Hi Matt, please tell us about your journey within the Adtech industry and how you started at VDX.tv (formerly known as Exponential)
My first ‘industry’ job was in the classified team at the London Evening Standard, selling print ads with a rudimentary upsell to online. Even then (c.2004) print was clearly in trouble, so it seemed perfectly natural for me to go into digital, working for online publishers and casual games developers before focusing specifically on mobile, when I headed up the UK office for a global mobile ad network.
In the last few years though, everything has quite rightly been about doing things cross-platform – and I’ve had exposure to the full spectrum of digital channels up and down the funnel. One of the attractions of what was then Exponential (now VDX.tv), was the fact that it had something to say both in the hard performance space, going back a long time, and increasingly in terms of brand engagement through high-impact video.
Mobile advertising is losing its shine to OTT and CTVs. What do you have to say about surviving in this competitive landscape?
Give advertisers what they want in a way that is as simple to engage with as possible. Make your offer as tailored as you can to their vertical and specific circumstances and needs and be honest about what is and isn’t possible. Then back that up with the best client service you can muster and of course make the campaigns perform. I wouldn’t say that Mobile is losing out in any real way to OTT/CTV however- we need to resist the ‘shiny new thing’ mentality – we’re simply moving closer to a situation where Marketing channel boundaries are becoming more of a hindrance than a help.
At VDX.tv, our whole approach is based on the fact that a screen is a screen, no matter the size. It’s important to factor in how a big screen TV is interacted with differently to a mobile device, (for example) but for younger generations than my own, there is not even the slightest ‘future shock’ in being able to watch almost any movie or TV show you like on your mobile at the drop of a hat. They don’t see any meaningful distinction between that and happening to watch it on the smart TV instead, and we should not be left ‘fighting the last war’ in that respect.
Last month VDX.tv launched into international markets, how do you anticipate this will impact the wider industry?
I think there are two key points that we’re trying to get across, which are a bit different from what most of the industry offers up. Firstly, Video can be much more than just an upper-funnel tool if leveraged creatively- as evidenced by how successful our VDX (video-driven experiences) solution is – and second, that there is value in offering a comprehensive package that covers all platforms and screens, that allows advertisers to easily get a consistent message out, which is nevertheless tailored to the different experiences that e.g. mobile offers versus CTV.
The first is an answer to the perennial question of how to bridge that gap between branding and performance, and the second speaks to the huge amount of fragmentation in the marketplace, with a huge number of ‘horizontal’ or point solutions, but not much in the way of vertical solutions that marketers are crying out for.
Why do you think there is still so much emphasis on Video advertising and what have been the most significant changes to this format within recent years?
Video Advertising has grown because it works and, notwithstanding the finite amount of premium, non-UGC content out there, reach and scale can be achieved. It is now entering a new, still young era that is evolving rapidly all around us- not least now that streaming is going through the roof with everyone stuck indoors.
When a few years ago we were just talking about standard pre-rolls in digital instream slots, with unadapted TV content, now we’re looking at a space that encompasses addressable TV at one end, and customized video ads running in in-read and display placements alongside premium editorial content at the other. What we’re effectively doing with our VDX ad formats is merging the best of video with the best of display, to create an interactive experience that can be tailored to fit the advertiser’s content and objectives, perhaps incorporating a localization element (for example) so your nearest dealer or stockist is highlighted right in front of your eyes in a way that wasn’t possible before.
But sometimes, it can be as simple as converting your 30-sec TV ad spot to a vertical video, optimized for mobile, with subtitles, that knows its audience and context, and therefore doesn’t drag on for much more than 10 seconds, at the outside!
Do you believe there are any particular skills gaps within the Adtech space and how do you think the industry needs to address these?
I can’t really speak for technical or operational skills, but in terms of good old-fashioned sales skills and customer service, I’ll sound like an old man for saying so, but most definitely. I am eternally stunned by how often I hear agencies or advertisers moaning about their suppliers (or indeed their agencies) being hopeless at the basics of not looking after their customers, prospective or long-lasting. It’s not just the big players who are guilty either.
Perhaps this isn’t a problem unique to Adtech, mind you- but it certainly helps those who do know how to treat clients properly at any rate. I would also suggest that while there is a lot of good work done at the ‘tactical’ level, being quite a young industry there is often a deficit in ‘strategy’, by which I mean evaluating how a given short-term trend fits into a more historical perspective, which helps put things in a more useful context. Again, this is a problem for the whole of digital marketing from the advertiser to the agency onwards, not just ‘Adtech’ in the narrow sense.
VDX.tv recently launched a global digital video PSA initiative to educate the public on COVID-19, can you tell us more about this initiative?
Our CEO Dilip DaSilva feels that as a global Advertising technology company with the tools and the access to be able to take rapid and meaningful action, it only makes sense for us to harness our resources and do our part in the ways we can to slow the spread of the virus.
As a result, VDX.tv has deployed specially made video ad units across numerous publisher sites in a great many markets worldwide, to circulate important health and safety information. With this initiative, we hope to be able to collaborate with corporations, brands, agencies, publishers, and spokespeople to amplify these crucial messages. We’re very grateful for the publishers and brands who have already contributed to this campaign with either financial contributions or ad space.
What unique AI/emerging technology start-ups and labs are you keenly following?
Outside of the Adtech industry, there’s probably nothing more important right now than addressing climate change and making human activity more sustainable at the macro level. As such, I’m fascinated by various things that could be grouped under ‘environmental tech’ and companies working in Distributed Energy Resources, from Elon Musk’s PV roof tiles to tech that is designed to help clean the oceans of plastic, to hydrogen fuel cells, etc.
The development of autonomous vehicles, and the philosophical questions it has been raising, is also something I am following closely, as is ‘health tech’ and personalized medicine.
What other emerging technologies within your industry are you interested in?
The 5G roll-out is clearly going to open up a range of new possibilities over the next couple of years or so, not least in terms of how some exciting creative opportunities are enabled by higher mobile data speeds, and it’s almost grimly fascinating to see how ‘the internet of things’ is just beginning to show us what the future home might look like (with dystopian as well as more hopeful scenarios!).
In the nearer term, the interface between greater personalization of Marketing messaging on one hand, and the (necessary) changes happening to protect people’s privacy is going to be interesting to watch- the race is on for the answer to the question of ‘identity’ and how this translates in the post-cookie age. Also, no matter what tech you develop, it’s nothing more than another tool. If you don’t have an actual person in the process at some point with a good creative idea, and some understanding of how to execute at a strategic level, then forget it.
Matt Keating is the Sales Director UK at VDX.tv.
VDX.tv is a global advertising technology company that is transforming the way brands connect with relevant audiences in today’s converging video landscape. We create video-driven experiences that integrate a brand’s TV and digital messages and empower marketers to captivate viewers, compel action, and convert awareness into response. We connect the dots between people, devices, and households to deliver a more consistent, relevant, and meaningful brand experience across connected TVs and personal devices.
Our multidimensional approach to household targeting provides visibility into the entire consumer journey, allowing brands to amplify their message and turn consumers into customers.