Interview with Ziv Elul, CEO, Fyber

Ziv Elul
Ziv Elul

“Demand still far outweighs supply when it comes to video inventory.”

Tell us about your role and how you got here? What galvanized you to start an adtech company?

If you had asked me in my 20’s where I see myself, I would have probably answered in the military. After the mandatory three year service in the Israeli military, I stayed on as an officer. As part of my service, I started my Executive MBA studies in the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Offer Yehudai, a long-time friend, helped me with a project for a class I was taking, which eventually turned into our startup in the then newly growing mobile space.

What is the State of Digital Advertising Technologies in 2018?

We’re seeing an increased need from both buyers and sellers to improve the trading mechanisms and remove the conflict of interest when it comes to how digital advertising is traded. On the demand side, buyers are frustrated because the current trading platforms can give preference to their own demand, meaning that buyers are only seeing part of the relevant traffic for them. On the supply side, publishers are frustrated because they don’t have transparency into the preference given to buyers, making them feel they may be leaving money on the table.

This has led to a general readiness in the industry for greater transparency and control and as a means to achieve this, some publishers have resorted to more manual processes, such as manually controlling the waterfall in a mediation platform or SSP. While this provides more control, this is a step away from efficiency and scale and what technology and automation have to offer. I believe that if we find a way to provide more transparency and restore trust in automation, we can achieve both control and efficiency for sellers, as well as equal access and brand safety for buyers.

How is the mobile and web advertising industry today different from when you first started?

When I started, everything in digital advertising was manual and IO-based. Even when the industry started moving towards programmatic, it was mainly performance-based campaigns. Since then a lot has changed. Today, RTB is the norm and the division between brand and performance campaigns is about 50-50% on mobile.

Another difference is the type of ads we are seeing. When I founded Inneractive, the only ad formats were banners and interstitials. Today the world is moving towards video-based advertising, more interactive formats and user-initiated content. On our own platform, we offer a variety of video ad formats including vertical video to improve engagement with full-screen mobile video ads, rewarded video, which consumers today find to be the most acceptable ad format and outstream video which has extremely high completion rates for better monetization. Demand still far outweighs supply when it comes to video inventory, but we’ve been working closely with developers and publishers to create new types of inventory that not only drive revenue but appeals to the consumer from a user perspective.

How does Fyber prepare for the disruptions in brand safety and programmatic benchmarks?
Concerns about ad fraud have been limiting premium programmatic and our goal is to make clean traffic the norm. In August, we launched our anti-fraud initiative,“Keeping it Clean,” to ensure a truly clean marketplace. To foster a transparent trading environment, we have deployed a range of tactics including developing partnerships with industry leaders such as Moat, Pixalate, Forensiq and MobileWalla for ad traffic verification, authentication, and protection, we routinely exclude and remove non-direct traffic sources, and adopted ads.txt.

Which startups in martech and adtech industries are you keenly following?

Although not exactly a startup anymore, I like to follow Amazon as a business and their aggressive move in the ad tech space as they become the next walled garden. They are an excellent example of how a company can develop one idea into plenty of other ideas. They are flexible, diverse and innovative.

What marketing and sales automation technologies do you use?
Merging four companies also meant merging the sales and automation tools used by each of the different entities (Fyber, FyberRTB, Heyzap, and Inneractive). It was integral to the success of our M&A that we set the foundation to be efficient and effective––as one company––across the full range of sales and marketing facets. We reviewed, vetted, and selected our marketing and sales automation tools based on their ability to integrate with one another. Salesforce integrates with our marketing automation software, Marketo, and our event management platform, Splash. The fact these platforms are integrated allows for three very important things: 1) greater alignment between sales and marketing; 2) a more strategic marketing approach with a focus on account-based marketing; 3) customized communication with individual clients and prospects.

Tell us about the new standards of B2B adtech engagements. How does Fyber help customers optimize user insights for better mobile advertising campaigns?

Our Audience Vault solution, which is part of Fyber VAMP,  provides publishers insights that enable them to show the true value of their inventory. These insights include but are not limited to shopping habits, brand affinity, demographics, app usage, and lifetime value.  Publishers can be creative with how they package their highest value audiences for marketers who are looking for custom segments that enable them to reach their KPIs.

What has been your best digital transformation campaign around FariBid?
It’s important to remember that Fyber FairBid is the first step towards our larger vision of creating a new mediation mechanism.  At the crux of the Fyber FairBid campaign is education as FairBid requires a fundamental mind shift from how things are done today. On the supply side, we are educating app developers on the success that the web saw with header bidding and the reasons why it will also benefit the in-app environment, and why taking away the waterfall is a good thing. It’s well documented that publishers see a 30-40% lift in eCPM. Following the rules of economics, if there’s greater competition on impressions, yield will go up.

On the demand side, it’s educating buyers that the in-app ecosystem is very different and much more nuanced with regards to how they can see and buy inventory. Most programmatic buyers don’t realize that an impression goes through a waterfall before they have access to it via a programmatic marketplace. Meaning, there’s a lot of inventory that a buyer never gets a chance to bid on because there’s a mediated space––another marketplace––in front of it.

At MWC when we announced Fyber FairBid, we did it looking to the future, embarking on a year long     campaign to educate what it truly means to compete in a flat, fair, and transparent auction.

How do you inspire your people to work with technology at Fyber?

Both Inneractive and Fyber were technology companies from the beginning so technology is at their core. Fyber is a true technology company which is not only proven by the fact that 50% of our employees work in R&D and product, but also a big part  of our line item expenses is R&D.

Technology is part of our culture. Therefore, Fyber is less focused on inspiring employees to work with technology, but rather maintaining our current startup culture. We do this in two ways.

The first is automating our environment by implementing big cross-group enterprise solutions such as Jira and Salesforce. It is important that these systems provide a good product that lays the infrastructure of the organization as well as lends excellent support.

The second is to partner with innovative startups such as Tipalti, a platform for global payments to our clients and Spotinst, a tech platform that enables us to optimize our server usage and costs. Since we partnered with several of these startups during their initial phases, our employees have essentially become their design partners, making it easier to implement their solutions into our company and work together. This is also a way to support our ecosystem.

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

As I have to juggle between a lot of tasks and responsibilities, the most important thing to me is time management which requires tools that facilitate clear communication and easy access to data.

Communication wise, I cannot imagine what I would do without Whatsapp (for personal use) and Slack (for work use). They are my basic communication channels with people all over the world that I work with.

Data wise, using cloud solutions such as Google Drive is making it super easy to share information and work effectively. In the global world we live in, having access to your data is critical.

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

It’s a little old-fashioned, but for people like me who fly most weeks, taking advantage of the hours while traveling is a must. Since my flight durations are so long, I try to come prepared with printed materials and use the time to clear out my emails and tasks.

Another hack I like to use is collaborative to-do list type of apps (such as Wunderlist and Google Notes). These apps solves two issues for me – the first is that sharing the to-do list creates transparency between me and my direct reports. I know what they have on their plates and I know the most updated status of their tasks. This brings me to the second point, productivity. These solutions enable my team to dedicate our meeting time to more important topics than mere status updates.

What are you currently reading? (What do you read, and how do you consume information?)

My reading habits formed at the young age of 13. I have always been interested in management, CEO biographies and books about processes and organizations and read a lot of books on this topic. I still do today.

These days I am in the midst of writing a book that deals with managerial dilemmas such as work-life balance, the importance of EQ, the delegation of authority versus hands-on management, pros and cons of using external advisors, etc. In terms of mediums, I utilize versatile sources. I read books and magazines as well as the internet from my smartphone, tablet and computer. So I basically consume information in every way possible.

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

The busier you are, the more efficient you become and therefore, the more you will accomplish.

I lead a very busy life including my role at Fyber, family life, military reserve service, writing my book, member of YPO (Young Presidents Organizations – a  global platform for chief executives under the ages of 45 to engage, learn and grow), etc. Somehow the more engagements and responsibilities I add, the more I get done.

Another piece of advice is to never underestimate the power of networking. Networking can solve many problems as it helps you get quality information and answers very quickly. For example, being a member of YPO has helped me a great deal over the past few years with obtaining certain valuable contacts that I needed and accessing information that otherwise would have taken me great efforts to obtain.

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

Adam Singolda, CEO of Taboola. I like his ideas and outlook on things.

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

 Ziv has 15 years of industry and management experience. Ziv’s main focus is on the business operation, R&D and financial aspects of the company. He also sits on the management of Israel’s branch of the Young President’s Organization (YPO), a global network of young Chief Executives.

Fyber is a global technology company, developing a next generation monetization platform for mobile publishers. Fyber combines proprietary technologies and expertise in mediation, RTB, video and audience segmentation to create holistic solutions that shape the future of the app economy. Fyber recently fully merged its three previous acquisitions: Heyzap, Inneractive and Fyber RTB (formerly, Falk Realtime), and is now operating under one single brand. Fyber has six global offices in San Francisco, New York, London, Berlin, Tel Aviv and Beijing. It is publicly traded on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange under the symbol FBEN.

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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