Martech company Zeta Global’s digital shift and IPO

Marketing technology company Zeta Global is launching its initial public offering today on the New…

Marketing technology company Zeta Global is launching its initial public offering today on the New York Stock Exchange. The company, co-founded by David Steinberg and former Apple CEO John Sculley, is training its sights squarely on content resource management heavyweights like Adobe and Salesforce, and specializes in marketing platforms and customer relationship management software. But while Zeta Global’s focus might be on serving chief marketing officers, the company also says it sees opportunities in rising regulations and the continued shift to digital marketing.

As the company wrapped up its pre-IPO roadshow with a stop in Washington D.C., Ad Age sat down with David Steinberg, co-founder, chairman and chief executive officer at Zeta Global, on Zoom. This interview was lightly edited for clarity.

How would you introduce Zeta global to the world?

We are a customer life cycle marketing platform. We help very large companies to create, maintain, and monetize customers by using one of the largest first-party data sets in the world and a leading marketing cloud. 

Zeta Global has flirted with going public for several years, coming close, but until now never actually following through. Why is Zeta Global going public now?

We’re going public more so that we can increase our velocity of RFP responses than anything else. We started to hear from some of the research firms that we weren’t getting included in certain RFPs, because there was a perception we were a smaller private company. As a public company, and with the balance sheet we will have as a public company, we will be in a really good position to see every RFP for software around marketing, data and analytics.

What are Zeta Global’s plans for expansion?

I think we’ll continue to do what we’ve done. We grew 25% organically in the first quarter of this year over the first quarter last year. Last year, we grew 20% over the year before.  We’re seeing, really, three things: We’re seeing our existing customers using more of our products than ever before; we’re adding new customers; and then the third thing, we’ve been very good at M&A over the last 13 years. I think you’ll see us continue that trajectory. Our goal is to help chief marketing officers solve their biggest problems. And, you know, our goal is to help very large enterprises create, maintain, and monetize customers at a substantially lower cost than they can without us. We’re always trying to muscle up on the AI. We’re always trying to add additional data to the data cloud and, you know, we feel we’re very uniquely positioned in this space.

Several other mar tech and ad tech companies have also gone public or are going public recently. What does this tell us about the industry’s trajectory?

It’s a good time for any company that is helping marketers understand their customers and move into a digital ecosystem where you can get a better return on investment for marketing. I think that’s why you’re seeing a number of companies in and around the marketing technology and advertising technology space testing the markets.

What platforms and technologies will form the basis for growth at Zeta Global?

Our whole business is built on the Zeta Marketing Platform. We’re one of the few companies that has architected their platform so artificial intelligence is right at the heart of it. The marketing platform is sort of like the Bloomberg of marketing for our chief marketing officer clients. It’s one common user interface where they can do everything from a setup perspective. And then the reporting tool, which shows them everything going on with their marketing every moment of every day, sits on what most of our clients see on those desktops.

Your IPO filing cites possible headwinds like increased privacy regulation and big tech companies locking down advertising identifiers. What’s Zeta Global’s plan to overcome this?

For us, they’re not really headwinds. We’ve never used a third party cookie to identify anybody over the internet. We also have never used Apple’s IDFA. When you look at the beginning of 2018 when we got GDPR, to 2020 when we got CCPA, there were a whole host of changes in the middle. Our data cloud grew by over 20%. We went from 406 million active customers in the data cloud to now over 500 million active customers. Because opted-in, permission-based marketing is what we do, every individual in our data cloud has in some way, shape or form given us permission to market to them. It’s a big differentiator between companies you might look at who might be in the programmatic space and using a third-party cookie or other companies that are using IDFA to target in-app ads. So as certain other companies are challenged, we’ve seen our business grow and accelerate a bit.

What’s the future of advertising and marketing and how does Zeta Global play a role in that future?

We are a software company, we’re not an advertising company, but when you think about digital transformation and wanting to get as close to a consumer’s intent as possible, we believe that the Zeta marketing platform is the best place in the world for marketers to be able to go to lower their cost, create a customer, build incredibly rich data sets and full attribution capabilities, because we’re able to see the individual across everything using our tracking methodology.