Interview with Arndt Groth, President, Smaato

Arndt C. Groth, President at Smaato

“Competition is definitely a good thing when it comes to marketing tools, but the downside is that it always takes a long time to integrate the acquisitions into a holistic offering.”

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Tell us about your role and journey into technology. How did you arrive at Smaato?

After spending the last couple of decades with different ad tech and media companies, joining Smaato was a natural evolution. The tech industry has shifted towards mobile-first, and that’s exactly where Smaato is.

I’ve always had an interest in technology, but I became heavily involved back in the late 90s when I founded DoubleClick Germany years before its eventual acquisition by Google. As you can imagine, technology was far more limited at that time than today. The iPhone was still years away and broadband internet wasn’t widely available. Obviously, a lot has changed since then.

How is mobile adtech industry different from what it was two years ago?

Two years is a lifetime in ad tech. What’s been encouraging is that the world is truly mobile-first now, instead of simply trending in that direction as it was two years ago. Mobile is the biggest or close to the biggest advertising platform in all key markets.

What’s also changed has been heightened interest in data protection, especially in light of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) that went into effect in May. The EU regulation, along with others on the horizon, has created a lot of uncertainty about data protection. Adapting to this new normal is a challenge that not every industry player has been able to do.

What is the current state of mobile app monetization around influencer marketing and advertising? How does Smaato deliver on its ROI promises?

Mobile app monetization through advertising has never been as big as it is now. The industry is set to triple from $72 billion in 2016 to $201 billion in 2021. The amount of time that people are spending in-app is also on the rise. It’s a perfect storm of conditions for the in-app advertising industry to continue growing. In terms of influencer-driven content, platforms are gaining a larger share on the supply side.

As for delivering ROI, Smaato offers sophisticated targeting to reach the right person in the right place at the right time. Our 10,000+ advertisers and 450+ demand partners have access to more than 90,000 mobile publishers and app developers. In addition, our priority is to offer a protected mobile advertising marketplace that’s safe for both publishers and advertisers.

How do you choose, promote and sustain adtech markets for business development?

Our technology easily scales to any market, but we put special emphasis in markets that are especially promising. That’s definitely the case in China, where we recently opened a data center and office. There’s great potential for Chinese companies in the western world and also for western companies in China. We aim to provide leading mobile advertising in China, the world’s second-largest mobile advertising market, by combining local expertise with our proven technology and partnerships.

How much have the Marketing and Advertising operations changed since the arrival of Automation and BI/Analytics tools for mobile? How do you leverage these tools at Smaato?

Every transaction on Smaato’s exchange is done programmatically. Advertisers can put in the requirements of their campaign, and then the purchases are done automatically based on those parameters. It’s incredibly efficient, as automated campaign spending saves a lot of time and can be scaled as needed. We also have a dedicated Ad Quality team, which ensures that users are served only safe, high-quality ads. One of the protective measures we take is through our proprietary technology that eliminates these threats. Of course, our team of experts and other third-party technology help ensure ad quality, but finely-calibrated automation is the first line of defense.

How do you see companies like Adobe, Salesforce, SAP and Oracle raising the bar for mobile advertising in the mobile app industry?

Those four companies have invested significantly in building out their mobile advertising offerings and it seems like their acquisitions have only begun. Competition is definitely a good thing when it comes to marketing tools, but the downside is that it always takes a long time to integrate the acquisitions into a holistic offering. It’s much easier for companies like Smaato, as we have pure mobile app DNA to deliver relevant solutions.

Which marketing and sales automation tools and technologies do you currently use?

In addition to our various proprietary technologies, some of the tools we currently use include 42matters, HubSpot, Mixmax, and Salesforce. But we are always interested in learning about and testing new tools to help improve our marketing and sales performance.

What are your predictions on the most impactful disruptions in marketing operations for 2018-2020?

GDPR was just the first step when it comes to data privacy, and more regulations will be coming to the EU and other parts of the world in the next couple years. Marketers around the world need to prepare for this new normal and understand what each regulation means for their advertising efforts. The upcoming ePrivacy regulation (which is tied to the GDPR) will be the obvious next challenge for many players in the market. In addition, AI and machine learning are already becoming game changers for our industry.

What startups in the technology industry are you watching keenly right now?

There are a lot of promising startups working on blockchain (almost too many to keep track of!) which could provide greater transparency to the ad tech industry. It looks like truly impactful developments might be some time away, although it’ll be interesting to see how this field develops.

How do you prepare for an AI-centric world as a Business leader?

It’s important to keep an open mind. A few years ago, pessimists said it was impossible for AI to be as effective as it is now. Now, these people are trying to catch up with everyone who was bullish on AI. The key is to find the balance between being optimistic and practical. For us, AI and machine learning are priorities in various areas of our business.

How do you inspire your people to work with technology?

Technology is at the very core of everything we do, so we empower the team to be creative when it comes to technology. One way we do that is by having regular hackathons. These events, which are organized completely by employees, challenge people across functions and disciplines to come up with creative solutions to problems that are both big and small.

One word that best describes how you work.

Collaborative. Listen first and then make a decision.

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

Facebook. It enables me to stay in touch with friends all over the world.

What’s your smartest work related shortcut or productivity hack?

Our implementation of Slack has greatly improved performance and efficiency at Smaato.

What are you currently reading?

I still love printed books. I just finished “Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future” by Ashlee Vance. It’ll help you better understand Tesla´s current challenges after reading.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

Don’t rush into things; think twice before making a final decision.

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

Maurice Levy, Chairman of Publicis Groupe.

Thank you, Arndt! That was fun and hope to see you back on MarTech Series soon.

Arndt joined Smaato as President in September 2017 and is responsible for Smaato’s core business operations. As one of digital marketing’s pioneers and thought leaders, Arndt brings to Smaato more than twenty years of executive-level experience in business leadership and digital marketing. Prior to joining Smaato, Arndt was CEO of publicly listed PubliGroupe AG in Lausanne, Switzerland, which he guided through its acquisition by Swisscom AG.  Arndt also founded DoubleClick Germany and then went on to be DoubleClick’s VP Media Northern Europe.

smaato-logoSmaato is the leading global real-time mobile advertising platform, connecting 10,000+ advertisers — including 91 of the Top 100 Ad Age brands — with over 90,000 app developers and mobile web publishers. Smaato manages up to 19 billion mobile ad impressions daily and reaches over one billion unique mobile users monthly. Founded in 2005 by mobile pioneers Ragnar Kruse and Petra Vorsteher, Smaato has global headquarters in San Francisco, California, with additional offices in Berlin, Hamburg, New York City, Shanghai, and Singapore.

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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.