MarTech Interview with Phil Schraeder, Chief Executive Officer of GumGum

MarTech Interview

From the challenges of leadership to the power of visual intelligence, hear it all from GumGum’s CEO Phil Schraeder in this fascinating interview!

Aspiring entrepreneurs often struggle to find a path that combines their passion for technology with their desire to build something meaningful. It can be challenging to navigate the landscape of the startup world and find the right opportunity to make a lasting impact.
However, there is one person who has successfully combined his passion for technology and entrepreneurship to create a significant impact in the advertising industry. Phil Schraeder, the Chief Executive Officer of GumGum, has a unique vision for the future of advertising that is grounded in innovation and the power of technology.
In this interview, we have the opportunity to learn more about Phil Schraeder’s journey, his thoughts on the current state of the advertising industry, and how he has combined his passion for technology and entrepreneurship to create a lasting impact at GumGum.
Join us as we dive deeper into the mind of one of the most inspiring leaders in the advertising industry today, and learn how you too can pursue your passions and create a meaningful impact in your chosen field.
Scroll through to read the full interview!

Phil, please give us a glimpse of your professional journey so far. What has been the highlight of your career?
I began my career back in the day as an auditor at KPMG, an audit, tax, and advisory firm. I was a young and closeted gay man who was a bit lost because I couldn’t be me, truly me, in that environment. It was so corporate and made me feel even more of an outsider. So I said the heck with it, left everything I knew…my job, family, and friends, and headed to LA with no clue where it would take me.
Once in LA, I focused on coming out and channeling my passion for business into an industry that would accept me. It led to a production company where not only did I get to use my skills in finance & accounting, but it brought me to an openly gay manager. This changed everything for me. There I was in LA, out and proud, having found my confidence, voice, and passion, and moved into the tech industry, eventually landing at GumGum in 2011 as an early employee and a VP of Finance. It’ll be twelve years this year that I’ve been at GumGum, and it’s been the most incredible experience to have grown as a person and leader alongside the company.
The highlight of my career has been watching how GumGum has grown from a small startup to the leader in contextual intelligence, with over 550 employees and a global footprint in 19 markets worldwide. Not only have we grown in size and scale, but we’ve also grown into an environment and culture that thrives on authenticity and encourages diverse thoughts, opinions, and ideas. That’s been the highlight for me – taking that feeling of belonging I received from my first manager in LA and applying that to my professional growth and leadership journey.

Tell us about GumGum and the distinct advertising solutions that the platform offers to your clients.
We really are the leader in contextual intelligence for our industry and have been iterating on our contextual capabilities for nearly 15 years. We’ve known that AI would power so much of the future, and we created an incredibly sophisticated proprietary contextual platform that we call Verity™. Verity™ uses computer vision and natural language processing to analyze the full context of a digital environment with human-like understanding.
Our tech can read audio, text, video – even GIFs! We also have a suite of impactful ad creatives and formats that drive optimal attention, and we’re rolling out Attention Time data for our campaigns this year. We’re perfectly positioned to be the omnichannel partner in the digital advertising industry, and we can’t wait to continue to innovate in emerging environments, too, like CTV and in-game advertising. The best part? All of our techs require absolutely no personal identifying information (PII) because we absolutely do not need to know who you are to serve you relevant ads.

What are the core values of the company? What are its vision and mission?
At GumGum, we pride ourselves on fostering an inclusive, creative, and energetic environment based on our values which include: showing grit and perseverance in all things, having agility while maintaining control, and always operating with thoughtfulness. GumGum’s mission is to empower advertisers to deliver creative advertising campaigns that capture consumer attention without using personal data across current and future emerging digital environments at scale.

What are the different industries that GumGum caters to? Tell us about the features of the creative gallery present on the platform for advertisers and publishers.
GumGum is unique because we have a whole suite of different ad formats and units that cater to a number of different industries. The industries we work with run the gamut from CPG to travel to financial services to entertainment and QSR. As you can see from our creative gallery on our website, we’ve worked with a wide variety of industries, and a gallery is a great place for advertisers to go to see some of the amazing creative our team has built over the years. We love when clients come to us and say, “I really liked this unit in your creative gallery, could we do something like that creative execution on our upcoming campaign?”

How does GumGum practice the principles of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging in its space?
At GumGum, we firmly believe that when each individual one of us is given the opportunity to explore, the freedom to learn, and the means to succeed, we all grow together. That being said, we haven’t always gotten it right, and we have work to do at GumGum. I’ll be the first to admit our failures and continue to actively work toward ensuring that our company reflects the true breadth of diversity and experiences that make up the world.
We’re committed to encouraging people to share in each other’s experiences, foster allyship and amplification, and provide ongoing feedback on how to continue making strides toward a more equitable and representative GumGum. We have a DEIB coalition – The VOICE Coalition – that leads incredible programming and community involvement.
Since 2021, The VOICE has organized over 130 events spanning from listening circles in response to social injustices to cultural classes and marching as a company alongside my parents and me at LA Pride & Amsterdam Pride. We have dedicated resources and ongoing education and training, like Race + Allyship and Managing Unconscious Bias, led by our incredible DEIB consultant, Brooks E. Scott, employee resource groups, and more.
And we’re going deeper than programming – we’re auditing our partnerships and suppliers, creating a supplier diversity program that aligns with our commitment to prioritizing diverse suppliers and vendors. We’re growing our publisher partnerships, seeking out opportunities to engage with non-majority-owned publications. We’re looking into our AI and bringing new ways for brands to invest in causes they care about through advertising.
It really is vital to me that, as CEO, I act with intention and thoughtfulness because everyone deserves the right to bring their authentic selves to work. This is a white, male-dominated industry and white supremacy is entrenched so deeply within institutions and systems. There’s a lot of unlearning that is needed to be truly anti-racist, and we’re committed to transforming the way we’ve addressed DEIB in the past. We’re integrating it throughout our business, making it a core part of our DNA, with a formal roadmap & strategy, and being transparent throughout the process.

Being a seasoned leader in the industry, how do you picture the future of marketing and advertising? What role will technology play in this sector?
I’m optimistic! Technology has enabled us to create more personalized and engaging consumer experiences than ever before. A person’s needs will define the future of marketing and advertising, and we’re seeing that advertising is becoming increasingly personalized, data-driven, and contextually relevant. The future of digital marketing will be informed by a blueprint we call The Mindset Matrix™. It’s a privacy-first framework that allows advertisers to tap into someone’s active frame of mind through a powerful combination of context, creativity, and attention. The future of advertising is about meeting someone in the right mindset and moment, not about knowing who you are through third-party cookies or PII.

What has been your biggest challenge working in the industry? How did you overcome it?
Breaking the status quo. This industry is reliant on technology to move it forward, yet the industry continues to make decisions based on relationships, not the best technology that will push forward an advertiser’s goals. We have navigated this by leveraging our values and finding those initial clients who gave us and our solution a shot.

How do you strategize to scale the growth of GumGum in the coming years?
It’s critical that we remain true to our identity and have confidence in ourselves, accept failures as lessons, not endings, and make sure our passion for the greater good drives our motivations. It may sound silly to some, but I believe the rest works itself out.

What advice/suggestions would you give to budding entrepreneurs and enthusiasts aspiring to venture into the industry?
I’m a strong believer that success in any venture requires a combination of determination, hard work, dedication, creativity, and passion. Aspiring entrepreneurs and enthusiasts should understand that there is no shortcut to success and that it takes time and effort to achieve their goals. You will have to make sacrifices. My advice is to be confident in your abilities, take calculated risks, and don’t be afraid to fail. Every failed venture is an opportunity to learn, grow & improve.
Being an entrepreneur means having the courage to make tough decisions with little data, leaving your ego at the door, and hiring people way smarter than you. Above all else, don’t forget to enjoy the process and find joy in the journey.
In addition, entrepreneurs and enthusiasts should stay up to date on the latest trends and technology and be open to learning new skills and techniques. It’s also important to develop strong networks and form meaningful partnerships and relationships. Having a deep understanding of the industry, its key players, and the interests of your target audience is essential. This means staying engaged in emerging trends, conducting research, and having a firm grasp of your audience’s pain points so that you can work to craft creative solutions that bring value.
Most importantly? Don’t be afraid to speak up and speak out, ask for help, and be confident in all that you are.

Who or what has inspired you the most in your professional as well as personal life? What life lessons do you swear by?
This is always an interesting question for me. I am not inspired by the traditional business leaders that I know many people are. For me, I look to pioneers that have paved their own way, worked hard, and stood behind their convictions. It is people like RuPaul that inspire me on all levels.
With respect to my personal life, I am truly inspired by my mom & dad. They are brilliant, exceptional human beings. As for life lessons? I always say don’t spend time with anyone you can’t be your authentic self with. In your freedom of authenticity, the observer in you experiences life with the utmost clarity. In my opinion, it is the masterful observer that creates greatness.

What are some of the emerging environments in digital advertising, and how are they opening up new opportunities?
Digital media is still so, so new. Things change at the speed of light, new products and tools appear every day, and environments we thought we had a hang of are evolving faster than we can all keep up. Things are in a state of flux constantly, but change is a good thing. It opens the door to innovation and creativity, unlocking new worlds and ideas.
The best days of digital media are ahead of us, and I’m really excited to see the growing interest in contextual intelligence and attention to help advertisers reach consumers in the right mindset and make ads useful again for people! Ads do not have to be annoying or disruptive; in fact, they should and can be useful!
Emerging and evolving environments like CTV & in-game advertising are unlocking endless opportunities for us to really put our creative hats back on and put ourselves back in the shoes of consumers.
We’re all consumers and innovative ad formats like our In-Video ad unit can make our digital experiences so much better with fewer disruptions. We’ve actually just been granted the first Media Rating Council (MRC) content-level accreditation for contextual analysis, brand safety, and suitability for CTV, and we can’t wait to continue to offer creative ad formats to advertisers. We’re also working with Frameplay to serve contextually-relevant, intrinsic in-game ads that blend seamlessly into a gaming experience with really impressive results in our first campaigns (doubling the industry standard for mobile ad recall and quadrupling purchase intent!).
It’s an exciting time for our industry, and I cannot wait to continue to see how digital advertising continues to evolve.

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Phil Schraeder, Chief Executive Officer of GumGum

Phil Schraeder is a digital advertising executive and thought leader who loves fashion and EDM music. He is the CEO of GumGum, a leading contextual intelligence company that prioritizes privacy-first, mindset-based advertising. Schraeder joined GumGum in 2011 and has held various leadership roles, helping the company grow rapidly. He is a passionate advocate for LGBTQIA+ equality and believes in being authentic in all aspects of life. LinkedIn.
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