Interview with Andrew Stephens, CEO, Ambient Digital Group

Andrew Stephens Ambient Digital
Andrew Stephens
Andrew Stephens
CEO, Ambient Digital Group
Ambient Digital Group

On Marketing Technology

MTS: Tell us about your role and how you got here? What inspired you to be part of a digital media company?
I was first appointed as CEO for Ambient Digital in July 2010. My main responsibilities include finding key opportunities to take Ambient Digital into new markets as well as expanding revenue lines for our business. I started out in the media and advertising industry in 1992 with DDB and have been involved in the media scene for over 20 years! I co-founded Ambient Digital in Vietnam seven years ago, when I saw that digital was clearly where the media industry was heading, and this has worked out well.

MTS: How do you see the proliferation of data science and social media analytics impacting the digital media campaigns?
The paradigm of the entire advertising industry has shifted considerably. I have seen ad formats evolving from print to television, and now digital and social and this is where it gets super exciting for us at Ambient Digital. In this information age where data is the currency for many organisations, data science and social media analytics allow for accurate and personalised targeting that benefits both customers as well as advertisers. This virtuous cycle can only be win-win for the entire industry.

MTS: What are the benefits of leveraging proprietary programmatic technology platforms for digital advertising?
Programmatic technology platforms deliver a guaranteed set of results for both advertisers as well as publishers. The ad marketplace will allow for multiple ad exchanges and data exchange accounts with one platform, and advertisers will be able to control each aspect of the ecosystem – data, planning, negotiating, buying and reporting – everything except auditing of course! Programmatic technology platforms also unlock valuable data insights that help advertisers improve the effectiveness of their campaign, and tweaking it in real time to reinvest in the right areas.

MTS: What excites you the most in programmatic advertising technology?
I am seeing the amazing efficiencies that we can achieve for advertisers who believe in the use of data in this digital age. With data and analytics, we are able to see how insights can improve advertisers’ campaigns through an optimized strategy.

MTS: How do you see the ad tech landscape evolving amidst the risk of ad fraud and increasingly stringent data privacy regulations?
The adtech industry will definitely be seeing emerging technologies come through, such as the rise of blockchain and AI. Ad fraud and data privacy regulations will definitely have to evolve as well to meet these new technologies. I think it’s important for everyone in this space to stay ahead of what is “required” – especially in Asia. We are always updating our IP to ensure we are in line with standards and regulations globally. Although we have seen broad improvements in the recent years for the adtech industry, it is imperative that brands, publishers, agencies and even digital media players remain diligent and dedicated in the ongoing fight against fraud.

MTS: What startups are you watching/keen on right now?
I am keenly watching the war between ride-sharing apps around the region. I also find the fin-tech space and whole Crypto-currency phenomenon fascinating at the moment.

MTS: What tools does your marketing stack consist of in 2017?
We have an entirely in-houses stack consisting of a proprietary trading platform, a DMP and a Meta-DSP.

MTS: Would you tell us about a standout digital campaign? 
We work with a bank in one of our markets who wanted to target home loan applications. However, they only wanted to pay based on approved home loans. This was the trickiest Cost Per Action (CPA) brief we had ever received. The CPA cost we had estimated was around 5 times higher than any other campaign we had done in that market – but the “A” was also much more granular. It took us 3 months – and access to their site back end – but we absolutely nailed it! They have since decided to award Ambient Digital their complete media account and they have been one of our steadiest clients for over two years and still going strong. That’s the power of ad technology – when the advertiser trusts you.  

MTS: How do you prepare for an AI-centric world as a business leader?
We have one of the largest, most advanced and diverse technology teams in the region with data scientists, mathematicians, coders and engineers. They work tirelessly to stay up to date with global ad tech trends – and they have managed to keep ahead of the curve.

This is How I Work

MTS: One word that best describes how you work.

MTS: What apps/software/tools can’t you live without?
I live on FB messenger, WhatsApp, and old-fashioned email – I am increasingly finding almost all correspondence – be it spoken or typed – happening through FB messenger.

MTS: What’s your smartest work-related shortcut or productivity hack?
I skim read all of my emails before I get out of bed. I delete the unimportant stuff and then reread the important emails. I leave my bed, have coffee and either go to the gym or shower. I think about the important emails over that time, and as soon as I am in the taxi heading to work I pen my responses. That way my email box is empty by the time I get to the office – allowing me to focus on the issues of the day. I also turn off email alerts on my phone every night at nine so I can get some uninterrupted sleep!

MTS: What are you currently reading? (What do you read, and how do you consume information?)
I am currently reading a book called “The Bone Ritual ” by one of my favourite Authors – Julian Lees. In terms of more professional publications, I also read The Economist cover to cover every week.

MTS: What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Don’t put off till tomorrow what you can do today.

MTS: Tag the one person in the industry whose answers to these questions you would love to read:
Matt Harty from The Trade Desk

MTS: Thank you Andrew! That was fun and hope to see you back on MarTech Series soon.

Andrew is the co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Ambient Digital since the company was established in 2010. Andrew oversees the company’s regional commercial functions, including Sales, Client Services and Marketing.

Prior to joining Ambient Digital, Andrew served as Regional Director for WPP’s Kinetic, where he managed P&L responsibility and strategy for expansion of business footprint into new markets across Southeast Asia.

Andrew is a 20 year veteran of the advertising industry with international experience and over 16 years living and conducting business in countries throughout Southeast Asia including Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, Malaysia, The Philippines, Hong Kong, Cambodia and Myanmar.

Ambient Digital

Ambient Digital is the largest, fastest growing digital advertising supplier in South East Asia; headquartered in Singapore, with offices in Vietnam, The Philippines, Indonesia and Thailand. Ambient reaches over 180 million consumers and delivers over 2.8 billion impressions per month. Our products are highly viewable and engaging, delivering results for both brand and performance clients. Our scale, local connections and innovative formats combine to build the deeper conversations with local consumers essential for advertisers. As the market leaders, Ambient offers global, regional and local marketers a trusted digital partner in South East Asia.

The MTS Martech Interview Series is a fun Q&A style chat which we really enjoy doing with martech leaders. With inspiration from Lifehacker’s How I work interviews, the MarTech Series Interviews follows a two part format On Marketing Technology, and This Is How I Work. The format was chosen because when we decided to start an interview series with the biggest and brightest minds in martech – we wanted to get insight into two areas … one – their ideas on marketing tech and two – insights into the philosophy and methods that make these leaders tick.

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