Is it just us or is Gary Vee’s empire in a growth spurt?
Vaynerchuk’s “catch all” parent company, VaynerX, added a new name to its subsidiary list last year with Tracer. More tech than content, Tracer is is all about helping marketers better analyze their campaigns across platforms.
In the beta-testing stages for the past three years, Tracer is now rolling out to the corporate sector, with VaynerMedia’s CMO, Jeff Nicholson, behind it as CEO alongside Leighton Welch, its chief technology officer.
Tracer is a marketing-data aggregator that pulls in and “visualizes” a company’s media spend — from all platforms — including ad verification, analytics partner data, and offline-conversion data.
Since May 2015, Tracer has been used for all VaynerMedia’s digital agency clients. Now, the company is looking to license its platform to other agencies and publishers, like Grit Daily.
I spoke with Nicholson about the power Tracer brings to the marketing sphere for businesses of all sizes. In our conversation, he admitted that the idea of building a platform like Tracer came from his own pain with data processing.
“I used to run ads for many years, and I have a great appreciation for the difficulty in executing, understanding, interpreting, and almost translating data for other people,” he explained.
“[Tracer]was born out of my own personal problems, because I watched myself struggle with different datasets across multiple UX’s for years.”
The CEO told me Tracer provides three main advantages that its “competitors” do not—
#1 –VaynerMedia Has a “Different” View on Data
“With my team, I’ve spent my career and/or been responsible for billions of dollars of other people’s money. Our perspective is unique when it comes to identifying and understanding the problem data processing and aggregation brings.”
[…] “we also have the luxury of incubating inside one of the fastest growing agencies on the planet. We’ve been beta testing Tracer for over three years in stealth mode, and it’s worked.”
#2 –Adding Proprietary Layers to an Already Stealthy Operation
“In its three plus year testing period, we’ve also built a proprietary data layer on top of the platform, which is extremely flexible and functional for a variety of problems in the space for agencies, publishers, and brands alike.”
#3 –VaynerMedia Is Self-Funding
“Lastly, VaynerMedia has always been a very lean and mean profitable company that has never raised a dollar, and instead has fully-funded itself on its own growth, which from a tech perspective, is almost unheard of.”
Integrating Tech with Engineering
Nicholson’s vision is that Tracer grows to be one of the largest global data processing companies on the planet. With its position in the market place, the CEO wants to set the bar high.
“In the next two to three years, I hope to have a roster of 10-20 clients in which they truly look at us as an extension of their business and success,” Nicholson added. “After that, I want to move to resolving large scale global data processing problems for the largest brands on the planet, which is a very exciting business proposition and challenge for us.”
Grit Daily: Did you experience any challenges in its startup?
Jeff Nicholson: For me, building an engineering team within a tech company was very different than most experiences I’ve had in my previous career roles. I started in finance then transitioned to media building startups. But, I’ve always focused on the media, especially in the marketing arbitrage space. Building Tracer and a tech company with engineering talent, a different compositional structure, including different set of interests and people has been the most unique challenge, but also extremely rewarding and refreshing.
GD: Why do you say “rewarding” and “refreshing?”
JN: Most importantly, I’ve enjoyed building the company with my business partner and one of my best friends, Leighton Welch. Additionally, the ability for us to solve extremely complex data problems for companies that may not know a problem exists, or they do and don’t know the solution, while providing those companies with access to their own data.
GD: How does Tracer turn a novice in the marketing space to a more efficient player?
JN: It’s a tool for businesses, large and small, that spend money across multiple platforms. Let’s say I own 10 small-scale regional pizza shops—if I’m advertising on multiple platforms, and I need to aggregate the reporting, I’m doing one of two things:
First, I’m having either an internal employee run a campaign on my behalf, or hiring a third party agency do to that on my behalf. Either way, I need to understand how to access that information and performance, and where that information is going.
That employee could pay for service to simply understand where money is being spent across platforms, or the agency is paying us for our service, because they utilize the tech to better service all their clients. As you can see, we fit in a variety of the supply chain.
GD: Working with large amounts of data, how does cybersecurity and GDPR play into your model?
JN: Good question. We specifically stay out of personally identifiable information, or PII. So, when it comes to GDPR, we completely stay out of that framework of datasets. Essentially, we build the pipes for you to move your own data.
For those reports or audience graphs that are already generated, remember those are assumed to have already been authenticated and are legally binding between those entities; we are simply moving it because we are agnostic to those legalities.
For Tracer and Nicholson, globally expanding VaynerMedia is the ultimate vision.
“Currently, Gary is traveling the world a lot more with media activities and growing his personal brand. Additionally, we are launching our Singapore office in Q2, so I think taking that final footprint across the globe is one of the biggest expansions we are doing.”
Nicholson told me that they have also been bolstering their executive level, with him hiring more than 10 executives onto the media team in the past year, and significantly adding to each department at the senior level.
“At the end of the day, we are continuing to push on what we believe is our value in the space and bringing everything together for our clients best interests.”