Congratulations on your new role as VP of EMEA and Head of Global Sustainability. How are you going to strike a balance between the two functions?
Thank you! It’s so good to be back in London after a great time on the west coast. Even as I settle into the role, I’ve seen that there’s a large amount of cross-over; the importance of sustainability is pivotal to our industry and perhaps the most widely discussed topic right now. For OpenX, the journey to becoming a Net-Zero business is a true differentiator and a core part of our DNA, so naturally I expect this to be a key goal for our partners and clients when exploring how to work together.
OpenX is the first company in the advertising and tech space to become Net-Zero and Carbon Neutral. What were the top reasons to embrace sustainability and make it a mission?
Our industry is a huge contributor to carbon emissions, which means we not only have an opportunity to make an enormous positive impact but also a responsibility to do so. Five years ago the OpenX executive team made the decision to add the topic of sustainability to their agenda. As they explored ways in which we could operate in a more efficient fashion, the opportunity to move OpenX’s entire technology infrastructure away from local servers to a fully native cloud platform arose. As you can imagine, this was no easy task and it became very apparent that this shift to Google Cloud Platform (GCP) had a huge impact on our carbon emissions.
For us, this was a real catalyst for change and prompted sustainability to become a core factor in all business decisions. Shortly after our transition to GCP, the world was hit with the global pandemic, and like many companies, our ways of working changed substantially. We became a remote-working business and reduced our office count from 10 across the globe in 2018 to just three in key markets at present. By heavily reducing the need to travel and introducing more carbon-efficient hardware, we were able to reduce our 2021 emissions by 98 per cent and our 2022 emissions by 95 per cent compared to the base reporting year of 2018.
What are some of the AdTech trends that will dominate this year?
For me there are three core themes that will dominate for the next few years at least. The first we just touched on – sustainability, and by that, I mean more than carbon emissions, including ethical and responsible advertising as well as general practices as a business.
Addressability will also continue to dominate conversations over the next year or two. Ad tech partners who are able to empower brands and agencies to reach their target audiences directly or contextually while achieving their KPIs with confidence will be well-positioned for success.
Finally, transparency will play a major role moving forward. A fair and transparent value exchange ensures publishers are able to effectively monetize their inventory and marketers are able to improve business results by effectively connecting with their consumers.
How does the SSP work? Could you also illustrate its shifting role?
Previously, SSPs were judged largely on scale and CPM. Today the SSP needs to fulfill different needs for buyers, with a focus on balancing scale and quality. Another shift that we’re seeing in how the supply-side functions is that buyers are forging strong, direct partnerships with SSPs for their: unique audiences, transparency, and measurement capabilities.
Finally, in an evolving social landscape, SSPs have been increasingly tasked with delivering innovations like identity solutions and sustainability initiatives. We’ve discussed OpenX’s commitment to sustainability, but I’ll add here that as privacy becomes an increasing concern, OpenX has developed best-in-class solutions via integrations with leading identity partners such as Ramp ID, ID5, and 33Across. OpenX is also the only major SSP to be developing solutions with Google’s Protected Audience API (previously FLEDGE).
What makes OpenX different from its competitors?
OpenX is the leading independent supply-side platform. We are intentionally not the biggest. The size of our footprint allows us to focus on premium inventory and maintain high quality standards. It also enables us to place emphasis on building solutions that limit re-sellers while prioritizing direct connections. This gives marketers superior control, connecting them with the audiences that perform best for their brands at a fair price for publishers.
Why does sustainability need to be integral to a digital marketing strategy?
This is a big one for me. While there’s a lot of scaremongering when it comes to climate change, this is a very serious issue we need to face collectively as a human race. Many of us have heard the stat that the internet contributes to 4 per cent of all global emissions, and this could rise to 8 per cent in the next five years.
For me, The crux is to address the way digital media influences behaviour, shifts perceptions and shines a light on issues that possess the biggest opportunity. For us, that was server use and our office footprint. There exists tremendous opportunity to be more sustainable as an industry, which OpenX is doing, but we can also use our influence to story-tell, connect and empathise with consumers and business across all industries to make smarter, more sustainable decisions.
How is OpenX revolutionizing the advertising landscape?
This is something I think OpenX are extremely humble about, maybe sometimes too humble. OpenX have been pivotal in driving the fundamentals within ad tech, whether launching one of the first ever ad servers or pioneering header bidding.
More recently you only need to look at our ID graph in the US, our journey to becoming Net-Zero as well as our approach to ensuring all staff are supported to thrive whilst working in a fully remote company. We’re innovating not only for our people and for our clients but to help the wider industry as well.
Why is open web important?
A thriving open web is necessary for consumers to be able to experience and enjoy content they love. An open web is also necessary for publishers to know they’re getting the right price for their inventory and for buyers to be confident they’re reaching their audience at scale in quality media. An open web is critical to choice and control – and ultimately to a healthy advertising ecosystem.
Having worked at MiQ for over a decade, what’s your take on programmatic advertising?
That’s a big one. Fundamentally, programmatic enables brands to connect with consumers via omnichannel buying capabilities in real-time. For me, its superpower is the insight it can garner on consumers if used correctly. There are literally trillions of data points that if collected and understood properly can shape a business strategy, not just a marketing strategy.
With that, it’s important to remember that programmatic isn’t a channel. It’s a mechanism for buying media, and almost every channel, format, media type can be transacted in this way. By becoming an expert in programmatic, you can become an expert in marketing and communications.
What vision are you going to set for your sales team?
I’ve been really impressed with everyone I have met at OpenX. From a demand perspective, I want to help the team be the best version of themselves. A good leader will remove barriers for their teams and help them develop, so I will endeavor to do that for my team.
I have a few non-negotiables to work by; Don’t be afraid to make mistakes – just make them fast and move on, ensure you’re delivering on the brilliant basics, and the biggest – work/life balance. OpenX is an ‘OG’ in the ad tech space and with our expanded sales and marketing presence in EMEA, we now have a great opportunity to highlight our story in this market.
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