Why every company should care about brand safety Ft. Nandini Jammi of Check My Ads (Inbound Success, Ep. 170)
Do you **really** know where your ad campaigns are running, and what do your ad placements mean for your brand?
This week on The Inbound Success Podcast, brand safety expert Nandini Jammi talks about why it's so important for brands that are running programmatic advertising campaigns to know exactly where their ads are running.
Nandini has been immersed in the world of brand safety & digital advertising since 2016, when she began running Sleeping Giants, the social media campaign that alerted advertisers that their ads were funding hate speech on Breitbart News.
Her efforts led to her being recognized by Business Insider as one of the industry leaders “fixing” digital advertising. DigiDay named her a DigiDay Changemaker. In 2019, Sleeping Giants won a Gold Cannes Lion Award for Best Social Media Campaign and a People’s Voice for Public Service and Activism Webby Award. At Check My Ads, Nandini turns her social media experience into proactive strategies for brands.
As Nandini explains, maintaining careful control over where your ads run isn't just important for your brand's reputation, it's good business because it will increase the ROI of your ad campaigns.
Check out the full episode, or read the transcript below, for details.
Resources from this episode:
- Visit the Check My Ads website
- Visit Nandini's personal website
- Follow Nandini on Twitter
- Subscribe to the Check My Ads Newsletter
Nandini and Kathleen recording this episode
Kathleen (00:00): Welcome back to the Inbound Success Podcast. I'm your host, Kathleen Booth. And today my guest is Nandini Jammi, who is the co-founder of Check My Ads and Sleeping Giants. Welcome Nandini.
Nandini (00:26): Kathleen, thanks so much for having me.
Kathleen (00:28): I am really excited to have you, because I always find that my best guests come as recommendations from prior guests. And you came as a recommendation from one of my favorite prior guests who was Rand Fishkin of SparkToro, and formerly Moz.
And I have a bit of a nerdy marketing crush on him. And so as soon as he mentioned a few names, I was like, I have to get those people next. So this is really exciting for me for those who are listening and might not be familiar with you or your work, can you just take a minute and maybe tell your story and also talk about what you're doing now?
Nandini (01:05): Sure. So before I get started, I also want to say that I'm also a huge fan of Rand and a lot of what I know today about SEO comes from his whiteboard sessions. So, I actually have a background in B2B marketing, B2B tech marketing. That is what I have been doing for my entire career. So I started out as a content marketing person. I became a head of growth for various tech startups.
And that process became a little bit of a Jack of all trades, learned how to run a whole marketing department on my own. In, in 2016, my boss gave me a small ad budget. The one thing that I'd never done was run an ad, a Google ad campaign before and said here, spend it, it was about 3000 pounds and said, just go for it, figure out the best way to spend it.
Nandini (02:09): Let's see what happens. And I I didn't have any, anyone to teach me how to run these ads. So I I ended up, I ended up running into Google campaign and being really, really anal about where my ad spend was going and as like where they're being placed and all that, because I was really scared that I was going to get in trouble for wasting it.
So I was really careful. I wanted, so one of the things that I did that I think that most people don't do is go into the site placements to see where my ads were actually ending up. And of course I personally cared a lot because I'm, I, I had created all those marketing campaigns, myself and written out all the copy and the landing pages and stuff. And I noticed at that time that my ads were on sites that I had never heard of.
Nandini (03:03): And in particular, one of them was on one of the sites that I noticed was Zero Hedge. And I was like, why would my product management software ads be appearing on Zero Hedge? Like, I don't think my customers are there. But you know, no one, no one really talked about it. And I didn't really, I didn't really end up doing anything with that information, but a couple months later in November, 2016 of course Trump won the elections. And in the weeks after that, I heard a lot about I was hearing a lot about Breitbart and Breitbart had a massive influence during the 2016 elections. So I decided to go visit this website for the first time. And when I did the first thing I noticed, wasn't just the headlines, but also the ads. And I realized that, you know, these were ads from some of the biggest brands in the world, some of the most recognizable brands in the world.
Nandini (04:01): And I was like, I wonder if they just don't know their ads are on there. I wonder if they just don't go in and like check their site placements. Because I had this background of marketing, I was able to quickly understand what was going on here are they, of course didn't place their ads there manually. And I sort of decided I should jump into action.
How about I tell everybody how about I encourage everybody to go in and just like add this one website to their block list. So I wrote a medium article. I started tweeting at companies and within a day I found a partner and together we started working on working under the pseudonym of sleeping giants. And basically the concept was tweeting screenshots at companies of their ads on Breitbart. Tweeting at the companies and letting them know, Hey, did you know, your ads are on this website?
Nandini (04:55): And then like giving them a chance to respond to us. So this this campaign, this like very simple concept of just tweeting a screenshot at the company caught on. And before I knew it, I wasn't just a marketer.
I was also an activist. And and then I spent the next four years working on that campaign. And as I gradually started to well, I started to realize that this was not a problem that was going to be solved overnight.
And I started to wonder why it hadn't been because it was the, it was something that the entire ad industry claimed to be working on. So this past year I launched a new company called Check My Ads, a brand safety consultancy, where we help companies identify their ads identify where their ads are going, help them find their ads on hate speech and disinformation sites other than Breitbart, and to help them to spend their money in a sustainable, intentional way.
Kathleen (06:03): I, I love your story. I feel like you're super humble because you've, you've told it, but for if somebody is listening and they aren't as familiar with this, they might not realize literally what a movement that became. You you've been profiled in wired magazine. You know, you've been, you've been in, in a number of different news outlets. This, this really became quite high profile.
And to me caused a tidal wave of positive change in the brand advertising world of, of getting brands to really take a closer look and, and, and shine a light on where their ad dollars were going and to make conscious choices about it that had not happened before.
And so kudos to you for doing that. I think, you know, regardless, I mean, politics is such a sensitive and hot topic right now, and regardless of where you fall on the spectrum, I think what's become very clear is that most people have pretty strong opinions and to not care about how your dollars are spent and the way those dollars go to support, you know, different news outlets that you may or may not support it's important.
Kathleen (07:22): It is because that money, that money has a ripple effect. And so I love what you're doing with check my ads and really empowering brands to understand more about where their money is going and to make sure that that's in alignment with what they stand for as a company.
So with that, with that as a preface I want to really start out by asking you, like, why should people care? Because you know, this is an inbound marketing podcast, and we could certainly come on and talk about content marketing or blogging or social media, you know, but this is a little bit of a different topic for us. And I think it's, if I had to guess, it's probably one that a lot of my listeners haven't thought about so much in the past. And so I'm sure the first question going through their heads is like, why, why is this important to me? Why does it matter? Maybe you could talk a little bit about that.
Nandini (08:13): Absolutely. There's two big reasons this matters and they both have to do with the health of your business. The first is brand equity, the idea that you don't know where, where your brand, where your ads are ending up in 20, 24 years after this campaign started and became, as you said, a tidal wave and created this massive shift in the industry.
I think that is a poor reflection of your brand and whether or not people say anything to you about it, it's kind of like they're subconsciously. I mean, for example, I have been you know, I check out makeup sites a lot, and I also, my, my profile is a little bit weird, you know, like I I'm on makeup sites and I'm also on disinformation. So I haven't seen a lot of like home ads, for example, on some of the worst disinformation sites on that, on the web.
Nandini (09:18): And that's a poor reflection of your brand, and it shows that, you know, you care about your brand, but the way that you're showing up to the world, the way that you're showing up on the internet doesn't reflect that.
So I think knowing where your ads are checking them and being intentional about your advertising is a way to to show you care and to protect your own brand from unsafe elements on the web to protect yourself from associating, with being associated with or even just kind of, you know, funding and supporting these terrible elements around the web.
If you don't care about brand equity, maybe you care about your budget. I've we've found that for these brands who ended up on discern disinformation and hate sites, it's sort of like a, it's sort of a sign that you're probably wasting a lot of your ad spend.
Nandini (10:24): So we did a case study or one of the case studies that we like to talk about is a company called headphones.com. We found their ads on on all sorts of sites like epoch times and and gateway pundit and all these terrible sites. So we we did an audit for them and we dug in and we found that they were advertising on dozens and dozens of sites like these, that we could identify in English, like the ones that we could manually identify.
But beyond that, we also saw that he was advertising on on Android apps where like, you know, headphones.com sells really high end headphones. So they're not, you know, they're not like throwaway headphones to say the least. So we were like, maybe you don't want to advertise there because that's not where your sort of high-end clientele is going to be.
Nandini (11:18): And lastly, we found them advertising on Spanish language sites, Latin American sites, where they don't ship to. So we said, why are you advertising on a place you don't ship to? So we gave them a set, gave him a set of recommendations and said, try blocking all these sites and all these categories and see what you come up with.
And he came back to us and said, I was spending $1,200 a day on my retargeting campaigns, and now I'm spending $40 a day. And I haven't seen any change in my performance. So what would you do with that $1,100 a day? I mean, what could you get done? And I think it shows that there is an immense amount of power that we have not only for for demonetizing hate speech on the, on the internet, but also for finding new things to do with that money, new ways to experiment with those marketing dollars in ways that you may have not imagined before.
Nandini (12:29): I think it really represents an opportunity to, to reach your customer. This is money. That's not reaching anybody, right? This is, this is, this is money. You're throwing away, throwing down the toilet. So I think it's an opportunity to start thinking about how you can reach customers directly.
I want people to be thinking about how to reach customers, maybe through a channel like podcasting or by building relationships with influencers, or maybe even just giving away a set of headphones everyday.
Maybe that's what headphones.com should be doing with that money. I mean, imagine maybe you could you know, maybe you could triple your return based on that instead of just spending it on retargeting.
Kathleen (13:12): So I want to put a pin in that for a minute, because we're gonna come back to, you know, the, the kind of mission driven elements of, of why you should care about where your ads go. But I think before we dig too deeply into that, I want to go into why is this a problem in the first place?
Because it goes back to how the programmatic advertising industry is structured, because, you know, I hear you talk about retargeting ads going to all these crazy places. And most I'm sure most of the people that are listening to this podcast do some form of retargeting. I do retargeting I, I'm not going to say who I place my ads through, but, you know, it's one of the more common retargeting platforms.
And of course, all of us who do this, we put some targeting parameters in there of some sort, but it sounds like despite our best efforts to to be focused and to try to reach our best audiences, that's not working. So could you talk a little bit about like structurally, why is that still such a problem?
Nandini (14:16): I think we can find our answers if we go back about 10 years when we all started to adopt programmatic advertising and the promise of programmatic advertising was that we could advertise to anyone anywhere at the right time, at any time on the internet. We can reach people anywhere they go. And at that time it was such an intoxicating and exciting idea.
And of course we all, we were also quick to adopt it. What we didn't realize was happening on the backend, which is that these companies were building growing inventories at exponential rates. They were bringing in as many websites as they could. They were not properly vetting them.
They were they, what they were trying to do was a created a demand and they were trying to meet that demand. And the way that they are set up and structured financially is their interest is in us spending as much money as, you know, spending more money, greater volume, greater number of impressions, greater conversions, greater clicks.
That's what drives, that's what we now believe drives our businesses and our growth. So I think that that focus on volume is what kind of has driven this industry and kind of explains where we are today, which is we want, we want to look for the, we, as marketers are looking for those vanity metrics, we're looking for those conversions and clicks, but we're not digging in to see what sites those are on. No one ever told us we should care.
Kathleen (16:05): And, and is the programmatic ecosystem set up in a way that anybody can go in and see that information? Like how easy is it to access? Because it sounds like very few people look at it. So, .
Nandini (16:18): They're so everything that, from everything that I have seen in the tech ecosystem, they do what they can to discourage you from looking at your ads, from checking your ads. The entire idea is for you to sit back, relax, turn on the switch and let let the machines do their jobs. It's not that easy to check your ads either when we did the audit for headphones.com, we could not, we could see the aggregate spend.
We could see how much he'd spent, how much they converted and how many clicks they got across the board in aggregate. What we couldn't see was which of those sites were actually driving results and performance. So he asked his company, he asked his vendor for that dashboard and they never provided it to him. So I think that's saying a lot.
Kathleen (17:20): Wow. So how do you, I mean, how did you eventually find out, like, how do you, how do you dig in and get that information? Is that, is it just arm twisting or is there some hidden portal?
Nandini (17:33): I think, I think he may have had to request that like individually from his sales rep. Wow. But, but they don't make it easy. I mean, another thing that I want to, we just wrote about this in our newsletter was for, you know, sleeping, we, we confirmed over 4,000 advertisers that blocked Breitbart from their media buy.
But if you went in and blocked Breitbart from your, from your media buy, you most likely did it through your display network, turns out you have to, well, it turns out the cool little has a separate network, a separate search network.
So if you a separate search network where you have to upload that block list again, so you basically, so Google has the search network and the display network. And every time you update your list on your display network, you have to do it on your search network.
Nobody knows that the average marketer doesn't know that. So if you blocked Breitbart on display four years ago, you now have to, you, you are still potentially funding the page search bar that that Breitbart has on its website. Okay.
Kathleen (18:46): So when somebody is in Breitbart and they're saying, I want to search within the site for anything on global warming and they do that little search and then ads come up in there.
Nandini (18:57): That's right. So we found Joe Biden, that's on there. We found Joe Biden's campaign almost certainly blocked them on display, but they didn't block them on search. So this is, this is not to knock on anybody. I mean, this really is the, the ad tech ecosystem, making it difficult for marketers to know what's going on in their ads and, and the, and the sort of scandalous part is that if you turn on that like when you, when you set up a search ad campaign, if you turn on this, you know, I want to appear on the search network, Google, Google search network, which is what Breitbart is part of you can't see in your reports that your ads ended up on Breitbart. So they don't even make that available. I think they're changing that now. So what I've heard but up until this point, you can't, so you got to know where that budget ends up.
Kathleen (19:54): That was going to be my next question is like, there are some obvious ones that if I were to sit down and make a list of places, I don't want my ads to show, like I could probably come up with a list of 10 or so obvious things that like, I just know are places I don't want my ads to be, but I'm 100% certain that there are probably another hundred that I've never heard of, that I really don't want my ads to be.
So like, if you can't see the list of the places that your ads are going, it's like, you, you don't know what you don't know. You know what I mean? So how do you, how do you account for that? Like, what do you do as a brand?
Nandini (20:35): Well, first, just being aware of it, the fact that you can't know, because you've, we've placed our trust in these companies and they are, they're breaking that trust. There is only so much we can do, right? The first thing, the first basic thing that I, that we ask brands to do that we're still not seeing them do is to take that simple first step and check, check your ads, check your ads and see where you are and let that take you down the rabbit hole that it takes you down.
This happened also with Uber, Uber was sort of, we were, we were going hard after Uber a couple of years ago, like back in 2017 and asking them to, to, to block Breitbart and they weren't, they weren't doing it. And then that whole Uber scandal, I think it was the hashtag delete Uber scandal happened. It's, they're just under a lot of pressure. And, and Kevin Frisch, who was running advertising for Uber at the time, he was approached by what's that guy's name? The Uber CEO.
Kathleen (21:46): Oh, the new one or the old one?
Nandini (21:48): The old one or whatever. He's like take care of this, take care of this. So he goes on, he turns off his he asked all the vendors to block, to block Breitbart and they did, but then the ads kept slipping through. So he look what's going on here. And then he realized that well he realized there was some stuff going on. Then what he did was he turned off 10%.
So he basically paused his relationships with all the vendors that weren't doing, what they were asking that, that represented 10% of their ad spend. So 10% for Uber is a, that's a lot of money, ton of money. So so he turns it off and then notices a little while later, wait a second. Our performance hasn't changed at all. So what are we doing with this 10% spend?
Nandini (22:46): So he goes down his little rabbit hole and starts investigating, comes out, finds out. They've been defrauded by like a hundred million. Oh my God. It might be more than that. At this point, it was like 50 million. So they were being, they were just being like completely defrauded. And that whole saga, they're now suing the vendor, like the whole lawsuit.
But what I'm trying to say here, the moral of the story that when you do go in and look for that, you know, disinformation and hate, it really is a window into something much bigger. That's why it's so important to check your ads. It'll take you down roads. You, you never imagined for yourself in your ad spent.
Kathleen (23:31): It's, it's like frightening to think about because I've for sure more than once been in that position where I'm spending money on ads and I'm like, ads don't work for me. Like I'm just not seeing results. And now I'm rethinking all of the decisions I made around that. You know, wondering was it for reasons like this? I don't know.
Nandini (23:53): Absolutely is because, you know, when I ran my ad campaign, I took it so personally that my landing pages weren't converting, I was like, it can't be that bad. You know, I was really freaked out. I was like, maybe I'm worse at my job than I thought. I actually, here's a little, little fun growth hack for, for the audience.
We hooked up our ads to FullStory, which is session reporting software. And we, we like, we used it for, I mean, we were using it for other reasons, like also for customer support and engineering stuff, but we hooked it up to our paid ad campaigns just to see how users interacted with the landing pages. And I would just click go in and click random you know, random sessions.
Kathleen (24:37): I love doing that. Talk about like, marketing geekdom just at it's apex, watching people's session recordings of people moving their mouse around is just so much fun.
Nandini (24:48): So fun. And I was hoping to see how they interacted with my site, but guess what? Every single one that I clicked on the mouse would just go dead right after the page loaded.
Kathleen (25:03): Do you think it was a bot?
Nandini (25:05): I think so, because it was, I mean, like, they were not there. They did not bother to read. Like that was not enough time to read my copy, even just the headline. So I think that what I was looking at was bots and I didn't realize it at the time, because I didn't know what bots were in 2016.
Kathleen (25:25): Such a blissfully naive marketer. Like, it's just hard. I think you do reach a point in marketing where you just get very jaded because you see all this terrible behavior and you're like, Oh God.
Nandini (25:37): I mean, if you don't know to look for that stuff, if you're just reading all the, I mean, I was just reading the, the growth, packing blogs and marketing, marketing tips and resources pages for, from like Andrew Chen and stuff like Andrew Chen wasn't talking about this insane bot problem, but that really does like call into question.
Just basic concepts that we have in growth marketing, like the cost of customer acquisition paid acquisition. How much should you, like if like, given the information that I'm sharing today, how much should it actually cost to acquire a customer? How much are we wasting in pursuit of that and how much, how, how much lower could that cost be?
Kathleen (26:23): It's such an, this is so interesting in my head is spinning because it brings together two things that I think are fascinating and that I love talking about on the podcast. You know, one being, how do you maximize your ROI? Which everybody, every marketer wants to figure out and crack. And the other one is this, this notion of like being mission-driven brand and how do you put that into action?
And, and, you know, Hey, I know not everybody believes you should mix business with anything, you know, political or any beliefs whatsoever. Like I've had a lot of debates debates with people about this. I personally don't believe that I personally believe you, you need to have your brand be a reflection of what you stand for. And that's one of the reasons I loved interviewing Rand because he's really passionate about that. And isn't afraid to offend people you know, cause he's just very true to himself.
Kathleen (27:14): And, and I've always said that when people ask me that question, like should, should our brand talk about anything controversial? And I'm like, if you personally believe in something, then, then I think you should talk about it with your brand. So I recognize not everybody agrees with that, but if you're somebody who cares about like standing for something as a company and you want that to be consistently deployed through everything you do, this is such a black hole. It's fascinating.
Like, and I also, I feel like I've read a lot about how, especially younger customers now, but, you know, as they age, it will become increasingly more common that they, they, the majority of them want to put their money with a brand that aligns with their personal beliefs. And so I have to believe this is where being mission-driven and trying to crack the ROI code kind of like converge. And I wonder if you've seen any data around that or seen any results around that.
Nandini (28:11): I know that millennials are, we were supposed to be the, like the purpose driven generation. Gen Z is very much, they're extremely distrustful of all authority and all institutions and they can see right through that. So all that sort of, even that purpose driven marketing stuff that they, you know, that I feel like I was sold growing up, isn't going to work on Gen Z.
It's so much harder to sell to Gen Z. But there is like this one sort of foolproof method for doing it, which is just doing the right thing, to walk the walk. Right. Literally just walk the walk. I'll give you an example recently, a recent example. Well I have a couple of examples actually, but here's one. I bought a mattress, any mattress recently from Lisa, one of the reasons was because it was a certified B Corp.
Nandini (29:20): So that did factor into my decision. And after I bought the thing, I kept being served ads for Lisa, which is a separate conversation. I shouldn't be served, served ads any more. This is a waste of money, right. But because I'm always on disinformation sites, I kept seeing Lisa on all the disempowerment or disinformation sites that I was on. So I contacted them to let them know.
But I also contacted B Corp, the B Corp organization to to tell them, you know, you have standards for manufacturing, you have standards for the way, you know, B Corp certified companies treat their employees and supply chain. Why don't you have a set of standards for advertising?
Because advertising is a, I think like an $80 billion industry digital advertising in particular is growing every year. And that means that where we spend our money, the fact that we don't know where we're spending our money is a, not just a business risk, but also a national security risk.
Nandini (30:36): So when we don't know where we're spending our money, we could be handing over potentially tens of thousands of, of our marketing budgets, to the two people who seek to undermine our communities, undermine our societies, undermined the lives of our customers and our employees.
So it's not even about taking the stand it's just about not actively destroying the world that we live in. So I feel like we need to just sort of differentiate between that because one well basically, because we can't get to that second part to, to build the kind of role that we want until we until we actually discover how we're undermining it to begin with,
Kathleen (31:18): That's a powerful point. And it's like, I guess it's placing your ad dollars with some of those sites is the equivalent of sending a donation, you know, to a campaign, you know, and who knows if it's a Russian troll farm you're donating to, or if it's, you know, the candidate of your choice or what have you, but it's, that's a really great point.
Nandini (31:39): Like those, those cute shoes, what are those cute flats from that company?
Kathleen (31:46): Oh. Rothies. I see them. They're retargeting me hard.
Nandini (31:50): They will retarget me on rt.com Russia Today, a Kremlin backed state media outlet. You know, I know they don't want to be there. I've let them know. None of these brands want to be there. They just don't know. That's why it's so important. Like advertising is sort of that, that that one component of our businesses that we're not paying any attention to, but it's the one that's doing the most damage.
Wow. And to your point on politics there, you know, at Sleeping Giants, we have often been framed as a liberal activist organization when, Oh, we're just going after one side of things and we're not. The thing is a campaign against bigotry and hate is not a liberal value. It's not a liberal organization or liberal campaign. It is a non-partisan campaign. It seeks to rebuild society. We, we just, we in American society, we shouldn't have racism and hatred and bigotry up for debate.
Nandini (32:58): One thing that I've seen is that companies, companies have not taken action more action than they, than they have in the past four years, because they feel like these conversations about where we should advertise where we shouldn't advertise is potentially a political one. And I have never seen it that way because I don't care what your political views are. To be honest with you.
All I care about is that we don't fund bigotry and there's a difference and there is a vocabulary to have those conversations. That is what I spend all day on Twitter doing teaching people about how to have these conversations. And of course, I thought that's what Check My Ads is doing as well.
That's what we're trying to do is we're, we're teaching companies that that they can talk about outlets and talk about media buying decisions in a way that doesn't skew partisan, but just skews in in the direction of their brand values. And if you look at your brand values, and if you start to make your buying decisions, according to your brand values, it becomes a lot easier to make those judgment calls.
Kathleen (34:10): Wow. That is so eloquently put. And I think, you know, really highlights why it's so important to really dig into this for brands. I could talk to you about this forever, but we're going to run out of time. So if somebody wants to learn more about what you guys are doing, and if somebody is sitting there going, Holy cow, I better check my ads now. Like what, how can they learn more about that? How can they connect with you online?
Nandini (34:43): Well, I live on Twitter, so you can connect with me personally at @nandoodles, but you can also check us out on on our website, checkmyads.org.
Kathleen (34:53): Great. And I will put links for that in the show notes. Now, of course we cannot wrap up without me asking the two questions that I ask all of my guests. Got to get your take on it. The first one is you know, we're all about inbound marketing on this podcast. So is there a particular company or individual that you think is really like setting the gold standard for what it means to be great at inbound marketing these days?
Nandini (35:20): You know, I knew you were going to ask me this question. I wanted to give you a subversive answer.
Kathleen (35:24): I love it.
Nandini (35:27): I think some of the best inbound marketers are white nationalists and conspiracy theorists. I have seen nobody do a better job of building their businesses than folks like Stefan Molyneux. He's a white nationalist that I have gotten kicked off of PayPal where he collects donations, off of SoundCloud, where he obviously distributes his content, his theories, off of MailChimp where he distributes them. And oops, there's one more in there.
There's a one or two more in there. They are so incredibly good at building their audience, at maintaining loyalty, at collecting that subscription money. They are building an economy. They have, they have their own economy of hate or hate merchants. And, and they're really incredible at what they do.
That's why they've been so successful in the past four years, but let's not forget that it's because they've had so much help from marketers and the tech industry. I think we really need to be mindful of that. Understand how they operate so that we can stop them.
Kathleen (36:46): You know, it's so interesting. You bring that up because in my day job I'm head of marketing for a company called clean.io and we help publishers and platforms protect end users from malvertising, which is malicious ads. And it's just a different, it's like a whole different side to the ad tech ecosystem, but we always say, and I think it sort of like applies to what you just talked about.
We always say that that the bad guys are some of the most skilled performance marketers in the world because the people who place malicious ads, like, there are so many solutions out there to shut that down. And as soon as you shut it down in one place, you know, it's like the, the head pops up in another. And, and it sounds sort of like the same thing with what you're talking about, where I always picture it, like, like rivers, you know, like rivers carve out paths through mountains, and then they hit it.
Kathleen (37:35): They hit an obstacle and they don't just stop. Like they find another way. And to me, that's, it's, there's the common thread with all of these, what I would term malicious actors, that they are incredibly sophisticated at exploiting marketing channels and tools. And it's just like, you're not, I don't know that you can stop them. You just have to try and like, stay one step ahead of them. It's tough, but kudos to you for doing what you've done there. Second question.
The biggest challenge I hear marketers talk about is that digital marketing is changing so quickly and they really can't keep up to date with it. And it's so funny because I feel like ad tech is the perfect example of that. I mean, it's been around, programmatic advertising has around for more than a decade as you described and we still can't keep on top of it. So how do you personally, as a marketer, educate yourself and stay up to date on everything that's happening?
Nandini (38:36): Oh, such a great question. I read relentlessly. I subscribe to a whole bunch of newsletters. Of course I, for the past few years have slowly sort of skewed more towards reading about the, you know, sort of the white nationalist stuff and the politics stuff. And I'm sort of trying to keep on top of that. But also newsletters and podcasts, trying to think of one in particular around marketing can't think of one, right?
Kathleen (39:10): There's so many, that's the thing, but like, but, I mean, I think you have to be like a voracious lifelong learner to be a good marketer.
Nandini (39:21): I mean, I will say that I have spent so much time poking around on the sites of the bad guys that my brain is like trained in, like no matter what, like even when I'm on a normal site I'm always looking to see like what email newsletter software today.
Kathleen (39:40): You're very fond of your BuiltWith plugin.
Nandini (39:43): Exactly. I mean, I'm constantly going, going and looking and I, I spend a lot of time taking screenshots. I'm like, why am I taking screenshots of this normal website?
Kathleen (39:54): No, it helps to be very curious for sure. All right. Well, I think we've reached the top of our hour and this has just been so, so, so interesting. And side note, I can't like, I'm fascinated by what you must find when you go out there and visit all of these sites. Like I can't even imagine. And part of me doesn't want to, so I guess thank you for doing it on behalf of the rest of us because even just regular, sometimes I look at the comments on regular news sites and it just makes my heart hurt, but that's a whole other story.
Nandini (40:31): It's bad out there.
Kathleen (40:34): Yes it is. But there's also lots of great things happening. So you got to kind of like focus on the positive to counterbalance it. Well, Nandini, it's been wonderful having you on the podcast. As she mentioned, if you're interested in learning more about what Nandini is working on these days, go to checkmyads.org or find her on Twitter at @nandoodles.
Kathleen (41:04): And if you, you know, if you're listening and you enjoyed this episode or you learned something new, head to Apple Podcasts, if you would, and leave the podcast a review. That's how other people find us. And of course, if you know somebody else doing kick ass inbound marketing work, tweet me at @workmommywork because that's how I love to find my next guests. That's it for this week. Thank you so much, Nandini.
Nandini (41:26): Thank you.
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