Behnam Rezaei’s mind is like a sponge. With his robust background in electrical engineering, he soaks in all things related to the technical details of marketing, from prospecting best practices and attribution modeling, to designing a new concept targeting engine for boosting client conversions.
Rezaei is the founder and CTO of NetSeer, a programmatic platform focused on utilizing patented concept targeting approaches to reach new users at the right place and time online. Rezaei has numerous insights to share with marketers on measuring attribution, avoiding cookie bombing and the role of humans in technology driven campaigns.
PA.O: As I understand it, your new concept-targeting technology attempts to emulate the human brain in understanding the meaning of words in context. Walk us through how this works for something like the word “green.”
Behnam Rezaei: Words are not flat, but multidimensional. Our engine operates in the same way that the brain understands content — by connecting the dots between known concepts in order to understand the meaning of words in context.
When we see various words on a page, we map them to a graph to help us understand what the content is about. So if there is a page that has the words “recycling,” “green,” “fuel” and “efficiency,” they all map to part of a “green living” graph.
We use this methodology to not only do disambiguation, but to also understand what is important on a page.
PA.O: How do you measure buyer intent in concept-targeting?
Behnam Rezaei: Our approach focuses on locating users who have not visited the advertiser’s site and who are not currently in the retargeting list. These users have never before shown an interest in that specific advertiser via their browsing history. Then, we determine their probability of converting, based on the data.
We translate every user activity, such as keywords and browsing history, into a set of relevant concepts, and measure how users engage with those concepts over time.
This nonlinear feature group helps us find important aspects of user intent that can lead to a conversion. For example, we found a strong correlation between back pain issues and intent for one of our advertisers selling mattresses.
While that might appear to be an obvious indicator of intent, the degree of intent was a big surprise. The correlation of interest in back pain to conversion was off the charts.
PA.O: Do you see technology as ultimately doing more thinking on behalf of humans or giving humans more to think about?
Behnam Rezaei: Technology doesn’t do the thinking. Good technology can execute the right strategy, but at the end of the day, it is the creativity of the marketing team along with the appeal of the product that defines the success of a campaign.
The technology’s job is to execute and scale campaigns — providing visible metrics and a feedback loop, so humans can adjust their strategy.
A smart marketer designs the whole funnel and studies their attribution metrics to ensure they are spending money where their target audience is.
With programmatic technologies like NetSeer, media buyers don’t spend as much time optimizing different signals and creating Excel sheets. Instead, they focus on high-level goals of the campaign and running the targeting machine.
PA.O: Where should people focus their time, skills and expertise, and what should be handed over to an algorithm?
Behnam Rezaei: At the end of the day, humans are ultimately responsible for delivering a campaign successfully, not machines. Humans must define the trade-offs among performance, budget and the varying marketing tactics.
At NetSeer, we appreciate that without knowledgeable people who can understand client requirements and fulfill them, technology is useless. There is no replacement for humans who, by adjusting and managing the overall process, make sure all the pixels are firing properly throughout the funnel.
PA.O: How much value and influence do you see humans having as the technology evolves?
Behnam Rezaei: I think human skills will develop around creativity and high-level goals. The focus will be on utilizing technology to implement strategy, similar to analytics folks utilizing SEM to improve campaigns.
Marketing experts will know what technology can and cannot deliver and focus on coming up with big picture plans. People who understand this will be the savvy, creative marketing individuals of the future.