Captify will move into the consumer space later this year, expanding its focus on product innovations for self-service brand marketers, publishers, and agencies.
As a search intelligence company, Captify has a close relationship with consumers who search on ecommerce, retail, travel and other websites. This places the company in an interesting position to innovate, according to Jon Block, Captify’s new SVP of product, who joined the company less than three months ago.
While on holiday at a villa on the south of Spain, Block spoke with Search Marketing Daily (SMD) about what it’s like to direct a global product roadmap and strategy for one of largest holders of first-party consumer search data outside of Google and Bing.
Block, a data-driven product evangelist, joined the company from Videology, where he served as VP of product and platform development. He brings more than 20 years of experience working for a variety of companies such as Amobee, which acquired Videology in 2018. Block also spent several years at ITV, heading up advertising innovation for the UK’s largest commercial broadcaster. Now he oversees Captify’s team of designers and product managers to ensure the company’s future in self-service platforms.
Captify’s plethora of worldwide partnerships with publishers and retailers gives them access to intent and psychographic data on about 40 billion searches monthly across a range of industries such as ecommerce, travel, news, and review sites.
Block, a self-proclaimed “technology nerd,” said this provides a wealth of intent and psychographic data, even more so than search engines. Think about the language people use and the semantic processing to retrieve answers from questions on travel, review and retail sites.
There are always sleepless nights when starting a new job, so SMD asked Block what keeps him up at night in relation to work. “I wake up excited because I’m learning a new role and coming up with new ideas,” he said. “A lot of the ideas are around innovation. It’s been a core focus in my career in the past 10 to 15 years. … I’m learning a lot about data sets, so I’m waking up in the middle of the night thinking about how to apply the data and the technology to new areas, businesses and end users.”
Block might be thinking one step ahead of the advertising industry. When he graduated from University of Cambridge in 1999 with a Masters in natural sciences after receiving a Bachelor's degree in math, chemistry, biology and economics at Winchester College, the first company he interviewed at was an advertising agency. He failed the interview and later landed a job at a gaming company and eventually worked his way back to advertising.
“Innovation is all about timing and serendipity,” Block said. “I think some of the ad innovations I worked on at ITV were amazing and should succeed in the future. Unfortunately, some were too early. As you mature in your career, you learn how to time things better.”
The best piece of advice Block received throughout his career is about confidence: believe in one’s self. This advice came when he first became a parent. Sometimes people need to improvise, make things up as they go along. As people age they become better at making choices. “All of us are put on this planet with no prior experience,” he said. “You should really continually believe in yourself, but sometimes the best thoughts come from your intuition.”