How Criteo leverages AI and data to help advertisers improve their ad targeting

Customer knowledge is at the center of any commercial and digital marketing strategy. This is essential to reach its core target, personalize its actions and thus develop its activity. In the digital age, marketing now has many targeting solutions. Criteoa specialist in advertising targeting and a leader in Commerce Media, relies on technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), deep learning and data to help advertisers and publishers improve their advertising targeting and offer a more personalized and adapted experience. to prospects.

Diarmuid Gill, Chief Technology Officer at Criteo, discusses the new challenges facing companies in terms of advertising and targeting, and how the technological innovations adopted by Criteo are helping them to meet them.

Can you tell us about your background and your current role at Criteo?

I’m from Ireland, but have lived in France since 2014 when I joined Criteo as VP of the Product Engineering group. In 2019, I took on the role of Chief Technology Officer (CTO) and lead the entire R&D team. Today, the R&D team numbers around 550 people, located mainly in Paris, Grenoble and Ann Arbor, with a few small teams in Bordeaux, Barcelona, ​​London, Boston and Toronto.

Against a backdrop of declining cookies, privacy concerns and the rise of 1st party data, what have been Criteo’s technology challenges over the past two or three years?

The changes that have occurred and are still being discussed regarding the future of user data have posed, and continue to pose, challenges for ad technology providers. Our main concern has always been to push for what is best for the entire ecosystem, namely marketers, media owners and internet users (more generally, the most people on the planet), all of whom are threatened by the impact of these changes.

Marketers risk losing control of the effectiveness of their marketing spend and reducing it if they can no longer measure its impact. Media owners dependent on advertising revenue will have less money to invest in content creation and may have to resort to subscriptions or other revenue models, which means less choice for consumers when it comes to where they shop and less free content for all internet users.

From a technological point of view, in an environment in which measurement and precision are key, those who have the most performing platforms have an opportunity to differentiate themselves even more, provided they also have the flexibility and agility needed to be able to adapt their systems to new circumstances.

During this time, we have focused on using the latest deep learning and neural network technologies to expand our offerings to include mid and upper funnel audience features at the high performance levels for which Criteo has always been known. The relationships we have with our customers give us access to a wealth of first-party commercial data, unique in the sector. In our view, cutting-edge technology combined with quality data forms the basis of a very powerful platform.

How does AI drive personalization throughout the purchase journey?

AI-powered engineering has been part of Criteo’s history since day one and has been the key differentiator that has made us successful. Criteo has very strong partnerships with its clients, and these deep integrations allow us to deliver on our promise to show the right product to the right person at the right time.

Using AI, we are able to create audience segments that marketers can use to increase awareness, drive engagement, increase sales, and build long-term brand loyalty. No other technology provider in the industry can deliver such performance at every stage of the buying journey, along with the highly accurate measurement of ROAS that all marketers depend on.

For example, we use our expertise in natural language processing (NLP) to build a cookie-agnostic contextual solution on which we can overlay our business data and thus correlate the contextual signal with actual business results, which the products of normal contextual analysis can not do.

How do you work with data today to help brands better understand their customers?

Many of the world’s best-known brands depend on other players, namely retailers, to sell their products. As such, brands often lack the data that would allow them to see the big picture of their customers, especially how they navigate the buying journey for their products.

The data brands get is usually very fragmented and incomplete, which means they have a very partial view of their customers. Thanks to the close ties that Criteo interacts with retailers and publishers, we can help brands access the audiences that are most relevant to their products and, very importantly, provide accurate metrics, where they can track the contribution of marketing investment to their online sales .

What are the main R&D challenges for the next few years?

The biggest challenge we face in technology – and that’s why I think it’s the best industry in the world – is the constant pressure to keep innovating. In technology, if you don’t move, you fall behind. This makes things extremely dynamic and so you have to constantly renew your knowledge. Challenges can take the form of regulatory or environmental changes, which force you to adapt (hence the need for flexibility and agility), while technological advances, especially in the field of open source software, offer opportunities.

Other challenges are adapting to new hybrid ways of working. While this phenomenon is not unique to R&D organizations, the team-oriented nature of R&D work makes it a particular problem to address. The days when the whole team was in an office five days a week are a thing of the past. I anticipate teams to be made up of people who always want to come to the office every day, others who are happy to never or rarely come to the office, and many who want the flexibility to choose.

It becomes extremely important for leaders to ensure that we can adapt to this new normal and that our work culture can evolve in such a way that each of these groups can have a fantastic work experience and do not feel to miss anything.

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How Criteo leverages AI and data to help advertisers improve their ad targeting

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