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Tagga?s Amielle Lake targets agencies for mobile platform

Amielle Lake is one reason why ad:tech retains its luster as a venue for interactive marketing talent and, oftentimes, the bold entrepreneur who walked the extra mile.

A pointed question at last week's ad:tech San Francisco's MobileMix show in the city's Moscone West Convention Center brought Ms. Lake to the attention of assembled delegates and panelists. She asked panelists deliberating "The Future of Mobile" whether this really was mobile marketing's year -- in other words, was the industry past the hype?

Not surprisingly, and with good evidence, the panelists explained how the ecosystem was already in place and how smart advertisers and agencies were making decisions to add mobile to the marketing mix (see story).

A sit-down conversation yielded more information on Ms. Lake's curiosity -- and need for affirmation.

Now who would have taken this even-tempered Canadian from Vancouver as a former marketing finance executive? Or as having served a stint in a mining company? Or coauthor last year of a book called "The Elephant Hunters: Chronicles of the Moneymen" -- an examination of the human side to investment bankers?

Perhaps that was good training for another bold endeavor: starting a mobile technology firm with a white-label platform targeted to advertising agencies.

Ms. Lake's position as CEO of Tagga Media Inc. brought her to ad:tech San Francisco to connect with clients and prospects for the plug-and-play Tagga Agency Platform.

"We're agency-focused," Ms. Lake said. "We're the agency partner. We're the agency-enabler."

Agency is bull's eye
The Tagga Agency Platform can perform three functions.

First is the ability to create text campaigns and news alerts, with the capability to target by time zones and, soon, by area code.

Next, the platform can help agencies build mobile sites for their clients with the help of templates designed for mobile consumers in the information-snacking mindset.

Finally, the platform lets agencies build Web widgets that link online media to mobile media. In other words, a Web-to-mobile transfer with ease.

"We're building out a product that truly bridges traditional and online media through mobile," Ms. Lake said.

No doubt she has encountered rivals in the U.S. market offering similar technology. But Tagga's focus, as she explains it, is more on making life easier for agencies whose current bugbear is the seeming complexities of the mobile marketing landscape.

"A successful campaign is always based on three key things -- offer, creative and the media buy," Ms. Lake said. "In mobile, the same principles apply and that's why we take the costs out of the equation and the nuances of dealing with carriers and stuff.

"[Agencies] can use our platform and they can create campaigns and do media buys on mobile," she said.

Tagga has already won clients such as Cossette, Blast Radius, Publicis, LPi Communications Group, Moving Media Group, Braun/Allison and Kinetix Media.

The agencies pay a software-as-a-service fee for unlimited access to the platform's capabilities, including campaign deployment and reporting with dashboard functionality.

Tagga was launched in February 2008. The firm was cofounded with Ryan Holmes, whose company created Hootsuite, a Twitter application for marketers.

In its first iteration, Tagga was positioned as an SMS ad network. In December, Ms. Lake realized that the market was too fragmented and the value proposition was not clear to advertisers -- many thought the firm was in the business of selling sponsored SMS ads.

That's when Ms. Lake and her team decided to hone in on agencies, repackaging the technology into a white-label platform for that market.

"Agencies come in not to buy bits and pieces, but they wanted the platform," Ms. Lake said.

And so Ms. Lake is on numerous road trips and calls to win over as many Canadian, U.S. and international agencies to use the Tagga Agency Platform as their entry point into mobile marketing.

"The challenge is that agencies don't have the margin, the time or the knowledge to take advantage of the power that direct mobile marketing offers to brands and really to integrate that across the entire marketing mix," Ms. Lake said.

Tracking progress
Given her background, Ms. Lake's articulation is not surprising.

Ms. Lake earned her BA from the University of British Columbia, followed by an international MBA from England's University of Northampton Business School.

The outdoors lover also added an international management diploma from the Ecole Superieure de Commerce et Management, a French business school in Poitieres, 40 minutes outside Paris.

No sooner was she done with the French diploma than she landed a job as vice president of marketing at Haywood Securities, a financial services firm in Vancouver, British Columbia. She worked there from 2002 to 2004.

In 2005, Ms. Lake moved to Galdos Systems, a geospatial company in Vancouver. She was named director of corporate development.

Two years later, she joined Western Keltic Mines, a copper mining company based in Vancouver. She served one year as vice president of communications before getting the urge to go it on her own and also pen a book.

"The Elephant Hunters" is a 174-page book that covers the ups and downs of investment bankers in key markets.

Ms. Lake's coauthors are Andrew Kakabadse, professor of international management development at England's Cranfield School of Management, and Nada Kakabadse, professor of management and business research at the University of Northampton Business School, which Ms. Lake attended.

As the book says it, the elephant is the big deal and the hunter is the moneyman.

Based on years of research and hundreds of interviews, the book looks at the personal qualities and behavior required to join a big-name bank. It also tracks down what it takes to acquire the wealth to which few can aspire.

Perhaps Ms. Lake may want to have the same prescience with her mobile venture as she had with the book. Here's a paragraph from page 80 in "The Elephant Hunter":

"So how long will the good times last? The previous market boom lasted from 1982 to 2000, so the current one might still have time to run. Perhaps that is why only few analysts predict a slow-down. There is much talk of a super-cycle, though -- a bull market that endures for many, many years. However, recall Roosevelt's experience: when everyone is having a good time, history has shown that it is often too good to be true. Who knows, by the time this book reaches the shelves, a crash may have already occurred! It is now May 2008. We are reading the proofs of this book."

Published by Palgrave Macmillan, the book hit European bookstores in September, with a North American debut in November.

"It's real stories of financiers," Ms. Lake said. "Because business has nothing to do with numbers and everything to do with relationships."