Albert Thompson (Walton Isaacson) - Unicorn Status

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This is a podcast episode titled, Albert Thompson (Walton Isaacson) - Unicorn Status. The summary for this episode is: <p>Albert Thompson, Managing Director at Walton Isaacson, joins The Marketing Stir this week to chat with Ajay and Vincent about consumers' attention.</p>
Intro to the episode
00:26 MIN
Alberts role as Managing Director
02:22 MIN
How Albert got into marketing
01:16 MIN
How shopping behavior has changed due to the rise of social media and online stores in general
01:37 MIN
How to talk to clients about testing new channels
02:29 MIN
Diving into Web3
02:46 MIN
Advice to Albert's younger self
01:35 MIN
The Data Revolution
03:14 MIN
Marketing during a pandemic and oncoming recession
01:39 MIN

Speaker 1: Maybe big data has gotten too big. Whether you're a B2B marketer or a consumer brand, your data needs to be viable, relevant, and accessible so that Stirista can help you retain customers, acquire customers, and make it personal.

Vin: Welcome to The Marketing Stir podcast by Stirista, probably the most entertaining marketing podcast you're going to put in your ear. I'm Vin, the producer here at Stirista. The goal of this podcast is to chat with industry leaders and get their take on the current challenges of the market. And we'll have a little fun along the way. In today's episode, Albert Thompson, Managing Director at Walton Isaacson joins The Marketing Stir this week to chat with AJ and Vincent about consumers' attention. Give it a listen.

Vincent Pietrafesa: Ladies and gentlemen, what's going on? It's me, Vincent Pietrafesa, the Vice President of B2B Products& Partnerships here at Stirista and still interim general manager of AccessB2B. I love it. Ladies and gentlemen, The Marketing Stir. We're here. It's so great talking to you. We are on the eve of Thanksgiving week. Great week. Spend some time with family and friends, but also some great time to talk to amazing people. Thanks again to all of our listeners in The Marketing Stir. Thank you so much also for coming up to me in such a nice positive way when you see me at conferences. Now that's new. No one ever recognizes me at conferences. Sometimes they'll recognize my loud jacket that I have on to go with my loud Italian personality. But now people are recognizing me for like, " Wait a minute, aren't you the guy who hosts along with AJ, The Marketing Stir?" I'm like, " It sure is. It sure is." So it's nice. That's new. And again, when I say people, it's like five people. Let me not make it like I'm a Beatle for... Nice. Nice. That even made our co- host and CEO laugh. But let's, before we get to him, you know him. Let's talk about Stirista just for like 10 seconds. Take it easy. That's it. It's Stirista, we are a marketing technology company. We own our own business- to- business data, our own business- to- consumer data. We help through our technology people target those data points to help them get new customers through our own email sending platform, our own DSP. Email me Vincent @ That is how confident I am that we could help. I just gave you my email address. The other confidence I have is in that laugh you just heard. Ladies and gentlemen, that is my commander in chief here at Stirista. Ladies and gentlemen, my co- host Mr. AJ Gupta. What's up AJ?

AJ Gupta: Hey Vincent, pretty good day for me. Your fantasy football team did not turn out quite as lucky. But I would say all in all, I had a pretty good weekend, even though it's been raining here and supposed to rain here for the next seven days.

Vincent Pietrafesa: Well, it better not rain when I get there because I'm coming there for... AJ's in San Antonio, Texas. I'm in New York City. I'll be out there for our summit December 8th and it better be nice. Why am I coming to Texas in December? It better be warmer weather. So let's fix that. And yes, you're right, this weekend you're listening to the podcast. It'll be a few weeks later or so, but my fantasy football teams, all four of them lost. And then the New York Giants got whooped on by the Detroit Lions as in like twice before, 0 and 16 Detroit Lions. But hey, you got to get better. You just got to get better. That's what happens.

AJ Gupta: Yeah. I was fortunate enough to have Jamaal Williams on my team.

Vincent Pietrafesa: Come on. Oh man, of course you do.

AJ Gupta: Not that I want to celebrate your misery, but it definitely paid off to have him.

Vincent Pietrafesa: Oh yeah. I would've celebrated it too. AJ as you know, is very new to fantasy football, but he is been rocking it out this year is because he read a few books. That's what CEOs do, they study up and they make sure they know going in. I love it. I love it. AJ, we've got a great guest today. Let me talk about it. So it's rare that some of our teammates here at Stirista, a lot of times we find our guests, our teammates are like, " Hey, you've got to talk to someone from this organization." Walton Isaacson, that's the organization. You have to talk to someone that's a great organization and a great guy that we're going to be talking to. Ladies and gentlemen, a warm Marketing Stir welcome. We love our referrals internally, to Managing Director, Digital Innovation, Albert Thompson. What's going on Albert?

Albert Thompson: I'm good gentlemen. How you guys doing today? And first and foremost, thanks for having me on the show. Always amazing. Appreciate the energy and the love.

Vincent Pietrafesa: Of course. I met Albert, not in person yet. If we met I feel like we'd hit it off. I say that with every guest. And AJ's usually like, " I don't think that person liked you." But that's what AJ tells me a lot. But I like everyone. And when I first saw Albert and I saw the background there, he's got one of my favorite movies of all time in there, Bad Boys and Bad Boys II, if you're tuning to us on YouTube you'll see it. And I was like, all right, I can get down. Martin Lawrence is one of my favorite comedians of all time. Underrated, Albert. Underrated, doesn't get the love that the Chris Rocks and the Chappelle's and the Carlin's get. But I said, and I like Will Smith as an actor. I know a lot of opinions on Will lately, but look I like Will Smith as an actor. So I knew already. I was like, right, we'll get along.

Albert Thompson: Absolutely. Well look, you got to give homage to who set the pace. So Martin was very much an innovator. He normalized the idea of comedic satire literally in every phrase. I think the biggest thing, his greatest gift was improvisation. Never repeated the same thing funny twice. It's interesting, you start to look at that, what it takes to have some digital acumen in this modern era, you almost have to behave the same. The idea of constantly reinventing the narrative. So I got much respect from him on a lot of fronts beyond just on screen.

Vincent Pietrafesa: Yeah, no, me too. I always liked him from, it's not easy hosting Def Comedy Jam and he was the original and he set the tone. That's how it is. I know a little bit, I know a thing or two about hosting some events or shows and even comedy shows as those listeners, some of them know that, but it's not easy. But that's awesome. But Albert, let's get right into it.

Albert Thompson: All right.

Vincent Pietrafesa: Talk to us about your role within the org. I love your title. It's a title that you don't see all the time. Again, something that you as the person drew us to talk to you and also wanted to dig into the title. But tell us about what you do at Walton Isaacson, Digital Innovation. I love it. Managing Director of Digital Innovation. Talk to us about that.

Albert Thompson: Yeah, I mean look, Walton Isaacson, or WI as we refer it to is a full- service shop. Really started as a branded entertainment creative and production agency in its first early, early generation founded by Aaron Walton who had a huge entertainment background. Neat story. His first line of work was really dealing with Michael Jackson during the Cola War. So that was his first taste at working in the influence business and entertainment. So you can imagine that kind of ethos bring into creating a shop that wasn't like just another agency as they say. The same way they say the world doesn't need another DSP, the world didn't need another agency. So I've been there, this is year 15. So it's been a great run. Always been there, digital guy, the first digital media I guess hire you would say into the agency. Really helped build out that capability. I think Aaron used to always make this notation of Albert's always the guy a couple years ahead. So this isn't a self- nominated quote, that's what he'd said. And I think what he discerned was making sure we kept an eye on innovation and actually keeping the title. Not being left behind, huge into certain tenants like content marketing as a model. I think he was on that train a decade and a half ago, whereas you start to see the industry buzzing about seven, eight, 10 years ago and some brands still trying to figure out, that was very much what he understood. And looked at entertainment as the lens to galvanize and connect. So my pulse has always been to go into the future. So I've always pitched myself as more of a futurist. It matters to go see what's coming, to come back and tell people how long they have. I'm the guy that comes back and turns over the sands of time and says, " Okay, you've got a year or two years before you nail this thing and it's absolutely going to matter." So I think that's the idea. I was living and executing the presence because as they say, clients want an evolution, not a revolution. But you got to tell them what the revolution is so they can evolve to it to a point. So that's really been the ethos I've always carried. I'm very much interested in what's breaking, what's coming. I'm that guy that I don't have a challenge reinventing myself or sunsetting myself in the next moment for the next, next. So yeah, I mean background is marketing. I'm a marketer's marketer. I make it very clear, people call me a digital guy. I've been buying media for over 20 years so I've seen much of what we buy give birth. But I'm a marketer's marketer at heart, I'm always about understanding the consumer first.

Vincent Pietrafesa: No, I love that story. I love the way you explained that Albert. We're going to get into later some questions about, like you said digital and being there for 15 years, that was when digital really started to peak. So I want to hear some stories about that. But a fan favorite question of ours is how you got into this crazy industry of ours to begin with? That's always, is never usually a straight path to it. So talk to us about it.

Albert Thompson: Yeah, it's an uncommon story. I knew I wanted to do advertising in high school. I think by the time I was a junior I was like, this is what I'm going to do.

Vincent Pietrafesa: Wow. Yeah that is unique. You don't get that often.

Albert Thompson: No, no, not for a digital guy. And then I went through grad school, was still focused on doing marketing. And then it was interesting, I'm like, I don't know if that industry really pays. So I did a stint on the brand side and then found a startup interactive agency when there were interactive agencies here in Maryland. And then that agency at the time was pretty successful. It was bigger than all the big ones. It was bigger than Beyond Interactive at the time. And then just cut the bug and say, look, this is a fast- moving business, digital advertising. It's going to be progressive, it's always going to change. It suited my wheelhouse. Then I did a few stints at a series of agencies prior to WI to really get locked in the business. So I dare say that this may be my final resting place as they say. I might die in this business but we'll see man. But I've always liked the energy, the creativity, the hustle, the ideas. And I think a lot of people understand that marketing, much of it is supply chain management. So I was always drawn to the more creative innovative idea side, which gets you into advertising, promotions side of the ecosystem, less shipping logistics, which that is what it is.

AJ Gupta: Albert, tell us a little bit about what are some of the channels and strategies that you guys focus on?

Albert Thompson: I am a follow the consumer where they are, where the attention is going. While there are channels that I have affinity for on a personal level, on a business level, I only care about where the consumer's going. So when people talk about the attention stack, I'm like where's the attention going? If it's going into fast, paid social like TikTok, you got to start moving advertising to where mindshare is and where you can move mindshare. I was buying CTV seven years before most people were trying to spell the acronym and figure out what it meant, we were doing it. We've been doing digital audio on the programmatic side five years. And most people were like, " What's a podcast?" So I've always looked at what's burgeoning, essentially what's next? But I'm very much about chasing the consumer. Look, the consumer's the only one guaranteed to win. We can all fail and we all get fired when they make a different choice. I think most brands just don't realize that. So I am very consumer agnostic in terms of where we need to be, where brands need to play. I don't carry biases for a channel or a partner because they're my favorite.

AJ Gupta: And how do you think shopping behavior is changing with the rise of social media and online in general?

Albert Thompson: We inherently are always shopping now. That happened during COVID. We're all getting SMS, emails, getting bombarded with ads. But we're all in a shopping mode. Shopping is no longer seasonal, it's no longer for the weekend. It's literally moment by moment. So when you think about that hyper consumerism, that means the opportunity for someone to pop into the funnel literally could happen within the minutes, within the hours. So the traditional model of a consumer profile, what does it even mean? I think it means some from the core base, but I think in reality is that the opportunity has never been more or hypervigilant as I would call it. And I think that has massive impacts when you start looking across categories that had very traditional models about how you got somebody into an insurance planner, how you got them to renew the lease on their car or how they bought home copiers. The fact that women are on the hunt for the next beauty hack hour by hour, moment by moment. I think brands really have to dial into this, the speed of the consumer is what I would say, which is just daunting. And I think most brands in this era are out of touch with the speed of the consumer and lack understanding and intimacy around the speed of the consumer. And that speed, beyond moving from channel to channel is very much around consumption and consumerism. And I think that another thing I'm almost fascinated with is consumerism happens well beyond ad exposure, as they say above and outside the funnel. And I think that's going to be the biggest required pivot for brands to understand is how are life events shaping preferences before ad exposure actually takes place?

Vincent Pietrafesa: Albert, I wanted to talk to you about something you mentioned there, getting and talking to your clients and partners about testing new channels. Talking about, well people were doing connected TV before people even knew what it was. And then I know that's, we've heard from our listeners. And even internally sometimes it's tough to get some of my B2B partners over to connected TV. I'm like, " No they're there, people are at home now." Talk to us about, without giving the secret sauce away, but how you initiate some of those conversations? Is this is something that you're seeing within your experience and position, where you're like, " Hey I think this is the next thing that we should be on." Talk to us about that process a little bit.

Albert Thompson: It's interesting, a lot of my conversations start with a point of friction and they're inherently always there. So we've done a lot of multicultural, as you can imagine there aren't that many TV network options. Let's say there're four on the Hispanic side, there's three legitimate on the Black side, and then there's some platforms that play across culture. There's not 300 of them like there's some general market. I'm being facetious. It could be more, it could be less. When you get into streaming platforms it just explodes. So the idea is like, look TV is still the ultimate lens, the idea of sight, sound, and motion. But when you add the targetability and precision and data analytics and ID that mobile has benefited from since the early days then it's the killer app as I would say. Nothing can beat it when you talk about a brand being able to run their beloved commercial spot but with all the other parameters that digital provides at its best. So I'm very much like look we can't buy TV in a particular region or market or localized level or they don't have the audience targetability because we're looking for the consumer. I don't look for reach, I look for buyers. You say hey CTV is the answer, but you can still run your spot and you can target people whose still around your favorite shows because you have that bias around those shows or networks because you as the top market likes to watch it so you want us to buy ads around it even though that doesn't equate to making money. But okay. Then they're like, " Oh that makes total sense, let's do it." It was the same thing with digital audio. A lot of radio listenership went down during COVID. Granted we're already doing it. And I'm like, " Look, nobody's in the car. So nobody's listening to the radio station driving and nobody's streaming XM." Guess what they're at home? Streaming. But you can say hey we can do all the level advanced targetability, we can layer on attribution, so you should absolutely look to move into this space because actually it is better. While it may not offer some of the direct opportunities to sponsor or integrate into the content, that's a different form which I get. And we do that too. When you get into finding a buyer, the consumer, then you start to understand the business case can't be refuted. And again when you talk like a marketer's marketer, when you talk business, marketers get that because that's literally their job. And I think that's what's helped me to enlist and put these more experimental tactics and channels in front of people and give them the business case. Because that's the one thing they respond to. I don't really get emotional about what it is, what it's going to inaudible so much. More or less like, you should be mapping this on top of your model anyway. And I think that's gotten the receptivity of being brands to lean into it in the early stages of it versus waiting to come online.

Vincent Pietrafesa: Nice. No I like that. And you mentioned Albert, some mediums that have struggled if you will, like the XM radio during that particular time. But let's talk about industries. Is there any industries that you've worked with that have struggled, that have flourished while you're working there?

Albert Thompson: That's a great question. I think the category that struggles because of the regulatory oversight is pharma. Because there's so many provisions around the FDA and DDMAC around what you can and can't do from the marketing perspective. So they're always looking for a quote unquote backdoor or wormhole to get into the business. I think finance is slow to adopt because it's the nature who runs them. I mean you may have a Rocket Mortgage at one end, it's very progressive because they're like for the digital age. And then you have some of these major commercial banks that are still getting over the fact that nobody walks into a commercial bank anymore. And so the digital evolution, they're getting over the brick- and- mortar evolution. But we've seen great progress in the automotive sector even particularly with our Lexus client. I think automotive, aside from the fact that they are one of the heaviest spenders, is more willing to carry a skunk works mentality to try new things to see, do they stick? I think that's one of the big industries that's done better. But nobody beats beauty. Beauty is because they understand the speed of consumer, the virality of how the consumer works in their category, how products get an uptake that they can hack their... Those are categories that as startups, they are growth marketers by trade in the early years. So this stuff they get and live by. They move into mainstream media and chapter three of their evolution. They back into TV, they back into outdoor, they back into radio. But they are so digital first. They're probably the best at it amongst all the categories.

AJ Gupta: Albert, tell us a little bit about Web 3. 0. Our producers tell us this is an area of interest for you and how it's important for marketers.

Albert Thompson: Yeah it's interesting. I mean I've done a few presentations on Web3 even more specifically, the metaverse. And I think what people don't understand, it's a universe being built actively. I mean you have entire cities representing major countries that are building a metaverse version of their city. I mean that's like Seoul Korea saying we're going to have a metaverse version of Seoul. That's massive. And then you have any small municipalities doing the same thing. You have people buying land in the metaverse. People will be selling land in the metaverse. I mean this will be a parallel universe of sorts. So the prudence that's needed amongst everyone to understand how that's going to impact their sector couldn't be more profound and imminent. I think the biggest thing is understanding the building blocks. It's not https, like it is for Web2, it's blockchain. It's not Slack communities, it's Discords. It's not PayPal, it is a wallet. It's not a QR code, it's an NFT. There is an ebb and flow, tit for tat, in terms of the difference in Web3. And people need to understand how those building blocks will roll over to new experiences. It's going to collapse a lot of the best of the best of Web2, but take into a dimensionalized experience where you actually get to be present. Why does that matter? Because being present means less disruption. It's kind of like gamers in a sense that gamers aren't multitasking because gaming, it's undivided attention and you're probably trying to win. So in much of the Web3, it requires ultimate attention above all else that happens in any other genres. I mean maybe there's a little bit of multitasking when you're live at a concert but not a whole lot if you're trying to really catch your favorite act or your favorite comedian. So I think that those rules of engagement, people need to understand very early on, got to understand the building blocks very early on. But there will be companies that will not make the Web3 evolution. They won't make the turn because it would require an overhaul of their thinking. And I think Gary Vayner had said it best, he was like, " Yeah don't bring your internet brain to the blockchain. It's very different." And because I'm a consumer first person, this notion of the consumer blockchain is going to be very, very profound. It's going to be like the old days when consumers ran the marketplaces like where they sold and traded fresh fruit and fish and that was the beginning of commerce as they say before everything went mass and scale. So there's a lot of elements to it. I think the other thing is this experiential design. An event planner could kill it in the metaverse because you have to design environments in the space and the actual intimacy. It's very different than a Web2 that is mostly two dimensional.

AJ Gupta: One of the things that strikes me about your profile and what you talk about is evolution. A lot of things you've adapted and learned to help your clients. So what's one advice you would give your younger self that you know today that you didn't know when you were younger?

Albert Thompson: Oh my god, there's probably like 50 stocks I would've invested in. Let's like start there. I remember I found an old newsletter I saved on Bitcoin from 20, might have been 2016 and I filed it away and then I never looked back at it and then I'm like, oh my god, had I bought it then I'd be out the game. I think the biggest thing is this idea of signaling, they talk about that Gen Z would rather use TikTok than Google search. It's this idea of social signaling. They're looking for a trending. So if you guys are going to pick a hot stock, you can't Google, is it a hot stock? It's just going to give you details about the company. You want to see the signaling, the chatter. Is there momentum? Is there velocity as people say in the packaged goods business? I think what people need to understand is when new technologies environment emerge, you have to really look for and understand the velocity behind such technological innovations. Because that has everything to do with where it is going. I think people spend too much time reading press releases, they deal, fall into the hype machine, they make a decision. Instead of trying to find the velocity, like you're looking for it on the dark web. And I think that will tell you what things you need to invest and invest time in to understand where the evolution is essentially going. I think people dismiss stuff and they take comfort in the fact that other people dismiss it as well. So they're like, oh okay I don't have to worry about it. And it's like no, that's not a thing. And look, sometimes people just don't want you in the sandbox so they actually send you the other way where they turn around and dump a whole bunch of money into it.

Vincent Pietrafesa: Albert, when you said that I couldn't help about the stock thing. I couldn't help but smile and think about that scene from Forrest Gump where Lieutenant Dan, he said to Forrest goes, " We invested in a fruit company." And he said, " We're not going to have to worry anymore." And it was Apple. And it was Apple. But what's even crazier is that movie was made in 1994 and imagine, it's like even further. Yeah, it's so funny that you mentioned that. Albert, let's talk about data. Data means a lot to us here at Stirista and I know at consumers and what you do and what you talk about. As far as the primary concern these days over data, navigating it, privacy, talk to us a little bit about that. Some of the challenges really.

Albert Thompson: Yeah, I think people don't realize we're going to be in a major data revolution as we turn the corner. If you've been following some of the lawsuits, you saw that Oracle got sued for data breach. Sephora, Snap, and there are more coming. So that's a major retailer, it's a container for a lot of brands, that's a major walled garden, and that's one of the biggest third- party data companies on the planet. So we're going to enter an environment where it's table stakes for people to get sued based on what I say, lack of transparency and data usage and consent. And the other thing is the industry's doing an amazing job using people, third- party, first- party, zero- party, yada. I mean I don't know what party's coming next. I feel like I've missed the party.

Vincent Pietrafesa: Yeah. Zero- party or second- party. I'm like what is a second- party? Anyway.

Albert Thompson: Right. But when we get to it, I mean the reality is the world we're going to is a zero-party, consent-based, consumer-controlled data future. I know I said a lot, but at the end of the day you're going to have to get consent, they're going to have to agree. And people are going to control how long and how much you get to see in a way that's actually monetizable back to them. Very Web3- ish. But that's just the reality we're in, you're circling the drain on third-party waiting for a lawsuit. First-party's going to be the same because there are terms and conditions, privacy policy on company websites. But that does not say how it's being used for consumer insights, reselling, retargeting, how it is for upgrading your release, your subscription. It doesn't say all that. All it says is a promise about what we won't do. It doesn't say every element about what we do, do. And that's why the consent based model is going to come. I got introduced to a company called Reclaim and the notion of it is actually reclaim your data. And it is basically a consumer consent based model. It's called zero-party data that actually allows you the user to monetize it back to any of the platforms, apps that are using your information. But that's the premise of Web3, that's what that's very much about. And I think every brand, every category, even the publisher side is going to have to face the future of transparency that, that may be the model it's going to power into the future. Just because once general counsel of major companies gets involved, they are not going to be akin to rolling the dice and being in somebody's court of law on a technicality. So that's what I see in terms of the future of identity. And while it gets paramount because the ability to understand who's in front of you has everything to do with your ability to make return revenue against the same audience base. Or profile people who on a lookalike basis very familiar to your core customer. The good side is that the younger generation, the Gen-Z, they're less up in arms about the sharing of information data. I'm sure they would like to monetize and make a little money back, it wouldn't help. But I think at the end of the day they're going to be a lot more liberal with that information. In particular, if they get all the bennies tied to it. So I think beyond brands having to rethink data, they're going to have to pay it forward in a way that pays off to the user. That the user's like, " Oh my god, I'm glad I gave up the information, look how you're rewarding me." So I mean, in a snapshot I think that's what I would see coming on the horizon as we get into 2023.

Vincent Pietrafesa: Yeah. And to that point, where do you think the obligation falls to monitor that data privacy and usage? Is it back on the companies?

Albert Thompson: Yeah, I mean I think if you're the brand, you're the ultimate one who is accountable. Forget a DSP, third- party platform, forget an agency, they're stewards. But you're the one who sells the product for which you're trying to map identity down to product design. And look, when the information really accelerates, brands can take intimate information about their consumer and really start designing product around what the needs and asks are, responding to that idea desire. Because look, in advertising we're always chasing down that one thing, first moment of truth, final moment of truth. And that gets a bit murky when you don't really have and pinpoint the idea that you're dealing with. But when you're actually designing product around your consumer base, that's an ultimate moment of truth. At the product design level, we made it for you. Boom, it's here. You almost didn't even have to advertise it. Because sometimes they say that overly aggressive sales is crappy marketing as a derivative. So I think what brands are going to start to understand is we need to focus less on the selling proposition through advertising that's very promotional heavy because that's where we've gone the past half decade. Everything that's based on a promo, instead of designing product for the outcomes the consumer want. But that starts with identity and being very transparent in how that's going to be used. Or having layers of identity thresholds from your consumer, from people who are involved in the design process because they basically were vomiting everything you need to know about them, to people like, " Well you can use it at the tertiary level for some third- party related activities but I'm not going to give you full disclosure to who I am." I think that's the other thing. We're in this all or nothing proposition. You either give it up or you're not. Instead of making it membership based on how much you give up, this is what you can get access to and this is what you get rewarded with. So I think that's a model that needs to be experimented with in the early days, as they say. Before it absolutely matters or starts wiping companies off the planet.

AJ Gupta: Albert, one of our staple questions has to do with LinkedIn. I'm sure with your profile you get quite a few junk messages, some of them may be good, but mostly spam. What's a message that gets a response from you? And what's one that annoys you or is a pet peeve for you?

Albert Thompson: The thing about LinkedIn is that I've learned, because I have a lot of partners in the DSP business with engineers. A lot of it are bots reaching out. Similar to when you get an email and look, when people sit there and say, " I studied your profile, I can help generate leads." I'm like I'm not interested. You actually don't know the body of work. Me personally, professionally, you don't know the company. If you knew the company you would know that's not how we operate based on your model. I think people just phishing and running the algorithm against numbers. We're going to cast out 100, we only need to get 8% back, and then we make money. That I can't get with. I mean I'm more flattered by people like, " Hey I've seen you speak. Like the subject matter." They have some dialogue, like they were actually attentive in watching it. I've found some people that said that but they weren't even in the room, so they don't even know what I said. So how are you going to sell me what I said. Look, I could totally suck. But hey I guess all you want is a fish on the line and some level of conversion because you're trying to hit conversion numbers as a success rate. I think there's a lot wrong in people just trying to hit a number to make a number. So I think the great thing about LinkedIn is it has this a hyper level of positivity. So it's not like Twitter where everybody wakes up grumpy and says let me get on Twitter and work this out like I'm co- counseling myself. So I like the fact that the LinkedIn environment is a lot more positive. People are trying to connect, but I think how they're inbounding around it lacks an intimate connection as to why. You want to be engaged by people who are well- read. And too much of the outreach on LinkedIn is like you're not well- read. And that's probably what I'd say is turned me off just in terms of some of the outreach.

AJ Gupta: And by the time this episode comes out, Twitter may not even exist the way things are going.

Albert Thompson: Those are the facts.

AJ Gupta: Yep. Hey, one of the questions we always ask is how do you guys do your own marketing? And how's that going for you through a pandemic and oncoming recession?

Albert Thompson: And look, I mean advertising is so much of a relationship business. I mean you got to reach out through the extensions. I think the agency has done a great job of mining old networks and Aaron Walton has been a master of that. And that's huge because it's credibility and you want people to be able to vouch for the body of work. I think we've done it by more way of momentum than hard selling. Look, the average agency as you know, is not great at promoting itself, but I think we've been fortunate that we've never had to run and market promotions. We don't need to buy ads in magazines or trade magazines for buzz and press. We've gotten it to a degree. But when you're largely in the segmentation business, in particular multicultural, you have to spend more time sizing up prospects than receiving inbound solicitations. Everybody's not real about it. There's a lot of underinvestment in multicultural D& I. You almost have to fact- check back to the brand like, " Are you serious about this? Are you good at this?" You got to be good at this, you got to be really committed to this. So it's not one of those all takers conversations, very different in general market. But when you're passionate about cultural segments or D& I, or just segmentation in general, the fact that you're going after specific consumer profiles, those are specific prospects in the marketplace, and there are less of them than people would believe. And that's why I think a lot of the traditional model for promoting yourselves don't necessarily work. And look, I always say, it's all about laws of attraction. You got to create attraction but you want people to work for you, work with you, work alongside you, cut a check for you. And I think the agency has done a phenomenal job over the years of being very attractive to do business with.

Vincent Pietrafesa: We agree with that concept because AJ actually started this company originally to... And Stirista the name, stirring things up is multicultural, just given his background, that's how he started to help companies market that way. And we work with a lot of companies looking to reach that audience and different audiences, and we really put our pride in that. So yeah, we totally agree. And I also agree what you said, at least be in the room if you're going to mention that you've heard me speak, I love that point. I always say to people, we get a lot of PR agencies who reach out to us, Albert, who want to get their clients on the podcast for which we don't take many people. We don't take many, maybe three or four total. But we always say you're going to reach out to me to say, " Hey, I love the podcast." Or" I listen to the podcast," before you get your client on little things. Little things like that.

Albert Thompson: Right. It's all in details. And I'm probably more of a detail- oriented guy than not. I've been told that. So I look for it. But at the end of the day it's time and attention and it's valuable. So you don't want to waste it. It's one of those things I probably want to list you. I'd be like, " Yeah, I came to see you perform. I like this joke that particularly just grabbed me." And you're like, " Oh, okay. So you appreciate the craftsmanship, the work in it." And I think that's the things, but look, that's just missing in the world in general beyond human engagement. Because look, people have a hard time just shaking your hand and looking you in the eye. Things that you were taught as masterclass, basic principles are like everyday struggles for people. So yeah, I'm with you on the page like a hundred percent about understanding the intentionality of engagement. And I think this is the same thing a lot of brands lack today. It's like yeah you're not really intentional of that. You're trying to hit a number. I'm just one of the numbers.

Vincent Pietrafesa: Yeah, well yeah, we had a great guest on that focused, their marketing focused on the LGBTQ community and he was talking about, there was like, well there's so many people that just put a rainbow on for one month. And it's just like, wait a minute, that's not it. That's not how you reach people and it's not genuine. But I agree. Also a lot of times after my comedy shows where people are like, " Hey, oh love your energy up there." What happened? Did you listen to the jokes? Did you like any of the jokes? I was up there. That happens too. But Albert, as we're about to wrap here, let's get to know you personally. Obviously, you probably have very similar taste in movies than me. I take it you're a movie guy. But also what do you like to do in your spare time? Were you always living in Maryland area there?

Albert Thompson: Yeah, I mean I've been here 23 years, had those sports and benefit, married my college sweetheart. We had classes together, went through grad school together. We had twin girls that are in college down at High Point. So absolutely proud of that. But look, I think we've always been a close- knit family, hands on. But I think always joke that my wife would always, we're always game planning about what we're doing even with our kids. I throw out this analogy, you'll love it. Offensive/ defensive coordinator while you guys are talking about stuff like that too. We're game planning. Some days got to lock down the defense because we can't score any points and some days it's a shootout. But that's very much life. So I think I've always carried that philosophy in a lot of the things I've done work- wise. I think the other thing is I've always treated myself like a digital good. Digital goods are never finished, phones are obsolete in a month. Most consumer electronics they're always because somebody's the next, next. And I'm like, look, if you can carry yourself like a professional like that, you can always carry that mild paranoia that you could be sunsetted. So you're constantly trying to build the next, next and level of intelligence and that level of blaring so you're constantly moving. And that's a pursuit a lot of people just don't have. But I don't know any other way of functioning and those are the things that I think people see when they see me. They're like this guy's always moving in the space. Moving onto the next, this next conversation. It's part of the reason I guess spoken about so many different things, given what may consider more of a narrow domain in my background is like, oh, that's fascinating. I'm going to go understand that and master that and operationalize that. And go teach that, to go execute that. And I think that ethos is a bit of a lost art in this day and age. But that I know that's been part of my professional acumen over the years and some of that carries into my personal life. Well I hate the word incrementality, because people would use it in digital. I'm like, ugh. But I like it as treating yourself as you're underdeveloped, you're constantly in development. And again, if you have that pursuit you'll end up someplace maybe magical, special, don't know. But definitely more of a unicorn status than as they say, blending in. Or someone wrote up to me and said, " I see you came to stand out. Most of these people here are standing in."

Vincent Pietrafesa: I take the same approach. I try to take that same approach. And that's one of the things that drew us to you and I'm so glad we had you Albert, because there was a lot of different topics that we could tackle just based on all your background and what you've done. So we really appreciate that. So Albert, a final thought, if there's something you want our listeners to take away from this podcast, lay it on us.

Albert Thompson: Yeah, I mean I think one of the ones I've spoken about is there's certain facets of advertising and marketing that have made the modern day marketer lazy. And I'm really busy. I'm big on this modern day marketer. I've studied marketing my entire career, even though I was doing a lot of advertising, I studied the CMO and that position for about a decade. In particular when they only lasted about 12 to 18 months. And I think there's two more much mediocrity than amazingness simply because people have let the greatest existential threat to human beings in marketing creep in and accelerate, and that's automation. But that's because the human element is missing. At the end of the day, the machines are only as good as the people programming it. And I always repeat it, the machines are only as good as the people programming them. I think we've let machines over program our lives to which they've lost the intimacy in the touch. And that has to do with, you don't let Fox do the outreach on LinkedIn. You do it personally. Let bots do other some of the accelerator automated functions, not the piece that is most impressionable. And I think that's missing in marketing. I think programmatic is done in some degree, is a disservice because people aren't programming in the programmatic to be intelligent. The machines themselves can be fascinating, but when there's no thinking out in front, it's like, oh, you just don't want to do any thinking. You just want to turn the machine on and let it do its thing. And I guess that's enough to keep your job. I'm just going to say three, this, in a Web3 era that is not going to work because we're going to return. When you look at an entire universe that is based on peer- to- peer connection, you can't automate the human element of connection and intimacy when that is very much a human endeavor. And that's my charge to people is like you're going to have to get back to the basics of the beginning. Kind of like when Five Guys opened its first restaurant and they knew everybody who walked in and it was a very personal, localized relationship. Blockchain means we're going back to that. People who want to connect and build. And I think there's some elements of Web2 that need to be sunsetted because we've gotten away from that all important human element in marketing.

Vincent Pietrafesa: I love it. I love that Five Guys reference. Because you're right, that was what separated them, that was what made a difference was your neighborhood, that kind of knew your name. I love that. Albert, this has been awesome. We appreciate your time today. Ladies and gentlemen, that's Albert Thompson, Managing Director, Digital Innovation, Walton Isaacson. I'm Vincent Pietrafesa, that's AJ Gupta. This has been another episode of The Marketing Stir. Thank you so much for listening.

Vin: Thanks for listening to The Marketing Stir podcast by Stirista. Please like, rate and subscribe. If you're interested in being a guest on the podcast, please email us at themarketingstir @ Stirista. com. And thanks for listening.


Albert Thompson, Managing Director at Walton Isaacson, joins The Marketing Stir this week to chat with Ajay and Vincent about consumers' attention.

Today's Host

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Vincent Pietrafesa

|Vice President, B2B Products, Stirista
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Ajay Gupta

|Founder & CEO, Stirista

Today's Guests

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Albert Thompson

|Managing Director, Walton Isaacson
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