The CMO.com Interview: Marta Martinez Intersection
by Keith Loria
Posted on 02-04-2018
Intersection is an urban innovation company that operates under the premise that civic innovation can often be paid for through advertising, as opposed to putting the burden on cities or taxpayers, and has proven this method works through the groundbreaking LinkNYC and InLinkUK projects.
Marketing stalwart Marta Martinez, chief revenue officer for Intersection, is tasked with helping to connect the digital and physical worlds. In her role, Martinez leverages the company’s digital/citizen-first offerings in cities, top transit systems, and airports across the country to drive revenue across the organization as it scales its growing digital media portfolio. She also supports the creation of new solutions, products, and markets globally.
A 15-year veteran of digital advertising and media leadership, Martinez previously served as SVP of AOL Advertising.
“I have always been intrigued by what technology can do to change human life, and I think that that has led my entire career,” Martinez said. “I’m extremely passionate about the role that brands play in the community and how we grow businesses within the concept of technology supporting consumer behavior.”
Recently, Martinez took time to talk with CMO.com about Intersection and what the future digital city looks like.
CMO.com: What does your role as CRO entail?
Martinez: I lead our advertising sales organization. This means that I lead the team of folks who spend most of their days in creative agencies, media agencies, social agencies, mobile agencies, and, of course, in the out-of-home agencies, crafting ways for brands to reach their audiences as they make their way through cities.
CMO.com: One of your responsibilities is connecting the physical with the digital. What’s the way to do that successfully?
Martinez: Right now, the physical and digital worlds live apart but are coming closer together. Ride-sharing services are a great example of how we connect these two spheres. When you hail a Lyft or Uber, you use your digital device to place an order for a physical car. Then, moments later, your ride arrives and takes you to your destination. Best of all, you don’t even have to take out cash or a credit card because the entire transaction relies on digitally stored data.
What I think is interesting is what happens when you connect the physical and digital in terms of content: You can begin creating more innovation and value for consumers in new ways. For example, digital screens on city sidewalks can provide dynamic, contextually relevant information. Depending on the time of day, these screens can reflect different messages that provide value to the different people that pass them at different times. In this way, the marriage of the digital and physical world leverages the dynamism of digital data, like weather, transit times, or events, with the contextual familiarity of a location, like an office building or a restaurant.
CMO.com: Can you provide a few examples of what Intersection is doing?
Martinez: We worked with Shazam to create neighborhood playlists based on the app playlists of people who walked by our LinkNYC kiosks. We then displayed the top songs in each neighborhood in real time throughout New York City. It was an interesting way for people to discover what they shared in common with their neighbors and also see what types of music people in other neighborhoods listened to, giving them a sense of the “vibe” of that neighborhood.
We’re now working on providing real-time information about trending locations near each of our digital screens, whether they’re bars, art exhibits, or performances close by. In this way, we hope to help people discover their cities more easily and look to the screens for something useful and enjoyable. We think this is a great opportunity for brands to participate.
CMO.com: How would you characterize what the future digital city will look like?
Martinez: The future digital city has a lot more digital infrastructure and connectivity than we have right now. It will use data to help consumers make better decisions more quickly, whether it’s how to get from Point A to Point B, or how to take advantage of their free time in a city.
You’re starting to see urban signs being converted from static to digital so that they can be updated in real time. We will soon be living in a real-time internet of things environment, where everything is hyperconnected. For example, if there is a delay in the subway, this information will be communicated immediately to street-level signs so that commuters will know before they go underground that they may have to wait and can be prompted with other transportation options or a store that’s having sale nearby. This is where brands come into the future digital city—how they weave themselves into someone’s experience as they make their way through a city.
CMO.com: I understand you are starting to experiment with screens in physical spaces. Can you talk a little about some of those advancements?
Martinez: We are doing a lot of work on how to create interesting experiences for consumers, combining connectivity and interactive touchscreens. We deployed real-time, multiplayer Tic-Tac-Toe games in the subways of New York, sponsored by a local brand. This was an interesting way to connect people who weren’t even in the same physical location. The interactive screens were located on a subway platform where people were waiting for a train, on average between five and 12 minutes. To pass the time, they would play a virtual game of Tic-Tac-Toe with someone in a different subway station. This not only provided entertainment to commuters but also a sense of connection with each other, the city, and the brand.
CMO.com: How does Intersection help to connect brands to consumers?
Martinez: Our media is located where people commute between home, work, and play, so we help brands engage their audiences in context of these journeys, whether it’s providing relevant content in my previous examples, or more experiential programs, like re-creating the experience of a brand in a different, perhaps unexpected location. For example, we’re doing a lot more pop-ups, giving brands the opportunity to connect with customers outside of their typical retail locations.
CMO.com: What are your thoughts on the customer experience journey in today’s world, and how is Intersection focusing on improving the journey?
Martinez: I think the advertising community has a lot of work to do to make advertising something that consumers love. I am convinced that the days of disruptive ads will be over and that advertising will be able to bring some value to the consumer journey and that’s where we try to focus: on bringing native advertising to the street. What does native mean as you move through the city? We look at what decisions you make: What side of the street do you walk? What train do you take? Do you take a taxi or do you go on a bus? And then context: What’s the weather? is there a transit delay? All of those decisions and all of those touch points are human scale and where brands have the opportunity to bring a lot of value. Everything we’re working on from the consumer perspective and from the advertising perspective are going in that direction, because advertising and consumers must be fully aligned to create a better experience.
CMO.com: What are some emerging technologies that you are paying attention to? What do you think are going to make a difference in the years ahead?
Martinez: We’re looking at an expansion of digital screens across all of the markets in which we operate. We’re also looking closely at how we use the many available open APIs to make our screens context-aware, providing data-driven content in real-time to customers. Becoming open, connected, and responsive to everything that happens in a city is very important. Of course, with the popularity of Alexa and Google Home, voice and digital assistance technology could soon have phenomenal applications in public spaces. Artificial intelligence might also come into play. Already, we’re starting to experiment with some of these burgeoning technologies to improve the user experience in public space.
CMO.com: What are your biggest goals in the year ahead?
Martinez: 2018 will be a year of growth and expansion. We’re looking at taking a lot of the technology already integrated in New York and London streets and subways and bringing it to other markets. You’ll also see us doing really cool stuff with the data and technology we offer in transit. With all that, our ultimate goal is to create new opportunities for brands to connect with their customers in cities in more meaningful ways.
Topics: , CMO by Adobe