An Intro To 'Data-Science-Centric' Agency Union Square Media

With an interesting backstory involving Tyra Banks and a commitment to being "data-science-centric," marketing agency Union Square Media is one to know. 

The company, which claims  access to billions of vertical specific Web impressions monthly, counts Guthy Renker, Rue LaLa, AIG, ADT, Match.com and Lasik as clients and can target based on age, gender, location, native language, education level and household income.

Below is a conversation via email with Josh Keller, president of Union Square Media. It's been lightly edited for clarity and length.

Real Time Daily: How was business in 2015?

Keller: Our staff grew from 25 to 55, and we opened four more offices in the past year. Revenue was up 100%, and net profit was up 600%.

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RTD: Is it true you met USM cofounder Nick Matzorkis while guest-appearing on the talk show "Tyra"? (Watch here.) And now you serve on the board of directors for Matzorkis's paddle board company SUP ATX?

Keller: Yes, it's true that we met on national TV for the first time. We become fast friends as we shared a common interest in creating businesses. We're business partners and sit on several boards including SUP ATX.

RTD: What's something that sets your company apart?

Keller: Other marketing agencies seek us out to spend the money they convinced the advertiser to pay. Most agencies are really just a broker to spend advertising dollars... 

Where we set ourselves apart from other companies is in investment of both people and infrastructure many years ago, including focusing on providing detailed information about our audience, from engagement patterns to purchases across all verticals; a solid user profile that helps us find products that users, themselves, might not know that they need; and trusted analytics to know how well an advertiser is going to perform before we’ve even signed a contract.

RTD: Do you work with partners on media buying?

Keller: Yes, we have an internal media buying department as well as trusted partners.

RTD: How do you measure personal sentiment with a brand, and how does this affect targeting?

Keller: You have to drive to the core of what a brand is trying to sell. The targeting must come from analytics, not from subjective opinions of what the brand hopes to be.

RTD: What do you think of publishers taking audience targeting/data capabilities in-house (such as Time Inc.'s recent acquisition of Viant)?

Keller:
As long as [Time Inc.] acquires the right partner to facilitate and doesn't have to build it from scratch, [the model could work]. There is no reason to give up margin to an outside company. If it can work as a standalone model for an outside company and have enough traffic to support the operation, it would make sense to bring it in-house.

RTD: What are some company goals for this year?

Keller: To experience growth in a stable manner and fine-tune our process to handle all the inbound business. As the years have gone by, we have gone from the ad agencies' secret weapon to the company all brands what to work with directly. In light of this, we have focused on breaking out of the startup mentality and shifting some our focus on to securing bigger and longer-tail opportunities. 

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