MarTech Interview with Clarence Kam, Chief Product Officer at JW Player

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Clarence Kam, Chief Product Officer at JW Player talks about the top evolving trends in adtech while sharing a few best practices for first-time adtech adopters in this chat:

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Tell us a little about yourself Clarence…we’d love to dive deeper into JW Player’s core product capabilities?

I have spent my career building and launching new cutting edge technologies to the market. It started with Content Delivery Networks with Akamai in 1999 and following years with other Internet infrastructure companies. I then pivoted to the ad tech industry nine years ago with companies like BlueKai selling Data Management Platforms, Tapad bringing cross-device targeting to market, and DoubleVerify driving programmatic data targeting into various DSPs. Today as Chief Product Officer at JW Player, I set the vision and strategy for our products that enable our customers to build and monetize video solutions.

JW Player helps companies connect and engage their audiences with video.  We are the leading video platform solution for digital media companies powering over 20 billion plays every month for broadcasters, publishers, eLearning, fitness, ad networks, and others. Our player and streaming products allow customers worldwide to deliver high quality video across desktop and mobile websites, mobile apps, and CTV apps to any device. Customers whether technical developers or non-technical users can easily upload and manage their video content using our APIs or dashboard. Our Engage products drive more video plays and watch time by leveraging our wealth of data.  This data also powers our monetization solutions bringing unique advertising demand, maximizing fill rates and CPMs across platforms and screens.

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How have you seen adtech and programmatic solutions evolve in the last few years?

Adtech solutions are always aiming to display the most impactful ad to the right users.  Programmatic solutions brought a wealth of data to understand the user as well as the context of what the user is consuming.  As users went from the desktop to mobile and the recent explosion to CTV, solutions were built to bring that data into these different environments.  Due to its ability to engage users, video consumption has exploded and has been accelerated by the pandemic. The other big evolution which is creating a big buzz is the increased privacy regulations which have culminated in eliminating the third-party cookies. This makes user targeting very challenging and increases the importance of alternative targeting solutions such as contextual targeting. Yet traditional content targeting solutions focused on data about the web site or page.  One thing I’ve seen from my experience is that advertisers wanted to target the context and performance of the video itself but there was no simple way to do that. This is now possible with new technologies that have been developed to analyze individual videos for contextual data as well as ad performance such as viewability and completion rates on those specific videos. JW Player has been involved in these innovations and now advertisers have more effective tools to run their video ad campaigns primarily through private marketplace deals. This also brings more spend to the publishers who are investing more into producing video content.

A few top predictions for what the near-future holds for these solutions?

The video targeting I just mentioned is primarily happening in PMP deals because in open programmatic there has not been wide adoption of a unique identifier for the video. Over time, I expect more video targeting to occur in the open programmatic environment which is easier to set up than PMP deals. Now we’re starting to see players in the industry and some of our partners are now adopting unique identifiers such as ones that JW Player has developed for video. 

On the new user targeting challenges, some form of user targeting will still continue to exist, and it’s not going completely away. The larger publishers will have an advantage because they have the capability to get first party data at scale and will start offering their own targeting solutions. The industry is seeing an explosion of alternative solutions that will eventually settle with a few winners.

Can you share a few thoughts on some of the most innovative adtech solutions from around the world that have been game changers in the global market?

The ability to get very specific user data is powerful. The walled gardens have done this extremely well and have a lot of power because of scale and the amount and type of data they obtain. Social networks gathered very specific demographic and interest data.  Companies like Amazon have created advertising tools leveraging their plentiful purchasing and marketing data. Seeing the emergence of other types of large walled gardens has been very powerful for marketers but there is a loss of control and data when relying too much on them.  Advertisers still want and need alternate solutions to find their customers on the open web.  This is critical for all publishers and innovations on the open web help bring parity at scale to the walled gardens.  Although the walled gardens continue to be an important part of marketers’ portfolios, it’s also important to work in the more open Internet environments as well.

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As marketing privacy regulations and data privacy rules change, how do you feel this will impact marketers and advertisers in the way they use this medium to further brand engagement and growth?

The various privacy changes will be the biggest push for advertisers to explore alternative solutions and to see how effective they are to target user intent without sacrificing user privacy. Contextual targeting is proving itself as more impactful than user targeting because it targets audiences based on the content they are consuming in real time, rather than what they’ve viewed or purchased in the past or any generalizations based on their identity. User data will still continue as a tactic but it will be disruptive until there is standardization of an alternate approach to 3rd party cookies.

A few best practices to share for first time users of adtech and programmatic solutions?

Depends on which side of the house…on the sell side, provide as much information as possible on your users and the context of the content where the ad will appear such as a cooking video. In addition, make sure the ads will perform well by making sure there will be high viewability and high completion rates for video ads. These are all critical factors for marketers and will drive higher revenues. On the buy side, it’s also important to know who your customers are and which technologies will actually enable you to reach them effectively. Take the time to understand the targeting methodology that’s in place and measure the effectiveness compared to other solutions.

A few takeaways for marketing leaders and advertisers in 2021: top factors they should keep in mind as they plan for the rest of the year?

One consistent factor over many years in digital advertising is that change and innovation will not stop. It is critical to stay educated on all the changes and 2021 will be about the impact of privacy and finding the right alternative solutions.  Continue to find your customers in all the various places they spend their time.  CTV has exploded but time spent on mobile and desktop devices in and out of walled gardens and open web is still significant. 

When it comes to advertising, there are important factors you should continue to measure. For example, viewability will continue to be very important because if people aren’t seeing ads, they’re completely ineffective. Completion rates is another crucial factor because if people are engaged and watching videos till the end, advertisers are getting their full messages across. Marketers should find solutions that provide the ability to hit these KPIs effectively at scale. When it comes to video, JW Player is a leader in doing that.

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JW Player pioneered video on the web over a decade ago and continues to innovate as the world’s largest network-independent platform for video delivery and intelligence. Media companies including Fox, VICE, Insider Inc., and Univision, in addition to hundreds of thousands of creators of all types and sizes, rely on JW Player to deliver and monetize their content across all devices. JW Player’s massive global footprint of over 2 billion unique devices creates a powerful data graph of unique consumer insights and generates billions of incremental video views. The company is headquartered in New York, with offices in London and Eindhoven.

Clarence has spent his career helping build and launch new cutting edge technologies to market. It started with Content Delivery Networks with Akamai in 1999 and following years with other Internet infrastructure companies.  He then changed into the adtech industry 9 years ago with companies like BlueKai selling Data Management Platforms, Tapad bringing cross-device targeting to market, and DoubleVerify driving programmatic data targeting into various DSPs. Today as Chief Product Officer at JW Player, Clarence sets the vision and strategy for our products that enable our customers to build and monetize video solutions.

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