Chip Russo (TruthSet) - A Shock to the System
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 associate producer here at Stirista. The goal of this podcast is to chat with industry leaders and get their take on the current challenges in the market and we'll have a little fun along the way. In today's episode, of Vincent and Ajay chat with Chip Russo, CRO at Truthset. He discusses consumer data and how Truthset works to measure its accuracy. Vincent looks forward to nice weather and Ajay has a busy month. Give it a listen.
Vincent Pietrafesa: Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to another episode of Stirista's the Marketing Stir. I of course am your happy host, Vincent Pietrafesa, the vice president of B2B products and partnerships here at Stirista. It is so great to be talking to you and thank you again for all the great notes that you've been sending us, all of our listeners, our increased listenership. We really appreciate that. Also thank you for approaching me at conferences. Conferences are back people and thank you for telling me you listen to the podcast. That makes my day. Thank you. Stirista, who are we? Let me just pause for station identification. That's not even a real thing. This is not a station. What we do is we are a marketing technology company. We own our own business to business data, and business to consumer data. We help customers access that data, to help them get new customers. We can help you through email. We own our own DSP called AdStir, display connected TV. Email me at vincent @ stirista. com. That is how confident I am. I just gave you the world, parts of the world, some of the world, my email address. The other thing I'm confident in and I get to see his face tomorrow in person, ladies and gentlemen, my co- host, my CEO, Mr. Ajay Gupta. What's up Ajay?
Ajay Gupta: Hey, Vincent. Looking forward to this week and it's been a packed month so far, but it'll get even better in the next couple of days here in San Antonio.
Vincent Pietrafesa: Absolutely. You've been very busy, sir. It's like we're in, it's Q2. It's a busy time of year. We are fortunate. We appreciate that, that we're busy but happy to see you in person. Happy to see other Stiristonians, I don't even know if that's a word Stiristites. What we say there?
Ajay Gupta: Stiristites.
Vincent Pietrafesa: Stiristites. I like it. I like it. Coming to San Antonio. It's been the weather in New York has been one day it's 73 degrees, I've got shorts on. The next day, I'm bundled up, I have ear warmers on. Of course, nothing over my hair because I like to show that. But it's been crazy. I'm happy to come into hopefully nice weather in San Antonio.
Ajay Gupta: Yeah. It's like nap weather outside. It's dark and raining. Depends on your definition of nice, but yes.
Vincent Pietrafesa: Yeah. Well, nice is being away from the family for a little bit and just relaxing. My five year old doesn't listen.
Ajay Gupta: I thought your wife was our number one fan.
Vincent Pietrafesa: Yeah. Well she's my number seven fan in real life. She's not a big fan of me, but no, she listens to the podcast. She is adjacent to this industry so she listens. But it is good to see you. Going to be seeing other people, hopefully everyone there. Some sales folk coming in, kind of doing some strategy. It's going to be a blast, we're going to have some dinner, always a good time. Going to be fun. You know what else is fun? Doing this podcast. We love doing this podcast. We get a variety of guests onto the podcast. This is a company, a first of it's kind on this podcast. First of it's kind, really just as a company. I don't know of any other companies really doing this, really digging into data. The company's called Truthset. you ever heard of them? Stirista has for a few different reasons. We'll get into that in a moment. But we are very happy to welcome the president and chief revenue officer of Truthset. Ladies and gentlemen, Chip Russo. What's going on Chip?
Chip Russo: Hey, how's it going?
Vincent Pietrafesa: Going.
Chip Russo: Thanks for having me on. I appreciate it.
Vincent Pietrafesa: We love it.
Chip Russo: Well, I was going to say, sounds like you guys are in for a good time in San Antonio. Going to hit the River Walk out there. It'll be a good time.
Vincent Pietrafesa: Absolutely.
Chip Russo: Get the crew back together
Vincent Pietrafesa: Should be fun. The River Walk is it's like the Times Square of San Antonio, which some people are like, that's amazing. I love Times Square. Other people who live in New York City are like, ah, I'm okay. I've seen it already. I've seen it once. But yes, it's the good time San Antonio, the Alamo. Just happy to see people. But Chip, it is great to talk to you again. You and I, we chatted a few weeks back but Stirista knows Truthset. I think anyone with a data set and we are big into data, should know Truthset. Let's get it right out there for the good people listening to the Marketing Stir, tell us about Truthset and I'd love to know your role within the organization. You wear multiple hats so I'd love to understand a little bit more there.
Chip Russo: Yeah, sure. Again, my name's Chip Russo, I'm the president and chief revenue officer at Truthset. We are a company that has built a tool to measure the accuracy of demographic data. It's really that simple. The tool will work for data providers, for brands, for platforms, for agencies. Really anyone that has demographic data and wants to ascertain the accuracy of that data.
Vincent Pietrafesa: I'd love to understand Chip, kind of the genesis of the business. Talk to us, did the founder, he or she, stumble across a bad data set and was like, wait a minute. We have to really understand, dig deeper. Tell me a little bit about that story.
Chip Russo: Sure. Our CEO, Scott McKinley, he founded the company in 2019. He's been in multiple startups. He's had I think two or three startups previously. And he worked at Nielsen as an EVP for seven years. This is really his brain child and he's seen firsthand the value of accurate data and he saw firsthand really what was happening within I think the overall broadcast ecosystem. And I don't know if you're aware of all the, what happened with Nielsen and MRC accreditation and whatnot. I think the awareness of inaccuracy in data overall was something that he felt passionate that he could help solve. And I think that's sort of the genesis of it. And how do you do that in a way that's super positive, that the rising tide raises all boats? How do you create a way to offer accuracy while really promoting and benefiting all the participants? I think that's ultimately what he set out to do. And because of his research background, we've sort of leaned into the whole digital ecosystem as our initial focus.
Ajay Gupta: Chip, can you talk to us a little bit about how you measure the accuracy of the consumer data?
Chip Russo: Yeah, of course. Essentially Truthset's built a proprietary tool that measures the likelihood from zero to one, of an attribute being accurate. Essentially, we created this data collective of the leading data providers in the world and 20 plus data providers. And what we do is we've multi- sourced validation sets. Research grade validation sets that will measure each of the data providers individually, all of the various attributes. And then we assign essentially a score to those attributes, which then gets applied in what we call the Bayesian wisdom of the crowds methodology. And essentially everyone's voting on a very specific email. The spine of Truthset and the tool set that we use is a HEM spine, which is a hashed email. And we have 880 million hashed emails, which is essentially our HEM spine and attached to all of those are our demographic scores. 25 different attributes and a score for each. And so we will use that tool essentially to measure each of the data providers and give them direct feedback, just private to them as to how each of their various attributes score in an accuracy level.
Ajay Gupta: And Chip, it's obviously clear to us as a data provider and a partner, how the solution is effective for data providers. But can you talk to us a little bit about how this would benefit non- data providers and the kind of your brand audience that you're targeting as well?
Chip Russo: Well, yeah. Look, I think just so super clear, there's the coalition that we run, which is free. This is not pay to play. This is data providers come in, they supply their data, we then turn around a score for them, which they can use to promote. I'm taking the long way to answer your question but I think it's important to first understand how data providers benefit and then I can explain, I think in greater detail how it works to the broader community. But within the data collective, as a data provider comes in, they're getting the opportunity to have new sort of strategic insights because everyone believes their data is great. And if in fact it is great, then that's awesome. And if it's not, then the folks that are bad actors, sort of take away the value if there's not an independent body to sort of validate the great data providers out there. And so what we do is we help give them a tool to showcase how great their data actually is by an independent body. And then we also give them insight into where they're really strong and where they might be struggling, which comes into play from a strategic perspective. That's information that only goes to them but ultimately it allows them to make strategic decisions on how and where to focus their energies. The output of that ultimately is this tool. This tool is 880 million hashed emails with all of these scores associated with it. And that is ultimately the product that we'll use to solve problems for any of the other constituents, whether it be a brand directly. If I'm a big brand and I've got a ton of first party data, maybe some of it's modeled, maybe some of it's credit card or whatever. The brands today have an array of ways of pulling data together but nobody until now, had a way to validate the accuracy of that data. Before you're going to use, if you have a big data set and you want to use it for targeting or if you want to use it for modeling, it's important now that that capability is available, to measure the accuracy of that before you then go on to make that model. I can give you another example if you were to work within a walled garden and you have the big data asset and you're ready to deploy your first party data into Facebook or Google or Snapchat or what have you, essentially, what they're going to do is they're going to take that seed that you've provided them and they're going to create lookalike models and then they'll ultimately target throughout their platform. If you knew that 10% or 5% or 20% of your audience was misaligned with what you thought it was, well, then you're allowing that magnification of that percentage, whatever it is, to grow across that social platform versus we could just eliminate that for you on the onset. If you had a million records that you wanted to turn into 10 and 10% of them or a million was not the 18 to 34 male or whatever that you thought it was, you eliminate that, you submit that 900, 000 to Facebook who then models it out. And now your seed is growing from a more accurate source.
Vincent Pietrafesa: Chip, I want to take a step back. This is a question I normally ask and I skipped over it and I know that a lot of our entry level, as well as our students love this question. It's talk to me about how you first got started in this industry. What was the path? What was your first job out of college?
Chip Russo: Wow. We're going way back.
Vincent Pietrafesa: We're going way back. That's why people love hearing it because it's usually not a traditional path for most people. We love to hear it.
Chip Russo: That's fair. Okay, cool. I'm sort of a startup junkie. I've always loved business. When I was in college, I started my own little business. When I got out of college, I was looking for businesses in the media space and so my path was I researched a lot of different cable entities and found out which were the strongest in terms of A, brand recognition but then also had good mentoring and whatnot. And Turner Broadcasting really jumped out as one of the leaders. And so I went to go work there out of college and just had a great experience. Learned a lot of basics. They run all of their junior people through a great system. And as I was going through that, I'm really going to date myself but that was sort of the dawn of the internet. And so as that happened, I saw what was going on and it was something, given my entrepreneurial spirit wanted to be involved in it. I joined a startup and basically built it, helped build it from the ground up and then continued on that path. This is now my sixth startup and so it's been really one to another, that's led me down that path from company to company.
Vincent Pietrafesa: Let's explore that. I love what you said there, startup junkie, that's a term you don't hear all the time. You started out at Turner, which is TNT, for those people should know that, Turner Broadcasting, TBS, big conglomerate. That's a larger company than into the startup world. But what continues to drive you to these startups? What is it about it? As I mentioned in the beginning of the podcast, the president and CRO that's multiple hats, what do you think it is Chip, that kind of drives you to a startup? And why should people listening jump into startups?
Chip Russo: Okay. I'm a builder. I love the early onset of companies. I love to get my hands dirty. And I believe in myself and I think being a part of a startup means that you have to do that. You have to bet on yourself and the people around you. And as the companies get bigger and bigger, there's maybe more politics involved or there's different skillsets that are really important for really large companies. And there are certain skillsets that are really important and I lean into the more entrepreneurial end and that's where I just have more fun. And I love focusing on the team around us and solving problems that maybe haven't come up before and first time and that sort of thing. And I don't mind the chaos where you have to have a really thick skin in the early days, which I always remind myself each time I start over, I wonder what the heck was I thinking? I was so comfortable last month before I joined this new startup. And it's always a little bit of a shock to the system when somebody says, you ask them," Well, who's responsible for doing this?" And they turn around and they say," Well, you are." And you say," Oh yeah, that's right. Okay, I'll get right on it." But it's funny, it's two different worlds and I think it's just a really fun process to identify challenges, think through how to solve them and then go out and solve them.
Ajay Gupta: Chip, you've been relatively new at Truthset at this point but what's been kind of your favorite experience or favorite part of working here?
Chip Russo: For me, it's the people. It's getting to the people. Scott is, he's an incredible leader. He is. He was the captain of the US cycling Olympic team. He's got a really interesting background. We have an amazing sales leader in Wes, who he's multiple years at Comscore. And then our data science team, Kat and Nawid. Working with really smart, really hungry people for me has been the most exciting thing. The other thing is just sort of the quest in what Truthset is setting out to do. It's the quest for truth and accuracy in data. And that's, when you're in ad tech, well, there's a lot of different things that you can focus on. And I just find it super refreshing to be focused on something that will really help everyone in the entire ecosystem. That's super exciting for me. And then the last is just sort of the elegance and the simplicity of the product itself. This is a tool that is super easy to integrate with literally any data stack, whether it's an AWS or Snowflake or Google or wherever and ultimately has a massive impact on those that implement it. From the people to sort of the quest, to the product itself, it's been a lot of fun. It's been a lot of fun. And frankly, we're just getting started so I'm excited.
Ajay Gupta: And as a follow up to that, since you're just getting started, looking ahead, what do you see as the future of data standards? And how do you see Truthset kind of being an impact player in that world?
Chip Russo: Sure. Well look, there's many government groups who are working to solve that riddle. We believe that accuracy should be the standard really. I don't think at this point, given the fact that there's now a tool in Truthset to be able to measure the accuracy of data, I think the standard should be the most accurate data that you can use. I don't think that we're going to have any policy participation necessarily but we do want to be the arbiter of truth. And so, as it relates to standards, we'll let the government groups do that. We want to just provide a tool of transparency and a standard of accuracy.
Vincent Pietrafesa: Chip, let's go back to, I love what you said there, the data collective. Talk to us about that initiative.
Chip Russo: The data collective is essentially that. It's a group of the leading data providers. And what we want to do is provide them with the opportunity to have insight into their own data. Nobody's data is perfect. Everyone has somewhere where they're stronger, some areas where they're stronger than others. And so what we do within the collective is provide that feedback and that strategic insight. We also give them that independent verification, the stamp of approval. If there's a number of bad actors out there, then the pricing for data is sort of a race to the bottom. If you can add multiple attributes to every record that you have that are conflicting with one another and the buying community can't tell the difference, then they just buy it and hope that it's factored in. And then it takes trial and error versus having a third party, independent body that can say," This has been verified. This is a partner that cares about data quality." And then we also provide them with insights into how they index against the larger group, where their ranking is within various attributes. It's a really fantastic sales tool where they can utilize and say," Hey, we're in the top three. Or we've been in the top three for the last three quarters in such and such a category." And so I think it's really beneficial for the data providers to be able to have a marketing tool that they can utilize. There's additional value in promotion, whether it's press or whatnot. And then that independent voice weighs in on M and A and all sorts of things really. I don't know if you saw Futor was acquired earlier in Q1 this year and in the article that I was reading, one of the reference points was that the data collective that Truthset put together, verified them and verified their data to a certain degree of being a high performer and in a certain section or whatever and that made an impact on that overall decision. And so I think there's a lot of value, whether it's in the buying community, the major holding companies sort of leaning in and saying," Well, are you part of this data coalition? If you are, I'm going to move you over to a special matrix so that our buyers recognize that you care about quality." Which we've seen happen in multiple cases. And ultimately it's just, I referred to it earlier, but rising tide raises all boats. That's the initiative and we want to be able to provide as much value as we can.
Vincent Pietrafesa: I like hearing that. I love the drive behind that and what you're looking out to do. Talk to me more about what drives you? What are some of the driving factors within your work?
Chip Russo: Yeah, sure. Look, I think for me, I'd say it's more on a personal level. From a driving perspective, I have ambitions to build businesses and for me, that's really fun to do but ultimately I'm doing it all for my family and my kids. And I look at I'm the sole provider and for me to be able to do the things that I want in my life and provide my family the opportunity my kids to go to school and whatnot. That's really my driver. In terms of work, it's building something from the ground up and watching it become whatever it becomes. And it's been a lot of fun throughout my career. I'm open to risk taking, as you can imagine, because there's a ton of risk in all this. But if you have the right focus and determination, you can really get through most things. And you'll see that I think one of the greatest sort of rewards is as I've gone from startup to startup, whether it was in the investment community or the brand community or the tech community, in this last one or current one with Truthset, all of those relationships have come full circle. It's been fun to be able to contribute to the company in many different ways but based on all of those various relationships. From the finance world to the brand world, to the agency world and given the ubiquity of data accuracy and the importance of data accuracy, that actually plays a role in all of the different realms. I'd say that's probably the most fun about it.
Ajay Gupta: Chip, if you're like the rest of us, you get a lot of LinkedIn messages, probably most of them unsolicited. What's a LinkedIn message that gets your attention? And what's one that really annoys you?
Chip Russo: Yeah. That's a tough one. I don't really think any of them get my attention, to be honest.
Vincent Pietrafesa: That's a first. You know what? That's a, you know what? None of them actually.
Chip Russo: I feel bad saying that but that is the truth. If you want to get through to me on LinkedIn then it's, I've been recommended by somebody you know, name that person and there has to be a true, honest connection there. Like I said, I have a family and I have a startup and I don't have time really to look at various LinkedIn messages. I do spend a good amount of time on LinkedIn because I like to see what's happening and I think the feed is pretty good, to see what's going on with a number of different businesses. But in terms of direct message, that wouldn't be a great way to track me down.
Vincent Pietrafesa: I love it.
Ajay Gupta: Chip, you've got to have a pet peeve, at least though.
Chip Russo: A pet peeve?
Vincent Pietrafesa: Just don't reach out. That's the pet.
Chip Russo: Yeah. No, I don't. I really, I don't have. I would say the pet peeve would only be maybe the repetition. If there's not a response on the first two, then you've done it wrong. And a lot of times they'll just use the same cut and paste language each time. And then they kind of stack on one another. You can see the same message three times, four times from the same person. Like anything, too much frequency is a bad thing as our folks in CTV land have understood.
Ajay Gupta: Chip, so tell us a little bit more about your personal side because we like to get to know the guests, any hobbies that you have picked up over the pandemic or some that you have had always. Would love to get to know you a little bit better on that side.
Chip Russo: Sure. Pandemic, picked up pickleball, mainly because we were on lockdown and I bought a net and so my family, I have twins that are boy and a girl and so my wife and I play against them when we were locked down in the driveway. Which is pretty fun. Hobbies overall, I love sports. I've grown up playing lacrosse and I'm a skier, went to University of Colorado Boulder and used to ski a ton. And I just love anything outdoors, rock climbing, skiing, surfing, hiking, golfing, whatever.
Vincent Pietrafesa: What are your sports teams? Who do you root for?
Chip Russo: I was born in Dallas, so I'm a Cowboys fan.
Vincent Pietrafesa: Ah, as a New York Giants fan, I actually visited Dallas, my friends and I go to a different stadium every year, past eight years Chip, to see the New York Giants play. And this last past year we went to Dallas and that stadium is beautiful. It was a beautiful stadium. And the fans and the people were so nice. They're very different from the New York based Dallas Cowboys fans, which I cannot stand. If you're listening, I actually like actual Cowboy fans who are from Texas area but New York based, I know you're listening. But that's awesome.
Chip Russo: Fair enough. Fair enough. Well, I grew up on the East Coast and my father's a Giants fan. We have interesting rivals in our home, throughout the season. I grew up going to Giants games. I understand what you're talking about.
Vincent Pietrafesa: That's awesome. Chip, a couple questions, the question I have is really, as you heard me mention in the beginning, trade shows are back. Trade shows have always been big for Stirista. We kind of just go to different shows. I met Truthset at Programmatic I/ O in New York. That's right.
Chip Russo: Right on.
Vincent Pietrafesa: I met some of your folks there. Is that on the roadmap for you? Is that big for Truthset, kind of going out? And well, any upcoming shows out there that you guys are looking into? Or just tell me about that landscape because these are questions that our listeners want to know.
Chip Russo: Sure. Well, I'm a very big believer in trade shows. I tend to go to the ones that are a little bit more curated than the super, super big ones but I think there's tremendous value there. I'm actually a founder one of them called Brand Storytelling. Brand Storytelling is really about brands and becoming storytellers themselves essentially. And very different than the data world. But no, I think there's a tremendous amount of value in being face to face, being in an environment where you can just be a little bit more relaxed. It's different when you're taking a walk or you're outside on a nice patio or something, where you get to know the person a little bit more and then you can talk about your business versus a conference room or a podcast or a Zoom meeting or whatnot. I think that they're really important. I think you have to be really smart about the ones that you attend because they're expensive but if you choose the right ones, then I think there's incredible value there. And we're going to be pretty strategic about the ones we choose, but we're going to be out in full force.
Vincent Pietrafesa: Yeah. Yeah. I couldn't agree more. I think just the fact that for us, that's why we originally, we created this podcast as if okay, we are meeting Chip at the bar at a conference. And you kind of talk about so many different things there, including sports, what you do, family, life, that sort of thing. We're eager to get back. We started getting back. I think the next one might be for me, a B2B conference in August in Boston, the B2B Sales and Marketing Exchange. I'm on the B2B side, so that's why I go there. But I think a couple New York trips. Ajay's coming back up to New York soon. We've got a lot of local things, the Marketing Club in New York here, I'm on the board of directors of that organization here. That's been cool. It's good. Hopefully people will meet you there. Don't LinkedIn request him. Do not send Chip a message on LinkedIn. He's not going to respond but in person.
Chip Russo: I didn't say request, I thought you were talking about if you're in my industry, feel free. That's fine.
Vincent Pietrafesa: I'm kidding. I know. Definitely. Reach out. Of course, anyone looking for Truthset, reach out to Chip. Chip, a closing thought for us, a closing thought on future of data, closing thought about you? Absolutely would love to hear it.
Chip Russo: Yeah. I'm an optimist. I think the closing thought is that the future is bright. We're coming out of a tough time for a lot of people. If you've been to any events recently, you've probably felt that. I think it's really spectacular to be face to face and to have that human experience. In terms of data and our business, I'm thrilled for what the future holds because we're doing something that's good and that's right and that's going to help a lot of people and a lot of businesses in our ecosystem. I'm just super bullish and that would be my message. Future is bright.
Vincent Pietrafesa: I love it. We love it. Thank you so much Chip, for joining us. We really appreciate it here on the Marketing Stir. Ladies and gentlemen, that is Chip Russo. He is the president and CRO of Truthset. Check out Truthset, Ladies and gentlemen. I'm Vincent Pietrafesa. That's Ajay Gupta. This has been another episode of the Marketing Stir. Thank you so much for listening and we'll talk to you soon.
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.
Vincent and Ajay chat with Chip Russo, CRO at TruthSet. He discusses consumer data, and how TruthSet works to measure its accuracy. Vincent looks forward to nice weather, and Ajay has a busy month.