Founded in 2008, Atlanta-based Cardlytics is an ad platform that operates within banks’ native digital channels. Clients include large financial institutions such as Chase, Wells Fargo, Bank of America, PNC Bank, and Lloyd’s in the UK.
Cardlytics’ platform enables advertisers to engage with consumers through their online and mobile banking channels.
ClickZ recently spoke with Michael Akkerman, Cardlytics Chief Product and Strategy Officer, to learn about how they help marketers reach consumers with engaging advertising based on purchase behavior.
Prior to joining Cardlytics, Michael Akkerman served as the Global VP of Kenshoo for five years where he helped grow the company from 20 to 700 employees.
In 2015, Akkerman went on to become the Global Head of Pinterest Partnerships at Pinterest. He was responsible for growing and managing the platform’s ecosystem of strategic technology partners working with some of the largest brands and advertisers around the world and helping them be successful on Pinterest.
The Pinterest Partners program has over 80 technology partners and spans six specialties; Advertising, Content Marketing, Audiences, Measurement, Creative, and Shopping.
From there, he joined Cardlytics in 2019.
Akkerman moved to New York in 2009 during the height of the financial crisis and worked as a consultant helping companies build their digital presence before joining Kenshoo as the third NY-based employee.
“As with most startups, I wore a range of hats,” explains Akkerman. “I ended up scaling out the solutions consulting organization where we sold SaaS-based technology for marketers. This required that I understood what our clients were trying to achieve, understood our technology, and understood where the market was going.”
Akkerman’s move to Pinterest was as fascinating as it was accidental.
“I was looking for a Halloween costume and I went on Google and got six and a half million results,” says Akkerman. “I clicked a link onto Pinterest and realized two things—the platform operated exactly how my mind worked—visually—and it was able to jump from idea to idea. And, second, that the future of search is in visual discovery.”
Akkerman reached out to Pinterest to see if there was an opportunity to integrate with the Kenshoo platform. They recruited him over to their side instead!
Five years later, he went on to work at Cardlytics after meeting the company’s founders, Scott Grimes and Lynne Laube and becoming fascinated with the potential of their technology.
“There is no perfect formula for your career trajectory,” says Akkerman. “You need to be open and receptive so you can identify patterns that you find interesting for you. I have an insatiable curiosity. I like to know how things work. I break things apart and put them back together. And the more I get interested in a topic or a company or an idea, the more I become passionate about it.”
Akkerman doesn’t see his transition from ad tech to fintech as existing in two separate bubbles. Rather, he brings the two disciplines together in his role at Cardlytics.
Says Akkerman, “There aren’t a lot of companies that bring these two sectors together. You have some wonderful fintech companies that are very focused on bringing out a new evolution of financial tools. And then you have ad tech and martech which are focused on the supply chain around marketing. Being able to find that crossover is unique.”
On his role as Chief Product and Strategy Officer at Cardlytics, Akkerman has this to say:
“Ultimately, product is strategy. When you’re thinking about the strategy for a company, it’s based upon what you’re able to go to market with and the value you bring to your customers and partners. I think it’s interesting that generally we separate these two functions. But if you think about large tech companies, the product is their business strategy, so being able to combine the two enables you to hone in on where you want to go as a business.”
“I think the world is going through a reestablishment of the norms as they pertain to large established markets like how consumers interact with their bank,” explains Akkerman. “You used to only be able to go into a bank branch and work with a human teller. Then we went online and then that became mobile, so it wasn’t about passively looking at your account balance, but about being proactively served with push notifications about an opportunity to save.”
Akkerman describes Cardlytics as the largest walled garden you’ve never heard of.
“It’s an amazing walled garden where advertisers can put ads in the form of offers into banks’ native apps,” he explains. “We have an audience of 133M monthly active users, globally, and drive value for all parties via the banks’ native apps.”
In the UK, Cardlytics’ clients include Lloyds and Santandar, while US clients include Wells Fargo, Bank of America, Suntrust, PNC, and Chase. The platform enables banks to send offers to their end customers to enrich the banking experience, and drive value for their customers by giving cash back rewards.
Advertisers can show ads to potential customers to motivate online and in-store purchases, and they’re also able to give bank users cash back.
A big reason that Cardlytics advertisers come to the platform is that it’s brand safe. Advertisers don’t need to worry about their ads showing up next to or aligned with negative or nefarious content. It’s a fraud-safe environment with a high degree of trust within the bank’s native digital environment.
“The advertiser is seeing amazing results,” says Akkerman. “They’re seeing real incremental returns. Cardlytics helps them understand what offers people did and didn’t see and determine what drove a larger degree of sales for the advertiser.”
Cardlytics taps into a highly engaged audience and gives value back to that audience. From the advertiser’s perspective, that value translates to incremental top line results for their business.
The company sees half of all credit and debit card swipes in the US, which enables them to understand how a bank user engaged with an offer through the platform and then went on to make a purchase.
“We’ve seen the data firsthand and the everyday value is real and immense,” says Akkerman. “We’ve been able to help customers get back nearly half a billion dollars in rewards. That is sizable if you think about families that are looking at their budgets in times of tight economic change.”
For the remainder of 2020, Cardlytics is focused on continuing to develop and test their self-serve platform which will allow marketers more freedom to build and run campaigns themselves.
During the second half of the year, they’ll be testing this capability with some of their agency partners to get feedback before a big rollout.
Says Akkerman, “Beyond that, it comes down to relevancy and richness in the actual advertising and the content. How do we make sure that when you’re looking at offers, you’re seeing what’s most relevant to you as an individual? How do we make the offers more engaging within that bank environment? How do we work with the bank to create an exceptional customer experience when users are engaging with that content? At the end of the day, the customer experience is paramount and the focus for Bank, Advertiser, and Cardlytics.”
In speculating on the future of ad tech and Cardlytics’ role within that environment, Akkerman was optimistic:
“It’s a very interesting time within ad tech. I’m happy not to be in a world that’s reliant on third party cookies. Cardlytics is an opt-in platform. People are in a fraud-free, brand safe environment within their bank’s trusted platform. All the baggage that was brought from the old world of ad tech must be reassessed so we can start driving value for users and advertisers again.
“Some companies that we know and love will have to figure out what that means for them in this new world order, but I’m very glad that Cardlytics isn’t plagued by any of those issues. We stand alone as a platform with a highly engaged and valuable audience, wonderful top line returns for advertisers, and continual value for the consumers themselves.”
Akkerman’s advice to anyone who wants to get started with Cardlytics is to email him. He will make sure to connect you with individuals who can help you scale, effectively understand your marketing goals, and find success.
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