Geek Speak: Amielle Lake, CEO of Tagga Media

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      Amielle Lake says she’s “glued” to her iPhone. As more and more people come to rely on their smartphones as she does, the prospects for her business can only grow.

      Lake is the 29-year-old cofounder and chief executive officer of Tagga Media, a Vancouver-based start-up. Established two years ago, the company is the developer of a mobile-marketing platform for advertising agencies. Firms like Cossette, Publicis, and Blast Radius use the Tagga Agency Platform to manage text-messaging campaigns and build mobile Web sites.

      Born in Etobicoke, Ontario, Lake is a University of British Columbia graduate who has a background in finance. She is the lead author of The Elephant Hunters: Chronicles of the Moneymen, which she wrote with Andrew Kakabadse and Nada Kakabadse. Published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2008, the book offers a look at the movers and shakers of the finance industry.

      The Georgia Straight reached Lake by phone in Cincinnati, Ohio, where she was on business.

      For those who might not be familiar with it, what does mobile marketing look like?

      So, mobile marketing is the umbrella in which advertising, iPhone apps, and anything mobile that has to do with engaging an end audience—that’s what mobile marketing is. It’s the umbrella that encapsulates all things marketing related to mobile phones.

      What, to you, were the most significant trends in mobile marketing in 2009?

      2009 was an excellent building year for mobile marketing. So, there’s a couple of trends. On the M&A side, in the mobile-marketing industry there was $1.3 billion in acquisitions in the last 60 days. So, arguably, Quattro spilled into 2010, but it’s a sign that Google and Apple have entered the market in a reasonably serious way. The meaning of that—of those acquisitions—isn’t that mobile is going to completely take off next year, but they’re getting in the space for positioning.

      Another important trend is that brands are starting to look at mobile marketing as a line item in their budget. So, before it was just part of some experimental spend—some one-off project. Now, it’s becoming a core piece of their interactive budget. Typically, it’s about 10 percent, and I expect to see that grow significantly over 2010. So, again, this positioning in 2009 is leading to growth in 2010.

      And then, of course, you have the just wonderful growth stats on the consumer side in terms of mobile-phone adoption, where you’ve got more mobile-phone subscribers than you have TV and Internet combined. And Forrester just came out with a stat that there’s going to be two times as many mobile browsers than there are PC browsers by 2013. You’ve got U.S. smartphone adoption—so moving to the iPhones, the Androids—at 17 percent of total mobile subscribers.

      So, in every category of mobile on the consumer side—whether it’s Web browsing, the adoption of smart devices, how it relates to PCs—it’s growing exponentially. And the classic stat that everyone talks about is that there’s four times as many cellphones in the world as there are PCs, which is incredible. Today, there are about 20 percent of all U.S. households that are mobile-only. I mean, I could go on. The numbers are staggering. But the key point there is that the consumer has far outpaced the advertiser, in terms of adoption.

      Do these tablet computers that everyone’s talking about interest you, in terms of mobile marketing?

      Absolutely. Tablets fall into that category. If it’s a device that you can take with you, that you can browse the Web, that you can interact with content on the go, and you can connect with other people, that’s just as much a mobile device as, you know, an iTouch or an iPhone.

      What is Tagga up to these days?

      So, Tagga is focused on making mobile marketing simple for the advertising-agency side of the market, and we’re also starting to move into the publisher side of the market. What’s been happening in the space is that brands have been going to custom mobile companies, mobile experts, and bypassing the agency. So, now the agency, who has recently got up to speed in terms of offering interactive, is now facing the pressure of taking advantage of a market that’s—depending on the analyst you talk to—going to go from $2 billion to $20 billion in the next five years. So, our positioning in the market is we build out software tools to help the agency offer mobile marketing to their brands.

      How does your platform work?

      So, it’s all Web-based, and it’s built for a non-technical user, so somebody who’s a coordinator in a media-planning department or someone in a small agency—typically somebody who wears many hats in a small agency or the media-planning side in a large agency. And they can very quickly set up in-depth text-message-based campaigns—so contesting, voting, alert programs—and they can also build very sophisticated mobile sites that optimize for mass-market devices to smartphones. And it’s underscored with rich analytics, so that an agency can develop a campaign, manage the campaign, and report back to the brand on the success of the campaign, all from the platform.

      Whenever you talk about mobile phones and mobile marketing and specifically things that take into account location awareness, it always raises spam and privacy concerns. How do you think companies will deal with those?

      The way that most companies are dealing with it now, so in smartphones like the Android or the iPhone, it will ask—and they do this with Web sites too—if you want your location known. So, you have the ability to opt in, and that’s really the foundation of mobile marketing. It’s all about opt-in marketing, so you using your device to signal location to whatever app or Web site you’re visiting so you can get geo-targeted content, or you texting in to participate in a coupon.

      Mobile marketing’s never going to work if it’s, I believe, not opted-in advertising—so real push advertising, SMS spam. And I believe that the same is true in terms of disclosing privacy information. It doesn’t need to be done, and the direction that the carriers and the big device companies and OS platforms in the space are taking is that they’re keeping in line with making it opt-in.

      What mobile technology do you personally use?

      I have an iPhone, but I’m going to buy the Nexus ASAP. I’ve got a Kindle, which I recently just got, so I haven’t played around with it too much. But I’m very glued to my phone. It’s my alarm clock, my communication tool, my business tool, my entertainment-content tool. We’re all addicted to it, and I’m just another statistic to that.

      Every Friday, Geek Speak catches up with someone in Vancouver’s technology sector, video-game industry, or social-media scene. Who should we interview next? Tell Stephen Hui on Twitter at




      Sep 6, 2010 at 2:52pm

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