Q&A with Incremental’s Skye Frontier

Our SVP of Growth shares his path to retail media and offers predictions for the industry.
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Unfortunately for Incremental’s SVP of Growth Skye Frontier, his first choice of a dream job—getting paid to study Greek philosopher Plato—didn’t materialize. But after earning master’s degrees in philosophy and social policy at American University in Washington, D.C., he transformed a root interest in human behavior into a decade-plus career studying the behavior of consumers through data. He joined Incremental in September 2022, following roles at Comscore, Neustar (where he met Incremental CEO Dave Pollet), and BERA. Skye lives in D.C., and works remotely from the home he shares with his wife, Amanda, and their cat, Ziggy Stardust. We spoke with Skye about his career and his predictions for the retail media industry. This conversation has been edited for clarity and length.

Do you want to start out by sharing how you arrived at Incremental?

Skye Frontier: So I luckily ended up not too far out of school at Comscore. That, 15 years ago, was just a really, really fun place to start your career. For those that don't know, Comscore had this massive panel data set. It was a couple million households, a couple million devices. People installed software on their phones or their laptops that allowed you to, in a privacy-safe way, basically see everything they did. So from the transactions, the ads they saw, we could administer surveys and ask people their feelings about different brands. So it was this incredibly rich data set.

And the team I was on had a pretty simple mandate, which was to find a client with a problem. Use the data and analytics we have to solve that problem, and then sell it to three more clients. So it was a pretty open field around "Hey, look, find a client that's willing to pay for work. A question they can't answer. Use our data and develop some analytics around answering that question. And then build a process, a framework, make it scalable, and automate it, so that you could do this for three or four other people as well.” So I had a chance to work on a ton of cool stuff. I think it was one of the first truly cross-platform measurement.

How did you land your current role?

SF: I spent the five years before this in sort of an interesting combination of finance and brand strategy, trying to connect basically the intangible aspects of a brand. So if you think of Apple, and the value of the Apple brand—the perceptions, the memory structures that are created in consumers—putting a financial value on that. Really, really cool stuff, very, very strategic but not super tactical, right? Like tomorrow, I'm running a campaign, what do I do?

So, after five years of that, I was kind of eager to get back into something more tactical, tangible, decisions that people are trying to make every single day. And Dave Pollet, who's our CEO, I had known from a stint together at Neustar, where there were a lot of parallels, working across a whole suite of measurement solutions at Neustar together. And his pitch for me to join was: Hey, retail media is the fastest-growing form of advertising we've ever seen before. It's growing three times faster than search, twice as fast as Facebook did. And no one is measuring it well. And he said: Look, history is going to repeat itself, you've got all this money pouring into it. And in the next year or two, people are gonna start asking really, really hard questions around measurement. Does retail media deliver the value that it promises? How do we get the most out of it or optimize it? How do we think about planning this or integrating it into the rest of the media they're buying?

So kudos to Dave for having a longer-term vision to see that there was a wave coming, and if we could position ourselves, we could try to catch it. And that really excited me. Having worked in measurement analytics before, and then having the opportunity to not quite get in at the ground floor, but get in early on as the industry catches up and tries to measure retail media was really, really compelling and exciting.

What's a typical day look like for you?

SF: I have kind of a strange dual set of responsibilities. On one hand, I run our growth and our go-to market. So marketing, content, positioning, like when we were doing the rebranding and the relaunching of the website, all that falls under our purview. The other half of my job is to run our client services team. Helping support all the clients that use our tool, help them deploy it, get the most out of it, and use it to answer these big questions. So most of my days are this back-and-forth between more market-facing positioning, content writing, events, webinars, and then the flip side of it, which I find really satisfying as well, is working with a particular client on a particular problem.

I've always enjoyed doing both those things. Taking a step back, looking at the industry as a whole, seeing where things are going, where do we position ourselves, what innovations are on the horizon that we need to think through. And the flip side being, working one-on-one with someone that has a question or a problem and trying to work together to solve it.

In his free time, Skye spends time in his garden in Washington, D.C.

Retail media is not a term that's really heard or understood outside of the retail media industry. How do you explain your job to your family?

SF: For the last 10 years to grandparents and uncles, I've just said I work for the internet, which tends to do the trick. If I feel like being a little more detailed, I usually describe an experience that we've all had, which is you go into Amazon and type something in the search bar. I don't think most people, outside of those in marketing and advertising, realize that about five of the six responses or products they show you, someone's paying to be there. That's a $30 to $40 billion a year industry—just people trying to decide what keywords, who they want to be in front of, what product they show.

What do you like to do for fun?

SF: I'm an avid gardener actually. So vegetables. I grow a bunch of roses. Working with numbers and math all day, I find it pretty relaxing to play in the dirt. I've got a handful of roses that came [recently] from England from a rose breeder, so I'm excited to get them in the ground and see them flourish hopefully.

Looking into 2024, what are you most excited about in your role or in the industry?

SF: What's most exciting for me is that retail media has the potential to be sort of a linchpin for a lot of other bigger structural challenges that have been around for a long time. These are probably a bit of inside-baseball, but the real big divisions and how brands budget their media. There's a team that has a dedicated budget to support shopper marketing, so marketing to someone while they're shopping. There's a separate team that plans and looks at advertising for their brand budget, so building the brand at a more macro level with a longer-term perspective.

Retail media—because it's being cut across all these different budgets, all these different planning tools, all these different frameworks for thinking about the allocation of marketing dollars—I think actually has the opportunity to force a lot of these discussions around: How do we actually think about holistically managing our advertising investments, integrating media planning functionally across teams, across different technologies? I think it has the potential to drive a lot of these conversations that have been sort of sticking points for the last 15 years, if not longer.

Is there anything in the industry that keeps you awake at night that you're not sure how we're going to solve for?

SF: It's funny, 10 to 15 years ago, when viewability was sort of a big, hot topic, there were all these crazy reports that came out on 50% of the advertising on the open internet is fraud or not even viewed by people. And it's still true today. I feel like every other month a report comes out. Fraud, non-human traffic, viewability, there's still a lot of—it sounds bad, but—inefficiency that exists, which creates a drag on the entire system. Those types of things, keep me up, they're the big structural problems that have existed, and I think will continue to act as a drag on the industry as a whole.

Are there any steps that Incremental is taking to try to fix and correct for those?

SF: To a certain degree. The one thing fraud or bots don't do is they don't buy things, right? It costs money. So in a certain sense, incrementality measurement, which is trying to understand which advertising actually drives sales, in a way actually steers dollars away from made-for-advertising sites, bots, because those things don't buy at the end of the day, they don't buy products. So in our own way, maybe it's wishful thinking, we're kind of helping steer those dollars away from the ineffective places.


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