George Panagopoulos loves data. He questions everything, which is likely why Experian Marketing Services recently appointed him CTO.
He talked to Search & Performance Marketing Daily (S&PMD) about his experience and his role at Experian.
"I question everything," he said. "It goes back to my roots in technology. I always ask why. You want data to better understand the problem you’re solving. People think technologists have all the answers. But it’s really about asking the why questions to find the answer."
Experian Marketing Services continues to push through some major changes since acquiring Tapad, which is on a mission to create a large identity graph for marketers. The company appointed Rachael Donnelly to CMO last year, and most recently hired Panagopoulos.
Panagopoulos, a recent IAB Tech Lab board member, has a years of experience working with large consumer databases. He joined the company after spending more than a year as head of engineering and architecture at Symphony RetailAI, and nearly 11 years at Catalina USA.
At Catalina, Panagopoulos led shopper intelligence and targeted in-store services, TV, and digital media to personalize the shopper journey. Powered by some of the richest real-time shopper database, Catalina helps consumer product group (CPG) brands, retailers and agencies optimize every stage of media planning, execution, and measurement to deliver $9.2 billion in consumer value annually.
During his 25 years in IT, at Catalina he transitioned about $450 million in annual revenue from batch legacy systems to a global, omnichannel, real-time AdTech platform encompassing Europe, Japan, and U.S. within five years, and collaborated with an executive leadership team responsible for restructuring $1.9 billion in debt in 45 days.
One reason that Panagopoulos joined Experian Marketing Services for its “world class database” and “marketing technology.”
S&PMD: How did you become interested in technology?
Panagopoulos: In high school, I wanted to go into finance. I wanted to be part of Wall Street in the 80s and 90s. So I started my undergrad in finance, but had to take one computer class as requirement. It got me excited about technology. I took a detour. I double majored in financing and technology. I was passionate about the ability of technology to solve problems.
S&PMD: Why is it so important for the CTO and the IT department to have a close relationship with the CMO and marketing department?
Panagopoulos: The reason it’s so important to have that relationship with the CMO is because as we define capabilities or new products for the marketplace, the voice of the chief marketing officer because important. We can come up with a direction, but it needs to be validated. It must be the correct product.
S&PMD: What is the best piece of business advice you received throughout your career?
Panagopoulos: Never forget why you started. It’s important because it’s based on my love for technology, solving problems, dealing with large volumes of data, and delivering features and capabilities to the marketplace. It boils down to a problem-solving nature. As your career advances, it’s important to remember your passion. There’s a lot of passionate smart people in marketing services. They are driven to provide capabilities based on data.
S&PMD: Who gave you that advice?
Panagopoulos: A director of mine years ago. We were working on a project and facing challenges. He gave me the advice to get back to why we were there – to solve and build capabilities. He gave the advice so we could overcome the challenges.
S&PMD: Do you have a business strategy for the coming year?
Panagopoulos: We are starting to bring together the synergy and services of Tapad and Experian Marketing Services. We’re also working on new activation channels, which will bring in new capabilities for audience development, where we can go through and deliver products to supply-side platforms and private marketplaces. Internally, it’s about getting Tapad and Experian Marketing teams to work closer together.
S&PMD: Is there something missing in the advertising industry -- a problem you would like to solve?
Panagopoulos: I don’t think it’s missing, but as regulations continue to change, we are actively adopting and maintaining ways to adhere to regulations through privacy and transparency. We want to make sure individuals feel that data is managed properly.