArabNet, where Communicate got to chat with Gregory Gazagne, executive vice president of EMEA with Criteo. The performance marketing technology company has had a remote presence in Dubai since 2012, but with a local team of ten members strong, the office is getting a proper office hub for the Middle East this summer. When speaking with Gazagne, he explained that with all new expansion territories, Criteo first establishes a remote presence to assess the opportunity in the country, build preliminary relationships, and then eventually, settle in. Criteo takes data and creative and combines them technically to create online ad banners that will drive conversions through hyper-personalization. Gazagne explains that the proprietary technology used by Criteo creates banners that change user-by-user based on color, size, call-to-action preferences, to name a few. The region is a hot-spot for this type of online ad banner company because the data is here due to the usage rate, and additionally, consumers in the region are queuing up to convert.

Drive it home

Gazagne breaks into discussing m-commerce in the region, saying, in his mind, it is on par with the global average.  Specifically referring to the UAE, sales on mobile are at 30 percent. The global average is 34 percent; however, he explains, this figure includes Japan and South Korea, which are way ahead of the rest of the world. He highlights that the Middle East is also growing much faster, as mobile adoption is stronger and people have more devices. Gazagne says, “When it comes to mobile, MENA is more advanced than Western Europe.” Noting the bright future he sees for Criteo here in the region. Gazagne explains that his company proposes the same solution to everyone in the world.

With a word to the wise – those attempting to properly advertise for e-commerce and m-commerce conversions – Gazagne explains that retailers, specifically, need to focus on their apps. 90 percent of apps downloaded are not used after three weeks, so companies need to give users that daily benefit.

Mad men meet math men

Clearly, companies with advertising approaches like Criteo’s are changing the game for creative types. However, Gazagne points out, “There is always a need for agencies but they need to invest in technology a lot more than they are currently. Technology and data are driving the world; if you’re not a technological company, you aren’t going to survive long-term.” He continues, explaining the new professional who makes up the Criteo creative team that falls somewhere between a mad man and a math man. The creative, he says, is still needed because that’s what drives traffic to the sites.

Gazagne illustrates the role of creatives in the company: “We have 60 creatives, who are responsible for the prioritization of what data we put in the banner, how the banner will render, what size, etc.” The machine is needed to build and format the changes that are brought about by the data, also collected by that same machine. He predicts that the future will combine creatives who are branding the products, and the machines ensuring their conversion, through personalized targeting.

He goes on to describe the importance of both content and context, saying, “If you show a banner that is not personalized, you loose three times the performance than when it is personalized.” Asserting that content matters, but context does matter the most, because we are user-centric, Gazagne says, “If you are not thinking of content user-by-user, you are going to miss out.” He proceeds, “When a company is focused on trying to find the average, all the differences are being eliminated, and those differences are what make it interesting. So we are trying to understand [through machines] the weak signals that a person could not detect that will make consumers buy.”

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