Next Generation Ad Technology | Full Episode
Hi, I'm Pam Zucker. And I'm Val Bischak. Thanks so much for joining us today as we continue our journey to demystify this really complex ad ecosystem as all media goes digital and what it means for marketers. I'm excited about today's episode. What are we going to talk about on today's episode, Val? Well, we're going to talk a little bit about the complexity of the digital ad ecosystem and next generation tech. To have this conversation I'm really excited that we're going to have a colleague join us today from Amobee.
We're going to have Niraj Deo, who's the Chief Product Officer at Amobee. Really help us detangle and unbundle all of the complexities around Ad Technology. We're going to hit a lot of buzzwords today, too, right? We always hear about clean rooms and DSPs and privacy and cookie deprecation. And Niraj is the perfect guy. He's certainly the guy I ask every day about some of the intricacies as we talk about these topics. So I'm really excited to hear his thoughts and keep him honest in terms of simplifying it for our listeners.
So let's not keep our listeners waiting any longer and let's bring Niraj on. Okay. Well, with that, we'll introduce Niraj Deo, Chief Product Officer at Amobee. Welcome, Niraj. Thank you. So to get us started, it would be great just to hear about your background and what brought you to Amobee.
Yeah. So my background is a mix of Ad Tech and core technology where my first ten years of my career were all about research, things like model driven development, working on, you know, server and Microsoft kind of products, and also a lot of work with MSN and the content platform that MSN.com sits on. And the recent ten years, the
last ten 15 years have been on building all kinds of data platforms, data services for marketing, advertising, all kinds of customer experience and use cases. And now at Amobee, I'm excited to kind of lead the product team where we have really interesting problems we are trying to solve around that shift in TV digital and also the next phase of our programmatic and the DSP business. Well, that's great. So you talk about digital transformation and kind of the next phase of of the marketplace and what digital transformation means, and I'd love if you could talk a little bit about how programmatic and biddable are coming together and what the complexities of that and the opportunities of that means from Ad Tech. Yeah. So to me, digital
transformation, you know, is a part of an evolution that is happening. And most of the time, when you look at big disruptions that happen in the industry, they happen in, you know, subsets and super-sets, meaning there is always a major, you know, trend that is movin, and there are sub-trends that kind of follow which are aligned to that. In this case, the major trend is the digital transformation, which almost every industry vertical end of business is going through. Whether you're a B2B business or whether you're a B2C business, you are you are kind of forced to think about transforming your entire company at a digital level. And then that leads to obviously focusing on customer experience and the digital transformation that goes along with that. And then that leads to
really tying your digital transformation initiatives, your customer initiatives, your marketing and sales and commerce, and hence advertising and media initiatives towards that digital transformation. And that kind of, you know, has affected and impacted in a good way the change in the transformation that is happening, particularly in the the way the consumers consume media. And it has become much, much more diverse in the form of devices, diverse in the form of technology.
And that transformation is now really pushing legacy industries or industries that were shifting slowly, and now they are accelerated because of all the digital transformation that is happening. And that is further accelerated because of COVID and because of some of these privacy related changes that are happening around us. And that leads to the shift between TV, linear TV and digital, or the shift between privacy and what should be the most privacy, you know, impact that that that the ecosystem should look at. And when I say ecosystem, it is both the demand side, the supply side at the same time, the impact on the consumer and so on. So Niraj, we talk a lot about the marketplace challenges that come with all of the transformation you just talked about, how it makes the marketer's role so much more complex. And as they try to make investment decisions across this really fragmented landscape.
What do you think Ad Tech's role and the focus should be? And and really, where is it going? What are the solutions marketers need to navigate this transformation effectively? Yeah, I think the transformation, you know, will have critical, a bird's eye view or a zero base view of what this means. And and whether I'm up on the advertiser site or whether I'm on the supply side or whether I'm a consumer trying to relate to that experience. I mean, we talk about, you know, all the changes that are happening under the hood, the transformation.
But in my mind, they're divided into two major categories. One is related to the trust, and the second one is related to customer experience. And when I say trust, it is not just the trust between the consumer and the brand, but also it is the trust between the demand and the supply players in the ecosystem. And that trust then kind of decomposes into privacy, identity, fraud and some of these areas which are, you know, obviously, you know, already existing in some cases. And they are getting into a new evolution as new industries kind of shift from one point to another.
And then the second dimension to this, as I mentioned earlier, is the customer experience piece, which again impacts everybody in the ecosystem, whether you're on the demand side, supply side or the consumer, which is the fatigue, the relevance of that interaction that you are having, the richness of that interaction that you are having. And at the end of the day, the outcome again, the outcome is not just for the brand, but also the outcome is for the consumer who is trying to interact with it and saying that, "okay, you know, I see something this is interesting to me. Either it is going to increase the quality of my life or it is going to let me achieve my objective on what my next step is" and so on. So these are the two pillars which, you know, drive the transformation in a much more, you know, detailed way. And that impacts the technology decision, that impacts the Ad Tech convergence that is happening, the fragmentation that exists in our industry and so on.
What that results in do is the Ad Tech industry, which has so far kind of evolved, is sort of consolidating. We are seeing the industry exploding. We started with 6000 Ad Tech and MarTech vendors in the industry, let's say six, seven years ago. Now it is 9000 vendors in that industry and instead of consolidating, it is further decomposing. And what that means is there is a quite a lot of opportunity for creativity, there's a quite a lot of opportunity for creating point solutions.
But at the end of the day, it doesn't really, you know, bring all the two pillars that both the two the pillars that we talked about, whether it is on the trust or the customer experience side. And the Ad Tech needs to kind of evolve towards that so that it is helping the customer experience and the trust in a solutions to both the demand side, the supply side and the consumer experience. So I mean, that's really interesting to think about the two big pillars being trust and the consumer experience. And it seems like for the past few years the industry has been really focused on the trust side, right? With privacy and identity and all of those solutions that are coming about.
And it seems like we're just beginning to think about the customer experience. And so I wonder if you can talk about where the customer experience solutions are headed. Yeah, the customer experience solutions are headed towards, you know, very immersive, very high quality, very diverse, because as the technology changes, you know, the way we started with three screens and four screens and in my mind it is N screens, right? It could be multiple different ways in which I could interact and experience. So that that experience and immersion is leading to different expectations that the consumer will start having.
Earlier it was click to do something like click to buy or click to, you know, take an event to the next level. But maybe in the future it could be a different gesture, a different, you know, more in which the consumer will interact with that particular, you know, ad or that story that you're trying to tell as a brand and as a publisher, the year that you're trying to kind of optimize from the particular interaction with that particular consumer. So Niraj, to get really specific here, so you know, one of the things we talk a lot about is frequency, right, over-frequency and reaching the same consumer too many times, it's a bad experience. Making sure consumers are seeing ads that are relevant to them, that they value, that's a good experience, when they're irrelevant, it's a bad experience. So for our viewers that don't know, there are demand side platforms, DSPs, that help advertisers use data to reach their desired audiences.
Theoretically, you know, the right number of times and those most relevant audiences. But are all demand side platforms, are all DSPs created equal? Like what is the difference between there's so many of them out in this industry, there's a lot of fragmentation. What does a great DSP deliver that maybe a mediocre one doesn't, or are they all the same? Yeah. I mean, I think if you go back
to the the conversation we were having around the experience and the the two pillars which you talked about, one is the trust and the customer experience under the customer experience, we talk about fatigue, the relevance and the outcomes. So fatigue and relevance go hand in hand. And the reason I bring this topic is the fatigue is a question of frequency, and the frequency is a question of, you know, the data and the relevance that you can actually bring in that particular moment when that interaction is happening with that particular customer. Demand side platforms or any other platforms that you think of are the means to achieve that. And they have been able to achieve that so far with the tools and the advances in the technology, advances in the data that we had so far. So for example, because the identity as evolution in the last two decades reached a point where you could be data driven, you could be, you know, very, very specific in how you want to achieve that frequency.
Those fundamental assumptions are going to change as you start seeing the technology changing. So when you look at the DSPs of today versus the platforms of tomorrow, they will have to start looking at again, working backwards from that experience and the trust factor, because privacy, you know, landscape is changing, which is going to be very consent driven, which is going to be very first party heavy, whether it is first party from a demand side or first party from the supply side. Then when you look at the the next step around the evolution of identity itself, we're going to see a lot of aggregation. And this leads to not just aggregation on the identity side, which means you might have brands partnering with, you know, different publishers or between brands.
And the second party data was already kind of, you know, as a team available for us as a tool to kind of, you know, take that to the next level, which respects privacy at the same time, it gives you the tools to manage the frequency fatigue and the relevance. But at the same time, there's going to be an aggregation that will lead to on the supply side. So for example, we might see aggregation of supply spaces, whether it is in linear TV or whether it is in programmatic or whether it is in digital direct and so on. And then the next one is around fraud as to how do you really start making sure that the fraud, whether it is from bad actors or whether it is because of some technology advances that are happening are managed together. So to me, going back to the platforms, are a function of how do you make sure that you are able to stay ahead of some of these technology changes, the behavioral changes, the cultural changes that are happening in the industry, and make sure that the platforms are now modified to bring new features, to make sure that they are able to accommodate some of these changes. And that's the you know, that's the advancement in the platforms trends and the directions that need to happen.
And it's not going to be just the DSPs alone. I think it will be a combination of multiple different workflows that will come together. And as privacy and as the identity solutions kind of shape up, we see in the next 2 to 3 years, the TV, digital direct and the programmatic supply space is playing a much bigger role, in addition to a lot of what we see as solutions to help customers from their experience and the quality and outcomes that they see from their point of view. Right. So you talk about the three
primary constituencies being the buyer, the seller and the consumer. Right. And I guess I'm wondering from the buy side and the sell side, do you think that what they want out of Ad Technology is aligned to help the marketplace move faster? Or are we at competing, you know, goals, for instance, you know, each of the media companies is developing walled gardens and not sharing data across them. And so how can Ad Technology help create a more synthesized and coherent marketplace for the buy side to understand what they're achieving? Yeah, that's a very good question because if you look at whether they are really getting what they need for their own objectives. If you look at the, you know, supply side, the objective is maximizing the yield, which is now come under not just pressure but new opportunities that you're able to see which you didn't have before.
So for example, because the supply is becoming more and more digital, there are multiple opportunities to really maximize that supply, not just showing, you know, let's say, an ad impression in the typical before or between the show that is happening. But making sure that you are able to make it much more, less intrusive or more, you know, more enjoyable as an experience for the consumers. For example, if I am a owner of a supplier and if I have a, you know, a long video that I have, and if those videos have geometric patterns like rectangles or squares, can I show ad placements without really interrupting the experience? I'm watching a show that is something which is really nice happening there. There is a
suspense, you know, and suddenly the the whole thing breaks for an ad, I feel not so good about it, versus I continue with that experience and still show the placement. Maybe there is a glass of wine spilling over and you're showing something as a detergent placement of sitting on the shelf or whatnot. So that's an experience which will definitely help the customer and the consumer experience feel better about it. At the same time, to the supplier, they see a new, you know, inventory, which they didn't have before and that is possible because of the technology. Are the platforms today ready to manage that? No, but I think that that's why the combination of trust and customer experience will kind of bring this to the table where the suppliers will ask for these kind of, you know, solutions or the providers of the platforms can provide these solutions to the suppliers.
Now, when you take the example of an advertiser who is trying to kind of, you know, benefit from this, again, there is a lot of opportunities to take advantage of this, but the platforms today are still trying to gear towards that. So, for example, if I want to really capture some of these digital to programmatic or digital to,sorry digital to digital transformations that are happening. How do I really, you know, make sure that I have a better way to plan ahead of time aligned with my returns that I want to achieve on a yearly basis, on a quarterly basis, on the content that is more relevant to my brand strategy, the mission that I have, the values that I stand for, the brand. I mean, go as theoretical
as you want, but make sure that you are not just data driven but context driven, it is relevant. And hence, you know, when you look at the supply side, the demand side and the consumer, they need to kind of have a converged experience that they can they can all benefit from that. But but the reality is the technology still kind of adopting towards it.
And while it kind of raises some of these identity challenges, some of these privacy challenges, some of these cultural shifts, the platforms will be forced to kind of make these changes to the next level. And that's where we see the evolution of the platforms happening. We are more enterprise, more tech heavy so that there are more solutions that our platform can provide. And then hopefully that will lead to less fragmentation in our industry, which then helps us provide much more long term enduring sustainable solutions versus a brand or a supply side, really grappling with this fragmentation and picking the best choice while not being really comfortable about whether they really have picked the best choice or not because there are so many of them. So that's that's you know, I think the the next step in terms of how the technology will advance one after another. So really interesting points on privacy and identity and how they affect the future.
Curious about your thoughts, Niraj, on how important do contextual solutions become in a cookieless future and how does that tie back to technology platforms and what does that look like to you? You know, six months out, 12 months out. Yeah. I think contextual, you know, as a technology has been around for a long time and this is something that I have been very close to for the last more than two decades. And what I have seen is the advancements of technology are no longer resulting into point very specific solutions. What I mean by that is the advances in contextual, for example, leads to the ability to really look at the content in such a way that you are able to extract the relevant information, whether it is that particular entity or the information about the content or extracting the feature of what that content is about, like a square or a rectangle or whatnot, or more importantly, you know, you're able to do that not just in a, in a textual or a content, which is more text heavy, but also you can possibly now start getting into content which is in the form of a video, whether it is livestreamed or whether it is prerecorded. And you can now further go into areas where you can at scale find the sentiment, the tonality of that particular content and so on. So when you see that content
progressing from what it was, let's say, two decades ago with the improvements in processing, the computing you can do around with that, there's going to be a lot of good experiences that you can now provide to the end consumer. And it can be much, much more relevant at the same time, it can kind of, you know, help you build the trust with that consumer. And that is now possible because of the advancements in how we can derive context from that content that you are being presented to and that kind of makes sure that you are able to now bring solutions which are privacy proof, which are post identity, you know, and post third party cookies, you know, designed in such a way that they help you get to the point of what your story is and what story that you want to tell to the consumer without really, you know, getting into complicated identity solutions that, you know, the Ad Tech industry fell into in the last 2 to 3, you know, decades. Which brings us to the whole concept of data and how we are going to use data moving forward. And so I wonder, you know, we have panels, we have census level data.
What's the new cocktail going to be for how we think about the different pillars of data moving forward? Yeah. So that's that's another interesting, you know, change that is happening in the industry. I mean, when we look at the last ten years, it was all about the importance of data. And as I discussed earlier, when the digital transformation kicked off, it started with not just technology, which kind of gave birth to the huge advances in the technology industry, whether it is the cloud or infrastructure and so on. But the last ten years, particularly from an advertising and a marketing point of view, was massive investments that happened in the data. So now data is stable.
So now that you have the data, it is the responsibility, it is the potential, it is the creativity, it is the innovation that you can derive from the data investments that you can make. So what that means now is you have multiple different advances of the the data solutions that you can bring to the table. So whether it is data, when you look at it from all the entities that we deal with in Ad Tech, it is primarily identity and audiences.
But in my mind, the other innovation that will now lead to, which is a derivative of this massive investment that happened in data is on entities such as supply, currency and, you know, even multiple use cases where multiple broadcasters monetize supply, anything to do with multi identity multi-currency. So these kind of paradigms will start taking shape because not just the technology which is now ready to manage and apply all kinds of advanced machine learning or deep learning technologies to some of these datasets that you have, but also make them, you know, make them available in such a way that they are privacy proof. At the same time, the respect, the consent and the trust expectations that the consumer has and gives you the potential to kind of, you know, achieve your goals. Again, whether you are from the supply side or the demand side, you can take advantage of these. So so to me, the advances in the core data platforms, the data engineering, and now that you have made those investments, it's now time to just like what the industry did with cloud, really start figuring out what are the different innovation, what are the different creative solutions that you can bring, whether it is in Ad Tech or whether it is in MarTech or whether it is between the intersection of Ad Tech and MarTech, and then and make sure that you are able to sustain these solutions in the longer term. So in my mind, again, what that means is when you look at data, it provides you now the vehicle to deal and fight with this fragmentation in the industry because it's impossible to really have all the thousands of vendors talking to each other at a software level.
But you can actually do that at the data level through the solution that you want as an advertiser or as a supplier or as a consumer. And once you do that, then the next step is to kind of make sure that you are able to carve out an internal solution which will sustain the test of time, and it will not be at the whims and fancies of, you know, something that is changing or some disruption that happens, whether it is because of regulation or because of some thing that is out of your control and you're able to kind of bring sustainable solutions that can last longer and your investment has bigger returns, is what the the factor that the data and the advancements of data will play in that industry going forward. So when you talk about all of these advancements in data, I mean, one of the things that maybe you can help our listeners understand and me understand is the idea of clean rooms and what this really means for bringing data together and for making sure it's used in the correct way. Can you help our listeners understand what clean rooms are and where that will take us? Yeah. I think I mean, to me, the clean rooms.
If you go back to again the trust conversation that we're having in my and that's why I'm kind of you know, having the the pivot here based on trust versus privacy. When you look at trust and when you work backwards from that, it is the consent, it is the permission. Do I have the right to use this data and that results in do what solutions do I have to make sure that I work backwards from the rights and the permission that the customer, the consumer has given me. And then whether it is second party data, whether it is clean rooms, these are going to be the solutions which will have a higher degree of compliance towards the regulations, obviously, but again, a higher degree of compliance towards the trust that you want to win with that end consumer. And that's the solution which clean rooms kind of, you know, as a technology and as an engagement brings to the table for for an advertiser and the benefit to the consumer. Yeah.
So Niraj, we've talked about a few of these marketplace challenges. Can you what's Amobee focused on? Do you? You know, there are a few different challenges, obviously, that need to be solved. What's Amobee's vision long term and what are you most passionate about trying to solve within this ecosystem? Yeah, so what we are really passionate about is when we look at a bird's eye view and we talked about this 9000 vendors in our industry and the fragmentation.
Now, when you look at the technology challenge that this fragmentation provides and if you kind of summarize all these, you know, industry actors and ecosystem into, let's say, three supply spaces, you know, linear TV and digital direct and programmatic as the three major supply spaces in our industry-- what are the solutions that we can bring to the table based on Amobee's strengths and assets and the differentiators that we have? So the areas that we are focusing on is to make sure that we provide a very sophisticated technology which has a very strong backbone of data driven data enablement, the data science work that has gone in for the last decade or so in really understanding the nuances of all these three supply spaces and providing solutions and applications to our customers so that they can make the most out of this fragmented industry, but achieve their goals in a much more long term sustainable way. And what I mean by that is an example of planning, which is now we feel is going to be much, much more critical, because when you now look at these fragmentation, all these major shifts that are happening, whether it is from TV to digital or whether it is because of privacy or because of this polarity between very engaging short videos versus, you know, very high premium, high quality, long running videos and a brand or marketer spending massive amounts of money on advertising, there is going to be a need for that particular stakeholder or whether it is on the supply side or on the demand side to really make sure that you are as methodical and strategic in how you want to spend that money, on how do you want to maximize that investment that you have from a yield point of view? So in order to maximize that, you really need to make sure that you have the right tools that leverage the right technology in the data. So for example, planning is something that we are heavily focused on and planning not just in the moment of time, which is in that week in the quarter, which is one way to look at it, but also looking at it from a much more, you know, strategic way when you're looking at planning at a yearly level, how can I do the planning at a yearly level across these three supply spaces and make sure that I'm able to maximize the goals that I want using all the data tools that I can bring to the table and then feed that in to my operational needs that I have over the period of the year, which is in that week, in that quarter, and rinse and repeat this again and again with the learnings from this year again to the next year, so that you are able to now learn from what worked good for me in the last year what did not work well for me in the last year we did see that into the next year's planning cycle and so on. So successful businesses
who are really, you know, methodical and structured and disciplined in this kind of planning will really make sure that they are able to maximize their returns, whether it is an advertiser always looking for return or whether it is a supplier who is trying to maximize their yields of the inventory. That's really interested in. And I know that, you know, from the highest order, Amobee's long term vision is to help maintain a healthy, ad supported ecosystem through better, smarter technology.
And it sounds like all of the things that you focused on about what Amobee is trying to do will really help sustain this ad supported marketplace for years to come. So that's really exciting. We like to end with one or two rapid fire questions. So with that, Val, I'll let you go. So Niraj, like quick answers, don't even overthink it. We just like, you know, raw, real answers will start. What is the last show you binge watched? I think it was the West Wing during COVID. I mean, we were trying to
find something which was really long and which will go for for a long time. And the West Wing was probably long and we enjoyed it. I mean, in fact, West Wing, I think, two decades ago predicted the privacy need for generally in the industry. And here we are talking about privacy. So.
What's one or two predictions that you think people should be on the watch out for for Ad Technology over the next 12 to 24 months? Yeah. I think more than predictions, I want to kind of look at it from what should we be, you know, really thinking about in shifting our, you know, thinking and perspective and changing our expectations and mindsets in terms of what we used to think about in the past versus going forward. So, for example, frequency, you know, we were very used to talking about frequency in a very numeric fashion, one, two, three, four, which was possible because the identity solutions provided that kind of a capability.
But going forward, is the future based on providing frequency, which is more, you know, non numeric meaning high, medium, low. And it is combined with the contextual relevance that you can provide and maybe much more trustworthy from a consumer point of view, maybe much more privacy proof from a privacy and regulation point of view and so on. All right. Well, Niraj, thank you
so much for spending this time with us. Really great insights and we appreciate it. Yes, thank you very much, Niraj. Thank you. Well, thank you, Niraj, for that really interesting conversation. You know, Val, when I think about the things that we just talked about, one of the things that I really take away from it are, as he talked about, we have three supply pools and how right now they're pretty disparate supply pools.
But through Ad Technology, they're going to be coming together in a much more unified way to really help the supply side and the demand side make more out of the inventory they have. Yeah, I couldn't agree more. I think we're in the first inning of seeing that. I think it's going to
be really interesting to see how that plays out over the next 6 to 12 months and beyond. I also like that he talked a lot about kind of just trust and consumer experience. They're thoughlines are important to everything we do. And if the Ad Tech world gets those things right, generally speaking, it's going to be good for the whole ecosystem. Yeah. So with that, that's another episode of Amobee Out Loud.
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