Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

My Digital Hero: Tim Flagg, MD and co-founder, EntityX

Tim Flagg is Managing Director and co-founder of EntityX. He has over 22 years experience in senior marketing and commercial roles, including MD, Institute of Direct and Digital Marketing, and founding director of the Academy of Digital Business Leaders. He is the host of the ClickZ Digital Marketing Podcast

Who is your digital hero?

My hero is Sir Tim Berners-Lee, but maybe not for the obvious reason. No, not that he’s called Tim either. OK, the man invented the internet, one of mankind’s greatest achievements, bringing people together from all over the world, to collaborate. He couldn’t have foreseen The Kardashians, we’ll forgive him for that! Sir Tim didn’t just unleash one genie, but hundreds of genies.

The same lack of centralised control that was meant to make the web free, democratic and equal has been exploited by big tech. Many of us, having birthed a many-headed monster like this, might slide away into sun-soaked retirement to the Caribbean and leave someone else to address this problem, but not Sir Tim. This ladies and gents is why Sir Tim is my hero.

What has he done to win hero status in your eyes?

You may not have heard of Solid yet, but I believe you will. It’s a simple premise, one that Sir Tim has been espousing for the last decade. Simply put, he believes that every person should own and benefit from their personal data, rather than the big tech companies which harvest and monetise it. It’s not a new idea, but today with well entrenched GDPR, CCPA, a potential federal privacy law on the horizon, and further ePrivacy legislation in the EU, the planets are finally aligning…

Of course the big tech players, like Google, want you to use their platform to manage your personal data. But will consumers trust them half as much as the man who invented the internet and then made it free? Liberating personal data is a Herculean task, it doesn’t just need a champion, it needs a knight.

How has his heroism helped drive digital?

Most of us ad-folk already have jobs that depend upon Sir Tim’s internet. But it is the next era of digital that I am most excited about and where I see Sir Tim being able to help “drive” digital in a new era.

Advertisers want access to accurate data about consumers in order to make their campaigns more effective and drive ROI. There are dozens of ways that marketers would love to use consumer data, combined with the latest technology, to drive truly innovative, highly personalised ‘Minority Report’ style advertising.

But at the same time that these advertising opportunities, and the value of consumer data, are increasing, so consumers are becoming more empowered and gaining more control of their personal data, backed by powerful, global legislation.
Solid provides the protocols for the future web, enabling a new value exchange where the consumer is in control of their data and can make it available to advertisers on terms that they control.

What’s the biggest challenges in digital we need another hero to solve?

The biggest challenge right now is the imminent cookie winter. As consumer privacy legislation and Google combine to render 3rd party cookies obsolete, how will advertisers continue to reach their target audience? Whilst Solid provides one route for advertising in consumer terms, it’s unlikely to reach even a tiny fraction of the current cookie-powered addressable market.

We need a paradigm shift away from targeting users (badly and inefficiently) to targeting pages effectively. The answer lies in better understanding the meaning of a web page, enabling more relevant ads to be placed on each page, benefitting both advertiser (better ROI) and publisher (better yield).

That’s why we’ve built the most advanced way to analyse the meaning of a web page, leveraging proprietary, newly-developed ‘Knowledge Graph’ technology. The immediate application is to supercharge contextual targeting, and deliver more accurate brand safety, way beyond the keywords that standard contextual tools use. By understanding the meaning of web pages, EntityX enables brands to target highly valuable, hard-to-reach audiences at scale.

What is your most heroic personal achievement so far in digital?

I’m pretty far down the list of heroic and famous Tims, below Major Tim Peake, Sir Tim Henman, even Timmy Mallett ranks higher than me.
In my two decades as a marketing director, I was frustrated by the huge inefficiencies in online media spend and disappointed by the absence of any innovative solutions. So in 2019 (with my co-founders) we set up EntityX to build the most advanced ‘Knowledge Graph’ technology that would allow us to understand the meaning on a web page and radically improve contextual targeting and brand safety.

So I’d say that my greatest achievement is bringing this unique technology to market in 2020, despite the challenges we’ve all faced, enabling a range of partners to improve performance.

I’m eagerly awaiting 2021, there’s plenty more to come as we navigate this brave new meaning-full and cookie free world.

My Digital Hero

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