Silver Apples 2018

Presented in partnership with DMCNY

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Meet the DMCNY 2018 Silver Apple Honorees

By Claudia Conlon | 9.24.18

Each year the DMCNY presents its highly distinguished Silver Apple Awards to several professionals who have at least 25 years in marketing and who not only have excelled in their careers, but also have generously contributed their talents and time to the marketing industry. We'll be introducing you to the 2018 honorees over the next few weeks, in advance of DMCNY's annual Silver Apples celebration on November 8 in New York. –Ginger Conlon

Today, meet...


Matt Blumberg

Cofounder, Chairman & CEO, Return Path

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Matt Blumberg has been at the forefront of the marketing, launching and promoting tools and services that have forever changed the industry.


From bringing companies along for the dawn of the commercial internet in 1995 as a venture capitalist and management consultant, to the launch of MovieFone’s internet division as its general manager, to founding email optimiza-tion company Return Path in 1999, Matt has blazed trails in marketing—even before he realized that direct marketing was his calling.

Matt’s affinity for supporting causes important to the industry led him to serve as chairman of the DMA board for many years and cofound nonprofit Path Forward, whose mission is to empower people who take time off for family caregiving to restart their careers. He is the author of Startup CEO: A Field Guide to Scaling Up Your Business, which is based on Only Once, his blog on entrepreneurship. 


In a conversation with MKTGinsight for DMCNY, Matt shares his marketing insight, advice, and past experiences.


What drew you to marketing?

The thing that drew me to marketing was the internet. I had been working as an investor at a venture capital firm that invested in software companies. Once Netscape went public and people started figuring out the short- and the long-term potential of the internet, I got very excited about working in that field. Unbeknownst to me at the time, the internet is all about direct marketing. For the first several years of my career I would never have described myself as a direct marketer, but in hindsight, obviously, I was.


Tell us about a particular career highlight or turning point.

Building the website in the mid-nineties. It was a top-50 web property at one point. Another was helping sell Moviefone as a company to AOL. Also, starting Return Path and Path Forward. Chairing the DMA board was a significant highlight, as well.


What excites you most about marketing right now?

What excites me the most is that addressability is making marketing increasingly efficient, much more so than 10 or 20 years ago—and we've only started to scratch the surface. Moving addressability to broadcast media, like TV, and introducing AI into the mix for marketing execution, both hold the promise of making marketing significantly more efficient in the future.


What’s overhyped, and what’s being overlooked?

AI is overhyped at the moment. There's this fantasy that marketing can be done without humans. The reality with AI is that it still needs to be planned and implemented and I think the world hasn't quite figured that out yet.


What should get more attention? My answer is always email. Email is this maligned channel, with numerous articles every year saying, "Email is dead," yet it’s a quiet workhorse that’s driving huge amounts of e-commerce more efficiently than anything.


Share a treasured customer story.

When we were just getting Return Path started in 1999 or early 2000, we had one small, not particularly interesting product called SmartBounce. We got an inbound contact from eBay—which, at the time, was one of the three big, exciting public internet companies—saying, “You guys have this thing called SmartBounce; we need your help desperately.” Our first customer ever was eBay on an inbound contact and eBay has been a client of ours without any lapse for nearly 20 years.


Tell us a favorite story about data.

Running the internet business for Moviefone in 1995 was pretty interesting. One hundred percent of the marketing budget for movies in 1995 was spent on broadcast: heavy TV, heavy newspaper, and a little bit of radio.


The paradigm shift was getting Hollywood to think about non-broadcast media and addressability. We would go in with data that said, “We showed your ad to this many people and we didn't show it to this many people and here's how many more people bought tickets to your movie over our service when they saw your ad.”


They’d get very excited about it and say, "This is game-changing." They would ask us for a proposal. Then, they wouldn’t be able to find a budget for this paltry $50,000 item, when Hollywood spends dozens of millions of dollars marketing a movie. They would say things like, "Well, if X actor opens the LA Times this weekend and he doesn't see the two-page color spread for his new movie, his agent’s going to freak out on us.”


I didn't think of myself as a direct marketer at the time, but that was the struggle. I was selling a very obvious data-oriented value proposition to people who had never thought that way before, because all they did was brand advertising.


What advice do you have for someone who's just starting out in marketing?

Think like a businessperson not like a marketer. Marketing is everything now—it’s strategy, product, pricing, customer experience; it's a thousand different disciplines. If you're entering the field of marketing now the best thing you can do is be a businessperson first. Take a step back and look at the big picture, because marketing used to be two things and it's now 100 things. Being good at one of 100 things is nice, but you’d better be able to think about the big picture, too.


What was the piece of business advice that you’ve received?

Never surface a problem without a proposed solution.


Share an inspiring quote or personal motto that guides you.

It’s several sentences out of a speech by Theodore Roosevelt called “The Man in

the Arena.”

It’s incredible. It goes:


“…The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”


I take it as the entrepreneur’s motto. It’s a beautiful passage that I have taped up everywhere.


What’s your go-to marketing metric?

I like looking at the CAC:LTV ratio; CAC is customer acquisition costs and LTV is lifetime value. Basically, it’s how much you're spending to acquire a customer relative to what they will generate for you in revenue over their entire life.


What was the inspiration for Path Forward?

Path Forward was started as a program at Return Path. Our CTO had the idea of creating paid fellowships or internships for mid-career women who had taken a break from their career to raise kids and were struggling to get back into the workforce. He identified two problems with a common solution: one, is talent trying to get into the workforce and having a hard time because they have a non-traditional resume; and two, is the companion problem of not enough qualified workers or gender diversity in technology.


We created the program for ourselves at Return Path and we ran it a couple of times on a small scale. We started getting other companies calling us, asking if we could help them do the same thing. It started taking on a life of its own and we decided to spin it out into a 501(C)(3) nonprofit and hire a separate staff and

raise separate money for it. It's been remarkably successful, and we are super proud of it.

Read about the other DMCNY 2018 Silver Apple honorees:

  • Anita Absey, Chief Revenue Officer, Voxy

  • Pamela Haas, Senior Account Director, Experian Marketing Services

  • Keira Krausz, EVP and CMO, Nutrisystem

  • Tim Suther, SVP and GM, Data Solutions, Change Healthcare

  • Advocacy Apple of Excellence: Stu Ingis, Chairman, Venable LLP 

  • Disruptor Apple of Excellence: Bonin Bough, Founder & Chief Growth
    Officer, Bonin Ventures; Investor; Host of CNBC's Cleveland Hustles;
    Author of Txt Me (646) 759-1837 

  • Corporate honoree: Winterberry Group

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About the Author

Claudia Conlon is working as the research assistant for DMCNY's 2018 Silver Apple Awards. She's a senior studying Economics and Political Science at the University of Miami. Her wide-ranging work experiencefrom customer service to social marketing to event productiongives her a broad perspective on the interplay of consumers and businesses and how customer experience impacts the economy. This experience and her drive and desire to succeed makes her comfortable taking on new challenges.