Etch UK: An interview with Tom Rolph, VP International at Tapad

Written by Chris Laas, Head of Digital Marketing at Etch UK on March 19, 2020.

We recently sat down with Tom, as part of our Catapult series on our evolving relationship with data, to discuss some of the opportunities and challenges marketers are facing when it comes to connecting brands to consumers, now and in the future.

We hope you find some useful insights in this article and join us at our Catapult workshop in early April on the subject of ‘Zero-party data: accelerating your data and media strategy thinking’. Tom will be one of our guest speakers, where he will be expanding on a number of the topics in this article and you will have an opportunity to ask him more questions we have did not cover.

Good morning Tom, I know you have a super busy schedule, so thanks very much for giving us your time. To briefly introduce you to our readers, Tom is VP International at Tapad (, a global leader in digital identify resolution.

So, Tom, perhaps we can start by you telling us a little bit more about your experience in the industry and how you are helping brands in your role at Tapad?

I’d be happy to. I joined Tapad in 2016, coming from Turn - which is now a part of Amobee. My background originates from the agency space, with a lot of it focused in video advertising - so I understand the challenges marketers face when it comes to brand engagement and ROI. At Tapad, my responsibility is driving key commercial growth across our EMEA and APAC business, enabling brands and agencies to make those valuable connections with today’s digital-centric consumer.

Thanks for that intro, let’s chat a bit about the cross-device experience for brands and consumers.

Last night I engaged with 8 different smart devices when I got home, and it made me reflect on just how dependent we have become on them. With the continued proliferation of more and more devices influencing consumers engagement with brands, how do you see this impacting their experience with brands in the future and what opportunities will this offer marketers?

We understand that as consumers fold more digital devices into their daily activities, there is an expectation for brands to follow - and to provide seamless experiences based on their preferences and behaviour. This is where a digital cross-device graph can enable brands to discern between prospects and customers, targeting varied messages and offers to those consumers.

Thanks, that’s very interesting. In the same vein, what challenges do you see marketers facing as consumers engage with a greater number of smart devices in the years to come?

With the ongoing proliferation of, and an increase in digital device types, today’s marketer continues to be challenged in keeping track of their audience or target consumer. That’s one thing that inspires me, to enable brands to continue to stay in point of their business objectives and meet their key goals. It’s one reason I enjoy working at Tapad, as we not only enable brands to be more efficient with their campaigns - we also enable brands to provide consumers what they expect and want from brands they love and trust. With the ongoing addition of new devices and IoT, the challenge will remain the same - understanding the consumer decision journey and reaching them on the digital devices they utilse and that’s how a cross-device graph can help.

Ok, let’s talk measurement and attribution. This is certainly one of the big challenges facing marketers now and, in the future, especially when it comes to understanding a consumer’s journey between multiple devices. How do you see brands solving this problem and how can Tapad help?

Given recent announcements, specifically the pending sunset of the 3rd party cookie, it's certainly going to make it a trickier landscape for marketers to navigate. We partner closely with all of our clients and data providers to connect the dots between first and third party data to enable a clearer understanding of engagement and audiences across devices - which in turn, enables more informed measurement and analytic capabilities at the campaign level.

A challenge a lot of the brands we work with come up against, is measurement with regards to online and offline sales, and connecting the consumers journey between both. What advice can you give brands in terms of solving this problem and how can Tapad help?

There are many facets to identity resolution, onboarding offline to online identifiers is one and digital cross-device is another. At Tapad, our focus is digital cross-device. We partner with our clients closely to provide solutions based on their use-cases, however, also partner with other agencies and tech providers to enhance their offerings and capabilities for making offline, in-store connections. Given today’s proliferation of digital devices, it’s advisable for brands to ensure they are enabled for cross-device targeting, personalisation and fully understanding a consumer’s journey. If offline, in-store is part of their business model and key to understanding ROI, it’s simply key to partner with the right solutions to enable that.

Thanks for that, perhaps we can focus a bit on advertising now. Having spent the last 20 years in marketing, I have watched brands struggle with consistent, personalised brand messaging cross device, online and offline. Thing have improved over the years, but I do believe we still have a long way to go. How do you see this evolving and what advice would you give brands to improve upon their delivery in this area?

I think one of the factors in being successful here is understanding your audience, whether that is as a prospective and current customer. If acquisition is your focus, it’s important to identify prospects on devices that they utilise and message appropriately to convert them to customers. On the other hand, when engaging with your key customers and looking to retain them for the long term; personalised messages both on and off site will be critical for remaining top-of-mind and favorability.

While we have all seen this coming a little way off, one of the more recent challenges marketers have is the demise of third-party cookies. What advice would you give brands to overcome this challenge, in particular with regards value exchange, zero party data and future opportunities?

As important as it is for brands to establish and maintain a dialogue with their customers, it’s also key to remain relevant via personalisation. Consumers want to engage on their terms, they would be willing to, and brands need to understand that they need to build trust and they’ll get their rewards back in spades. Give the consumer the ability to choose who and how to share their data with a brand and the brand will ultimately learn a lot more from them, encouraging loyalty and advocacy never seen before. While the cookie is going away, there are other device identifiers available and mar tech providers are working toward finding alternate solutions. What’s important is that both advertisers and publishers are asking the right questions of any proposed solution, both for long-term investment and benefit of their customers. This means looking for solutions that are privacy-safe, consumer-first, neutral and open to the entire ecosystem.

Thanks very much for your time Tom, there are some great insights in here and we look forward to hearing more from you at our Catapult event in April.

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