ANTHONY RHIND: The ad tech space is fundamental to the realization of the strategic opportunities that technology, data and the flexible media markets are offering to the buy side.
The strong fundamentals of Adform were an important consideration. The company was founded in 2002 and has been profitable for most of that time. They’re in 16 markets, they’re approaching 600 employees and more than half of those people are on the development side. Adform has the resources to act upon industry needs with technical engineering solutions.
Like most companies that are elaborating in the ad tech space, they understand the dependent ecosystem, which means at times you’re competing with companies and at others you’re collaborating with the same company.
Does that dependent ecosystem cause friction?
We’re certainly seeing a desire for people to feel they’re working with companies they can trust to operate in their interest. John Montgomery’s recent comments [at AdExchanger’s Clean Ads conference in New York] suggest it’s not appropriate for Facebook or Google to be marking their own homework. That’s a broadly established question and a question that will continue to be asked.
What influenced your decision to leave Carat?
My departure from Carat was certainly amicable. Dentsu Aegis is incredibly well positioned. It’s enjoying exceptional growth in the market and is future-orientated. Its positioning as a holding company that is natively digital perfectly reflects the consumer context and the needs of our clients.
It’s not that I felt it was time to leave Dentsu Aegis, but the opportunity to join an independent ad tech firm is a chance to be more of a change agent in an incredibly interesting time for the ad industry, as we see more inventory adopting a programmatic model.
The potential for TV to move from an aggregate audience model to a segmented or addressable model is huge. We know that programmatic TV is in a germinative state, and some of the telecom acquisitions we’re seeing in Europe and the US will be fundamental to that shift. Companies that have cross-device connectivity and household or individual-level billing relationships will have more audience-delivery capability and therefore greater advertising opportunities. Adform is one of the companies that could be well positioned to be part of that.
Are ad tech firms increasingly pulling talent away from agencies?
The idea that ad agencies are losing ground is not valid. The ad agencies will continue to play a critical role for their clients and they will continue to be critical partners for publishers and broader sources of inventory that they advocate to their clients.
Having worked for so many years inside agencies I’m aware of how much value they add for their clients and how much they enables publishers to have a constructive relationship with the clients agencies represent.
At the same time, the knowledge of the workings of an agency, especially as the agencies are supporting so many different specialisms within an integrated service proposition, will help the ad tech companies and the publishers they work with to better position the value they can bring to the agency and to the agency’s client.
That’s why there are many people from the agency background moving into ad tech companies. Ad tech firms and agencies are increasingly symbiotic but they don’t always speak the same language.
A year from now, what do you hope to have achieved?
I would be delighted to help support a broader deployment of platform technology on both the buy and the sell side and to also help support the evolution of programmatic from its earlier context of being about price optimization to a much more consumer-centric deployment around business value creation for both the buy and sell side.
How is programmatic evolving?
As an industry, we need to ensure that we have more sophisticated KPIs that look at outcomes in a broader way. We’re not far enough along to [richly] determine if what we’re investing in for clients is being delivered.
At the moment it’s a buying team, rather than a strategic and analytics-centered way of working. Programmatic is moving from tactical buying to being recognized as an operating system for all consumer connections across all owned and earned, with a data-driven ecosystem underpinning the understanding of consumer behavior and outcomes. That’s where programmatic needs to be.