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Season 2 Episode 2
Adapting to Digital Identity Shifts with Shiv Gupta

RESOURCES   ❯   The Marketing Rapport Podcast 2-28-24

Episode Summary

In this episode of The Marketing Rapport, host Tim Finnigan engages with Shiv Gupta of U of Digital in a deep dive into modern marketing strategies. They discuss the evolving landscape of digital advertising, emphasizing the significance of identity resolution and data diversification. Shiv shares insights on navigating the complexities of current marketing environments, highlighting the importance of adapting to technological advancements and consumer behavior shifts.

Shiv elaborates on the need for innovative approaches to achieve precise targeting and personalization. The conversation pivots to strategies that businesses can employ to remain competitive, including leveraging first-party data and exploring new channels for engagement.

The episode concludes with Shiv offering actionable advice for marketers aiming to stay ahead in a rapidly changing digital world. He stresses the value of continuous learning and flexibility, encouraging marketers to embrace change as an opportunity for growth.


Shiv Gupta, Founder, U of Digital
  • Name: Shiv Gupta
  • What they do: Founder
  • Company: U of Digital
  • Noteworthy: Shiv Gupta, with a rich history in digital advertising at Criteo and AOL, transitioned to founding U of Digital five years ago, driven by a passion for teaching and addressing industry confusion. His move from sales to education underscores his dedication to improving understanding and performance in the digital advertising space.
  • Where to find them: LinkedIn

Key Insights

  • The Importance of Diversification in Marketing Shiv Gupta emphasizes the crucial role of diversification in marketing strategies amid rapid industry changes. He argues that marketers should not rely on a single approach but rather spread their efforts across various methods to mitigate risks associated with the fast-evolving digital landscape. This approach helps in navigating through the uncertainty of marketing identifiers and targeting methods, ensuring businesses remain resilient and adaptable.
  • Embracing Educational Resources for Clarity Highlighting the pervasive confusion in the digital advertising space, Shiv discusses the foundation of U of Digital, aimed at demystifying complex industry concepts. He shares his journey from sales to education, driven by a passion to provide clear, comprehensible learning resources for professionals. Through U of Digital, Shiv seeks to enhance industry understanding and performance by offering courses and newsletters that break down intricate topics into accessible information. This commitment to education serves as a beacon for marketers navigating the complexities of digital advertising, encouraging continuous learning and professional growth.
  • Navigating Identity Resolution in Marketing Shiv highlights the evolving nature of consumer data collection and the importance of adopting forward-thinking strategies to maintain marketing effectiveness. Shiv’s insights on identity resolution reflect a broader trend towards privacy-centric advertising, urging marketers to explore new avenues for engaging with consumers in a compliant and respectful manner.

Episode Highlights

The Role of Education in Addressing Industry Confusion
Timestamp: [00:03:54]

Shiv Gupta discusses the motivation behind founding U of Digital, driven by his passion for teaching and the widespread confusion in the digital advertising industry. He observed salespeople struggling with pitches outside their comfort zones, highlighting a need for comprehensive industry education to build trust and foster successful relationships.

“And really what gets to the heart of why I started it is I personally saw salespeople fumble through pitch after pitch when clients wanted to go outside of that salesperson’s pitch deck… And so, in my mind, I was like, okay, well, if I can create a great learning and development offering that can get more people closer to that ideal of being industry thought leaders, we’re going to do a better job.”

Diversification as a Strategy in a Volatile Market
Timestamp: [00:12:54]

Shiv Gupta emphasizes diversification as a crucial strategy for marketers in a constantly changing landscape. He advises against putting all eggs in one basket, suggesting that marketers should explore multiple solutions to stay adaptable.

“When there’s a great moment of change or a lot of volatility, the classic old-school way to handle that is diversify, diversify, diversify. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. If everything is changing, you don’t know what’s going to pop and you don’t know what’s going to go to nothing.”

The Challenge of Identity Resolution in Marketing
Timestamp: [00:06:54]

Shiv dives into the complexities of identity resolution in marketing, highlighting the industry’s rapid change, regulatory shifts, and the fading reliability of traditional identifiers. He critiques the industry’s rush to position itself as the definitive solution amidst this uncertainty.

“Identity right now is obviously going through a lot of change. There’s so much change and how we build solutions, so much change around regulation, so much change around signals going away. […] And so if we can be the solution, whether our solution is real or not, we could at least slap some product marketing on it, put out some press releases, and make it feel like we’re the solution then we’re in the driver’s seat.”

Top Quotes

[00:03:57] Shiv Gupta: “I personally saw salespeople fumble through pitch after pitch when clients wanted to go outside of that salesperson’s pitch deck. […] And so, in my mind, I was like, okay, well, if I can create a great learning and development offering that can get more people closer to that ideal of being industry thought leaders, we’re going to do a better job.”

[00:06:54] Shiv Gupta: “Identity right now is obviously going through a lot of change. There’s so much change and how we build solutions, so much change around regulation, so much change around signals going away… And so if we can be the solution, whether our solution is real or not, we could at least slap some product marketing on it, put out some press releases, and make it feel like we’re the solution then we’re in the driver’s seat.”

[00:10:05] Shiv Gupta: “It’s hard. I have a lot of empathy for the marketer right now because they are being barraged by a lot of different solutions. It’s confusing. It’s hard. Like a lot of them get paralysis analysis or analysis paralysis because it’s like, okay well what’s right what’s wrong?”

Full Transcript

Shiv: [00:00:00] when there’s a great moment of change or a lot of volatility, You, you, the classic kind of old school way to handle that is diversify, right? Like diversify, diversify, diversify. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. if everything is changing, like you don’t know what’s going to pop and you don’t know what’s going to go to go to nothing.


Tim Finnigan: Hello, everybody. Welcome to the marketing report podcast. I’m Tim Finnegan and I’m director of product marketing at Verisk Marketing Solutions, which is a business unit of Verisk and we specialize in consumer data and insights for marketers. Well, today, the theme or title of the podcast is going to be understand how identity changes and impacts marketing, which

makes sense because the way I view identity resolution or identity, if you’ve got accurate identity resolution, it’s literally the foundation of all marketing activities. It’s knowing your customer. And I think that might be an overused term is knowing your customer. When you think about it, if you have the ability to accurately identify a customer, it’s the most basic assumption made at every step of the marketing process.

And when a marketer is unable to properly identify users, their marketing campaigns are totally disrupted. And an identity resolution is [00:02:00] about just having a unified view of users across all possible touch points with the idea. Of delivering effective marketing experiences and measure that holistically.

And what I’m excited about is joining me today to talk about identity is Shiv Gupta, who’s the founder of U of Digital. And I know he loves talking and geeking out about identity as much as I do. So Shiv, I’m going to give you a, here’s my best intro for you. So I know that you’ve been in the digital advertising space.

Your whole career, like Criteo at AOL. but about five years ago, you started U of Digital and, I’m excited for everyone to, if they haven’t heard of U of Digital to find out more about it. So welcome to the podcast Shiv.

Shiv: Yeah, I’m excited about geeking out with you for a bit about identity. Let’s do it.

Tim Finnigan: So before we get into that, tell everyone a little bit abouU of Digital and howow you started it and sort of what you’re trying to do with it.

Shiv: Yeah. [00:03:00] So, you know, the, the origin story was pretty simple. I was in sales for most of my career at companies like AOL and Criteo, as you mentioned, sales leadership. and what I realized, after leaving Criteo, I realized that for, first of all, I realized two things. I love teaching. I’m passionate about it.

I find it super rewarding. I had some opportunities to be a teacher throughout my career in different, ways. And so I wanted to do that more permanently as a career. And then more. More importantly, what I realized in terms of the market, uh, and kind of how we were doing business in this industry is, first of all, people are always confused.

People are always confused about all the things that are going on. and that’s just kind of a function of like the rapid pace of change in digital advertising and marketing. It’s a convert, it’s a function of convergence as well across a lot of different areas that in the past were fairly siloed and now they’re all kind of coming together

and becoming one and people increasingly have to know about things that are outside of their comfort zone. And really what gets to the heart of like why I started it is I personally saw salespeople [00:04:00] fumble through pitch after pitch after pitch when clients wanted to go outside of that salesperson’s pitch deck.

Right, like, I just saw it over and over again. Okay. Hey, cool. That sounds cool. Your mousetrap is great, but help me understand the bigger picture for a 2nd, help me understand how you fit in the broader context of what’s going on with data. help me understand what’s going on with brand safety. all of these things that are constantly evolving and changing.

Like, I saw salespeople struggle through that. And what I also saw is the few that could. Do that, that effectively and help them, the marketer kind of navigate through that were the ones that were earning the most trust kind of, you know, creating the largest kind of most lucrative relationships and furthering their careers the most and helping their companies.

And so, you know, in my mind, I was like, okay, well, if I can create a great learning and development offering that can get more people closer to that ideal of being industry thought leaders, kind of understanding all the broader. Strokes of what’s happening in the space, we’re going to do a better job.

They’re going to create [00:05:00] better output. They’re going to further their careers. They’re going to help their companies a lot more. And today, fast forward six years. this is true for the buy side and the sell side, right? So yes, we help a lot of sales teams. We also now help buy teams buy more efficiently and understand what’s happening in the space.

and yeah, our, goal, our vision is to help clear the confusion in the space, right? So people can drive better outcomes.

Tim Finnigan: Shiv, I love it that you talked about, not only being an educator and wanting to teach, but. Seeing how, if you can, if you can level a sales rep up that trust factor, and that’s when you’ve won as a salesperson, because people will come back to you and ask your opinion and therefore it’s not a sales call.

It’s a different kind of call. And in my little plug for U of Digital, if you can level up and get your sales reps that confidence up, then it’s going to shorten the sales cycle because they can answer it. They don’t say, Oh, I got a. I got to check with someone. So I, I love that. And, what I want to make sure, [00:06:00] you know, I, the listeners can’t see it, but I’m holding a Marketing Rapport, coffee mug and Shiv one’s coming your way.

So we can, you can, there’s your free swag. so speaking of your classes, I took identity fundamentals. And I’m looking for, I need my U of digital certificate or badge that I can post on LinkedIn. So you need to get me that.

Shiv: did you pass the assessment?

Tim Finnigan: I did.

Shiv: Okay, you

Tim Finnigan: I got,

Shiv: We got to find it in your inbox. It’s somewhere

Tim Finnigan: got maybe an 83%,

Shiv: Okay. Okay. We got it. We got get you your badge. We’ll get you your badge.

Tim Finnigan: but what, what made me really think of, and I was excited to talk to you about this is like identity fundamentals. It’s so interesting because. A lot of people think it’s super complicated and it’s confusing and overwhelming. why is that? why is it still complicated?

Shiv: I’ll tell you why. It’s complicated because Identity right now is obviously going through a lot of change, right? Like, there’s so much change and how we [00:07:00] build, you know, solutions. There’s so much, change around regulation. There’s so much change around signals going away. And what’s happening right now is because we’re in a great moment of change, and we’re also in a very competitive, fast paced industry, and we’re also very unsure and kind of scared about the future of addressability.

When you mix all those ingredients together, what starts happening is. All the companies start circling, right? Like they’re vultures that start circling, right? They’re like, oh, well, let me get my, let’s have a meeting with the product marketing team. Right? Like, we should be the answer to this problem, to this uncertainty, this to this uncertain future.

And if we can be the solution, whether our solution is real or not, we could at least slap some product marketing on it, put out some press releases and. Make it feel like we’re the solution, then we’re in the driver’s seat. And so every company right now is out there trying to do this. We are the solution.

We are the future. We have figured it out. We have the right answer for identity in the future. [00:08:00] There’s actually now a landscape. Put out by the M. M. A. and Prohaska Consulting that shows there’s over 120 I. D. solutions being peddled in the marketplace. Every one of these companies is putting out press releases all the time with confusing language, confusing jargon.

And so if you’re just somebody going about your day in the industry. Reading the press on a semi regular basis, it becomes confusing really fast, right? There’s so much, there’s so many buzzwords and terms that get used, and none of this stuff is explained in the press releases, right? Like, and you don’t know what’s real and what’s not.

And so I attribute the confusion and the chaos to the fact that we are in this great moment of uncertainty of an uncertain future. And that has just attracted the product marketing vultures and the jargon of our, of our crazy industry.

Tim Finnigan: So let me see how I can unpack that. did you know I’m product marketing?

Shiv: Sorry, I’m not calling you. Uh, I’m not saying you’re 1 of them. Uh, yeah,

Tim Finnigan: I’ve called worse, [00:09:00] but I do agree. And that’s, as, um, a product marketer for, identity is part of what, Verisk Marketing Solutions does. And we’re part, like. ProHaska is where we’re on that list, but you’re right. It’s like, that’s one of the things that I’ve got to sort of navigate through is that, Hey, you’ve got all these different messages.

What are our true differentiators and how do we compete the market? So what now, when you go back to the marketer, I saw a Forbes study, they talked about top marketing tactics for, you know, their marketing strategy for the year. And it was about audience targeting audience reach personalization. I think that’s no surprise.

What I was surprised at is that the impediments for adopting that strategy is obviously budget number one. But they talked about ID resolution, data access, privacy, Why, like, how, how do you connect privacy and ID, identity resolution and data access and all that’s coming out? Like, how do we make the, the, these marketers [00:10:00] be able to make better decisions than what they’re currently doing right now?

Shiv: it’s hard. Listen, like, I have a lot of empathy for the, for the marketer right now because, you know, they are being barraged by a lot of different solutions. It’s confusing. It’s hard. Like, a lot of them get paralysis analysis or analysis process, right? Analysis paralysis, right? Because because it’s like, okay, well, What’s right, what’s wrong?

Well, we don’t know what to do. Throw your hands up and go solve another problem instead. Right? So there is a lot of that. there’s also a lot of like, okay, well, let’s not be strategic about this. Let’s just go. You know, I got shiny penny over here. Let’s try that shiny penny over there. Let’s try that.

And so there’s a lot of that going on on both extremes. there’s also to your point, like the catch 22 around privacy, right? Because, there’s a little bit of like, uh. Yeah. Okay, well, if I lean all the way in into address ability, and some of these future proof solutions, well, what kind of risk does that create?

From a consumer-facing perspective, right? Like I can’t, if I’m a big [00:11:00] brand, I cannot afford to be in the news for a big data breach, right? Or using data in a way that’s not above board per GDPR or whatever regulation, that is enforced. Right? So like there, there’s, I have a ton of empathy for the marketer.

Like if I’m a marketer, the way I want to tackle this problem is kind of do all the things, but do them lightly. Right? So be strategic. Right. So think about create some hypotheses for the future. Like, what do you think is going to happen? Actually take a step back and think about it. I think a lot of people skip that step of actually like taking a step back and coming up with their own theories or hypotheses of the future.

So it’s like, okay, well, what do I think is going to happen from a regulation perspective? What do I think the end state of apple and google are right? I think thinking about those things and kind of creating guardrails is important and then moving quickly. Okay. To test, I think it’s really important because, and I also think it’s important not to put too many eggs into one basket.

I always like to use this analogy with identity, which is, what do you, you know, what do you [00:12:00] do in the, I’m going to ask you, Tim, what do you do? What does your financial advisor tell you to do when the stock market is going through tons of volatility and change? Like, what are you supposed to do? What does the book tell you to do?

Tim Finnigan: well, I would tell you, my financial advisor says, if it’s going down, don’t do anything like, let’s, know, you, you want to recoup. So, I would say from that is, is let’s be less risk averse. But depending on where you are, it’s like, maybe you want to be more risky in that. So I don’t know, is this part of, is it, am I going to get another badge on you U of Digital

Shiv: We’ll get you. We’ll get you. We’ll get you the financial investments match socialcial media. No, but I think you’re right. Right? Like assessing your own risk profile is really important as part of that process of like, come up with your own strategy. What is your risk profile? Are you aggressive or are you conservative?

but what I was trying to get at is also like when there’s a great moment of change or a lot of volatility, You, you, the classic kind of old [00:13:00] school way to handle that is diversify, right? Like diversify, diversify, diversify. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. if everything is changing, like you don’t know what’s going to pop and you don’t know what’s going to go to go to nothing.

And so, you know, I believe the same thing is true for addressability right now in our industry. Like if you’re a marketer, you need to be nimble. You need to be moving quickly and you need to diversify your approach. You can’t put all your eggs into one solution. Even better. You know what? I really like to, to think about if I was a marketer, I would be going hard towards solutions that intrinsically diversify my approach.

So like, you knknow, a way to diversify in thetock market is go buy a mutual fund, right? Or go buy an ETF instead of buying a stock or buying gold or something like that. So which ID solutions. Kind of look like a mutual fund version of identity, right? Or what you, you know, or an ETF of identity, it’s solutions that combine a lot of different types of approaches that create a lot of different outs, you know, like if one thing fails, well, then we’ve [00:14:00] got three other things lined up here that can fill those gaps.

So, so if I was a marketer, that’s kind of how I would be approaching it. And I would do things in a very low lift way that could actually help me right now. Like I I’ve, I’ve seen the stats. There’s a bunch of stats out there. The ones that I’ve seen basically peg, like I think 40 to 50 percent of ad opportunities today are already unaddressable with traditional identifiers, right?

So this is not a tomorrow problem marketer or don’t kick the can down the road. It’s a today problem, but also don’t try to solve for tomorrow necessarily. Like try to solve for that 40 percent today and be nimble and diversify your approach and trying to do it and keep moving, right? Keep, keep adapting to the

Tim Finnigan: So before we get into that, I want to go back to what you said about, um, diversification of sort of like identity. Actually, I’ve got a great story. It’s it’s in the, one of our customers called it commingling where they were just with one of our competitors, the main guy in the data [00:15:00] space, what was happening is that they could charge whatever they wanted, they had to do what they said to do, but then what they decided to do is exactly what you suggested is let’s diversify and go with multiple people because we can use the best of each one.

So I that. and then you had, you had mentioned about the end state of Google and Apple. Can you please tell us what’s happening? when is this going to happen? Like, what,

Shiv: Yeah, so I, listen, everything. so, so one thing I’m going to be really conscious, I think when people go out and make statements that they know what’s going to happen, I think that’s when it’s like bullshit meter goes off. Right? So I do not want to be that person. I don’t know what’s going to happen. Right. I can’t clarify it for anybody.

And guess what? If somebody tells you that they can, it’s BS because we don’t know what the end state of those companies will be. Like, I, I believe, you know, Apple, you know, one thing I’ve said in the past is I think Apple has productized privacy. Right like apple in lieu of putting out the next, you know, apple car or the apple TV, their product has become [00:16:00] privacy.

Right? And, you know, I think in that, like, they are kind of on a never ending crusade. to become the anti Google, the anti meta, the anti, you know, Snapchat, all these companies that use data on harvest data. and I don’t think they’re letting up anytime soon. Right? So, I think they’re kind of ideal state is, make things as privacy centric as possible in a way.

That helps their own business interests, right? and lens like apple to be able to build an awesome advertising solution to solve some of the problems that they’ve created, frankly. Right? So I believe apples on a never ending privacy crusade. I believe that Google has decided. To follow in their footsteps, because it’s much better to be on that side of the debate than the other side of the debate.

they have figured out in their boardroom that that’s being on the pro address ability side of the debate is a losing strategy for a massive consumer facing company. and so. I don’t know what the end state is, but to me, the end state is they go after every little kind of [00:17:00] nook and cranny of the ad industry that allows cross site tracking that allows user level tracking.

I don’t think those guys are letting up. Right? So that’s why I like. When I hear some companies talking about like, Oh, Hey, it’s cool. We’ve got a future proof solution that uses IP, uh, you know, and gets really granular about people’s IP. I’m like, guys, like, that’s not going to exist in a few years. We know we all know that, right?

Even the email stuff, people are like, Oh, well, if we hash emails and we use, you know, emails in an encrypted way, to me, that’s like very, very precarious. Right. Cause at any point, like Apple’s already introduced this thing called hide my email. Right. I think Google’s introduced something or the other in that vein, like, those guys are coming after, you know, the government may eventually come after email as well.

So I think we all need to get comfortable with, you know, this idea of like, cohort level tracking, extrapolation, you know, modeling panel based data, et cetera. Like, you know, in my, my estimation, like, that’s where we’re going to end up, whether it’s 2 years from now or 5 years from now. I’m not sure, [00:18:00] but I think that’s where we’re going.

Tim Finnigan: So I love where you’re going with some of this because it makes me think about what you originally said of why you got into or started you have digital. It’s that, you know, leveling up trust and confidence. So if someone can go in and help marketers in a trustworthy way with confidence and have an opinion and help them, because honestly, I think cookies and, and the way, Okay.

Tracking was marketers got lazy. Like it’s, was it truly, was it truly them saying, Oh, we’ve got a great way to, market to people like, did it, did it really move the needle? And now I think, you know, some of the things that you’re saying about marketers are skipping strategy and analysis by paralysis.

It’s have an opinion, diversify. And do it right

Shiv: Yeah, have a inclination for action, right? Like, I think a lot of folks miss that and the people that are, that are doing stuff and testing stuff and willing to fail forward sometimes, like they’re the ones that come out on top. So, yeah, absolutely agree.[00:19:00]

Tim Finnigan: before we get into the commercial and you have digital and some classes that you have, I’m going to give you the last word and identity. Anything you want to end with.

Shiv: No, I, I think, this has been great. Like, you know, you captured a lot of, of my thoughts. I think, you know, just to reiterate, we’re in a great moment of change. it’s uncertain what the future looks like. like, stay knowledgeable, right? Like, my, my whole thing is, you know, be, be a reader, be a voracious learner, absorb where you can don’t let, you know, if something comes.

Comes by your desk and it doesn’t make sense. It’s okay to ask why it’s okay to ask what that means. don’t be self conscious. Don’t be embarrassed. Like, you’re doing that is going to help you. It’s going to help your career. It’s going to help your organization. So just have the curiosity and have the mindset and, you know, you’ll be able to do a great job.

and with identity, like. I think the key right now is just the awareness, the awareness of the uncertainty is the key, right? The 2nd, you start thinking, look, like, I have the answer. That solution is the answer. I think that’s where you start kind of getting into some traps.

Tim Finnigan: And [00:20:00] when you say, stay knowledgeable to let everyone know if you haven’t, subscribe to it, get the U of Digital newsletter. that I found out about the live ramp acquisitions. Like I’m like, Oh, and I sounded so smart. I’m telling by, yeah, I knew about that a while ago. so tell me about what, like what kind of information you have, you have digital, how to go get it, or the, the newsletter.

I would love to have everyone take a look at that.

Shiv: Yeah, so, you know, we want to be able to reach as many learners in our industry as possible and make as many folks as smart as possible about the space again, to drive better outcomes for themselves, for their businesses, for their teams. we have a bunch of different touch points. We have offerings that are meant for individuals and small teams.

You know, those are our newsletter, for example, which is an educational tool for the new cycle in the space. We make it fun. We make it engaging. We spoon feed you some opinion, like, what to actually think about all this stuff. so go to our website, you have dot digital, not dot com dot digital sign up for our newsletter.

There’s a free version. There’s a paid version for 9 per person per month. We can also set up [00:21:00] small subscription, group subscriptions, things like that. We also have an entire kind of library of online courses. So, Tim, you took the identity course. Congrats on passing your test. We’ll get you a badge.

there’s a lot of different types of courses on things like digital measurement on ad tech and programmatic advertising, on, you know, some, some things related to Google’s ecosystem. Also, we’re about to drop a brand new course in the next couple of weeks on data clean rooms. Super hot topic in the space, so that’s coming out very soon.

And then more to come on advanced TV, retail media, more to come from us this year on just like self paced, self, courses that you can take on your own. Basically. there’s that. And then there’s our enterprise solutions for larger companies in which we kind of build. Custom programs, using all of these different types of touch points, including live learning, led by experts from the U of digital expert, network.

and so those are some of our solutions. but yeah, please hit us up, hit us up on LinkedIn, send me an email, go to our website. we’d love to hear from you.

Tim Finnigan: So thank you, Shiv. And sort of just [00:22:00] to put a bow on it, we started off with identity and how it’s how you recognize and understand and appropriately, appropriately engage with consumers across all the customer journey. And we ended it with, if you have questions, it’s okay to ask go to who you currently work with identity resolution.

You can contact us here at VMS if you have questions, or if you want some specifics. Go to U of Digital and you’ll, you’ll get the information too. So always be a learner, always stay knowledgeable. I love it Shiv. Hey, thanks for joining the Marketing Report Podcast.

Shiv: Yeah. Thanks for having me, Tim. This is a lot of fun. Appreciate it.