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Dionisios Favatas of the Truth Initiative Discusses How Identity Resolution Powers Public Service Campaigns

  • - Ben Webb
  • 7 min read

People-based marketing is what we live and breathe. We’re always looking for new use cases and companies to partner with in hopes of furthering a world where all marketing is one-to-one and personalized, which is why we are excited to work with Truth Initiative, a nonprofit organization dedicated to building a world where young people reject smoking. Their mission is to reach young people through omnichannel marketing, and they’ve successfully done that for the last 20 years.

Learn more about the organization’s goals and the role identity resolution plays in getting its message out by reading an excerpt of our conversation with Dionisios Favatas, Managing Director of Digital for Truth Initiative, and Ben Webb, Managing Director of our data supply team.

Ben: Dio, do you want to give a quick introduction to the Truth Initiative?

Dio: Yes, thank you for having me. My name is Dio Favatas, short for Dionisios. I’m Managing Director of Digital for Truth Initiative. I work predominantly on the truth Campaign, which is our public health awareness program for tobacco and e-cigarette use. We have a research team that consists predominantly of public health professionals, data scientists, and researchers, so I get to work on digital across the organization.

I was hired to build the digital team, which oversees website and advertising analytics and activation and audience segmentation for and I do so across marketing, experiential, and advocacy-related programs. I work closely with our media agency, web development partner, and internal stakeholders across departments.

Ben: Thanks, Dio. To give a little back-story, this is an initiative that LiveRamp has been working on with truth for a little while now. This is a part of our charitable initiative where we’re helping Truth with their activation of all this great data and the data science work that Dio has built internally through his martech tools. We are helping activate that data through the LiveRamp ecosystem.

Dio, maybe to kick us off, what exactly is the work that truth does?

Dio: Our origins came as an outcome of the Master Settlement Agreement between the tobacco industry and the attorney generals (AGs) from 46 states and the District of Columbia. It was a lawsuit brought by the states against the tobacco industry, specifically involving deceptive advertising and false information. The AGs decided the settlement money that was awarded to the states should be used to stem the tobacco rate.

When we first launched back in 2001, 23% of youth and young adults smoked, which is astronomically high. We thought, wouldn’t it be great if we had a world in which young people never start smoking in the first place? That’s how the concept of truth was born. We’ve been at this now for 20 years, trying to eradicate smoking as a youth public health epidemic.

Ben: Your key audience sounds like it’s in the 18 to 24 range. Is that accurate?

Dio: The truth prevention campaign is specifically for under 24-year-olds and across tobacco and e-cigarette use, ages 18 to 24. We recently launched messaging trying to get ahead of the vaping epidemic that has grown in the under-18 population. We employ a media-based approach of disseminating impactful, creative messaging, and we never turn a blind eye to those who could become susceptible to smoking

Ben: What role does identity resolution play in your marketing strategy? How important is it that you know the recipient behind the screen receiving your message?

Dio: Most young people aren’t sitting around their living rooms screaming to see a commercial teaching them the facts about tobacco—without LiveRamp, we’d have a much harder time reaching the right audiences with the right message. By understanding what people do care about, like the impact of tobacco on the environment, and being able to tap into that, we’re able to engage people in a topic that is relevant to them directly. For example, when we share facts on how cigarette butts are the most littered item on the planet and cigarettes aren’t biodegradable, which means they don’t fully break down over time, it provides the brand another chance to reinforce the harms of tobacco and creates interest in an otherwise low-interest category. So, understanding our audiences, what makes them tick, their passion points, and their basic demographics is key in ending smoking and vaping as public health epidemics while providing the best customer experience for a brand that doesn’t sell anything, other than saving lives.

Ben: Truth Initiative has been around longer than LiveRamp. Can you share how your results, and maybe even your marketing strategy, have changed with us in your martech quiver?

Dio: The campaign has adapted as our audience has changed, and LiveRamp has helped us greatly in accurately reaching audiences across channels. For the first 15 years of the campaign, traditional television and on-the-ground presence was how we reached the population. With Gen Z being the first true digital natives, we’ve had to augment the delivery to be mobile-first and social-first, leaning in on short snackable moments that can drive young people to consume a full-length video. We know that exposure to our creatives messages [ads] changes intentions and behaviors. Proof of our work is shown in the number of lives saved between 2015 and 2018. During that time the campaign prevented 1.5 million young people from starting smoking.

Ben: What are you able to do now that you weren’t able to do before because of LiveRamp?

Dio: LiveRamp closes the loop on our omnichannel messaging approach. We are able to create seed audiences in our customer data platform and then leverage LiveRamp’s integrations with Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, and others to ensure we’re effectively and efficiently reaching every youth and young adult who wants to be part of the movement to end smoking for good.

Ben: One of the emerging trends we’re seeing is around advanced TV. I’m wondering if you’re doing much in the addressable space.

Dio: We recognize that more than 80% of our audience is consuming our content on mobile devices. We have long been moving dollars from traditional linear commitments into programmatic and addressable TV, and have even experimented in the digital OOH space. We know we need to be where the audience is. We are competing with brands that have exponentially more money than we do. We don’t sell anything. If nothing else, we have the hardest job. We’re trying to sell young people on not doing something. It’s really challenging.

Ben: Yes, and with the competition, you obviously have to be highly targeted and measure constantly to make sure that you are being efficient with your media spend, because to your point, it’s not like you get discounts on media—you’re competing with everyone else out there.

I do want to ask you a little bit more about your tech stack and your martech stack. What are some of the other tools in the shed, if you will?

Dio: We are strategic partners with all the major tech companies. We work closely with Google, Adobe, LiveRamp, and Acxiom. We work with all of the major players from Facebook to Snapchat to YouTube. We have some amazing technology, a DMP and a CDP, and partners like LiveRamp and various other data partners to help us find addressable audiences. It’s a full-service ecosystem to be able to understand, segment, activate, and analyze.

Ben: So do you work more on the creative or the measurement? And are you doing that in-house or do you have agencies that you partner with?

Dio: I’m more on the data and audience side of the work, but we also have a full marketing and experiential team that works on the creative. We also work with strategic external agency partners. We have a number of other partners we work with to come up with creative ideas to help solve these challenges, especially as our campaign continues to diversify to speak to the current challenges facing young people today – including e-cigarette use and opioids.  

We’ve increasingly invested more on our own in-house capabilities, so we have a fully operational digital team, which I oversee. That includes technology, analytics, and data management, as well as content activation and media operations. We have internal creative resources and we’re working towards bulking up our internal ability to be able to work on niche content as well as more topical content, as we continue to diversify.

Ben: One last question. You are a very mature organization in this space and there are a lot of smaller NGOs and companies out there that probably don’t have the resources you do, but who still need to reach people in a very one-to-one sort of manner. Do you have any advice for them about how they get started or where they should be focusing their time?

Dio: We are now at a point in which data management isn’t just nice to have, it’s a must-have, and there are a lot of different approaches to getting what you need. You can go the open-source route with Google, which has a very impressive and deep suite of tools that are generally free and accessible. There are other paid-for solutions all the way up to what we’ve done. It’s a pretty impressive well-rounded technology apparatus. We also look to partners like LiveRamp, who will help us save the world. I say that very honestly.

We’re facing a world in which there are a lot more privacy challenges, so now is the time to invest in systems that are able to store and manage information in a very secure and trustworthy way.

I also think it’s crucial to have the right people on your team who know how to interpret information. We’re in a data-first environment, so analytics and data management are important. You need to have people who understand how to be disciplined and methodical with information and who have a desire to understand your consumers.

Ben: Great. Thank you so much Dio. Truth Initiative, LiveRamp—great partnership here.

Dio: Thanks so much for having me.