Interview with Gustav Mellentin, CEO, Adform

Gustav Mellentin, Adform
interviwes
Gustav Mellentin
Gustav Mellentin
CEO, Adform
adform

“Data Management and Customer Data Platforms are like a super sports car. They are beautiful, but if they are only parked in a garage, you are not getting what you have paid for.”

On Marketing Technology

MTS: Tell us about your role and how you got here? What inspired you to start an open, full stack adtech company?
We got started in 2002 when the ad industry was on the cusp of a significant change and that created a series of incredible opportunities. At the time the ad industry was a $500 million-dollar industry that was suffering from efficiency issues and was lacking consolidated systems and solid measurement. My partners and I decided we wanted to solve some of the efficiency issues by creating a new software called Adform. At that time, we were only an ad-serving platform. We have come a long way since then!

MTS: How do you see audience data segmentation improving with the maturity of Data Management Platforms?
Data Management and Customer Data Platforms are like a super sports car. They are beautiful, but if they are only parked in a garage, you are not getting what you have paid for. Most improvements will come by investing time and resources into the setup, into building global blueprints, and local adaptations aligned with your data strategy. The machine can only be as smart as the people using it. My advice is: Combine your human intelligence with adtech power and artificial intelligence to turbocharge your Data Management Platform.

MTS: How does Adform leverage Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning (AI/ML) to optimize ad spending?
AI/ML has been the core of our technology for a while. Adform is built on top of a shared machine-learning platform that powers not only trading (“spending”) but also Dynamic Creative, Audience Extensions,  and Fraud Detection etc.

Our expert data scientists and engineers are constantly A/B testing different approaches to find the right sweet spot for each algorithm. At the end, there is still no such thing as a free lunch. It takes time and effort to find the right AI/ML method, feature vector, and to improve it over time. A proper and structured A/B testing is at the core of all of this in order to truly find out what is working for our clients and what is not.

MTS: What are the core tenets of Adform’s programmatic stack? How do you intend to grow your programmatic capabilities?
We believe in the synergy between the different components of the ad stack and being fully connected to a wider eco-system. This coincides with a more effective offering due to efficient workflows with unified UI, real-time data storage, and reduced data loss. These feed our focus, which is on simplicity paired with optimizing the user experience and the ability to handle more campaigns with less manual work (integrating AI everywhere, audience first) to deliver better results that scales.

MTS: With GDPR round the corner, how should brands empower themselves with the right strategy to sail through the challenge?
GDPR is a subject we take very seriously. We have actively worked with IAB Europe for a long time and we are extremely busy with GDPR requests since most brands and agencies require a lot of assistance on this. Cookies become personal data under GDPR. This means that marketing departments are legally required to prove compliance to the authorities with respect to all of their ad tech and many of their martech deployments. That is a huge task for our clients and agency partners and GDPR demands a lot of attention internally both from IT and legal departments. Our approach is to provide our clients with a full GDPR readiness package which includes action lists, certifications, and more which we supply after conducting workshops, but I am afraid it is too large a topic to outline the entire strategy they need to follow here. I can only encourage everybody to make sure they are ready before May 25, 2018!

MTS: What startups are you watching/keen on right now?
The most interesting is by far Amazon’s pivot towards entering the ad tech landscape. They present an exciting disruptor that is already starting to force behavior changes from the duopoly. It’s hard to predict what this means for the long-term health of the advertising landscape, but it does provide one of the most interesting shakeups in the last 24 months.

MTS: What tools does your marketing stack consist of in 2017?

  • Demand Side Platform
  • Data Management Platform
  • Ad Server
  • Supply Side Platform & Private Marketplace

MTS: Would you tell us about your standout digital campaign?
We are using our own platform and a unique blend of optimization and creative tools to drive the best digital campaigns in the industry. Plus, we are lucky enough to have a team of world-class designers and an award-winning production team. Our target audience are prospects and existing clients and each campaign has clear KPIs such as the number of signups for our informational webinars.

MTS: How do you prepare for an AI-centric world as a business leader?
We have been preparing for a while. Our strategy is focusing on gradually fully automatizing all aspects of advertising while still allowing experts to give input or control the system. All sophisticated AI / ML approaches runs as black boxes and interpretability of how the decision was taken is difficult. Decision makers do not fully trust the machines until the machines have proven over time that they are delivering at a higher rate than human experts. As a result, we consider AI centricity a long journey which basically is centered around trust. As such, we have built an AI / ML platform capable of taking over all aspects of digital advertising but at the same time are opening up the box as wide as we can such that people learn to trust the machines.

This Is How I Work

MTS: One word that best describes how you work.
Present

MTS: What apps/software/tools can’t you live without?

  • Momondo.com (Great Danish travel app)
  • Mobilepay (Simple money transfer tool. Good to have when your teen daughter is in desperate need of support.)
  • Nemlig.com (Grocery delivery, quite new for Denmark and I love it!)

MTS: What’s your smartest work related shortcut or productivity hack?
Evernote/Jot

MTS: What are you currently reading?
I rarely have time to sit down to read a book, but recently read and enjoyed Homo Deus by Yuval Noah Harari. If I have time I really enjoy historical documentaries through my TV app. I do however follow a lot of news through apps, with The Economist as one of my regular go-tos.

MTS: What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
“Hire people who are better than yourself.” It’s a bit of a classic, but I find it’s one of those adages that becomes truer over time. One of the biggest challenges in leadership is finding and then delegating power to a network of carefully chosen, highly skilled people. As Adform has grown from three people, where we could take care of everything, to more than 800, it has required a constant re-examination of who we’re hiring, who we rely on, and the internal expertise we have. The incredible caliber of the people I get to work with on a daily basis as a result is one of my favorite things about where the Adform journey has taken me, and something that keeps me perpetually learning and inspired to be better.

MTS: Tag the one person in the industry whose answers to these questions you would love to read:
Jeff Bezos

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

Adform is the leading independent and open full stack advertising technology platform that encompasses data, creativity and trading into one seamless enterprise product suite servicing media agencies, trading desks and advertisers. All of our products are modular and easily inter-operate with all other point solutions used throughout the digital advertising ecosystem.

Adform was founded in Denmark in 2002 and is one of the world’s largest private and independent advertising technology companies. With offices in 18 countries, Adform has more than 780 employees globally throughout Europe, North America and APAC.

adform logo
Adform is the leading independent and open full stack advertising technology platform that encompasses data, creativity and trading into one seamless enterprise product suite servicing media agencies, trading desks and advertisers. All of our products are modular and easily inter-operate with all other point solutions used throughout the digital advertising ecosystem. Adform was founded in Denmark in 2002 and is one of the world’s largest private and independent advertising technology companies. With offices in 18 countries, Adform has more than 780 employees globally throughout Europe, North America and APAC.

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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