TechBytes with Paul Ryan, CTO at OpenX
Hi Paul, tell us more about your role and team you handle at OpenX.
My role as CTO at OpenX covers a variety of functions across the business. Part of this involves overseeing and structuring internal tools and technology, looking at everything from the Cloud platform our business runs on (GCP) to the processes we set up to run our global help desk.
I also oversee our Product team — thinking about what we’re building and how that ties to benefits for our partners and revenue for OpenX. Whether looking at internal processes around things like how we handle data to client-facing products and solutions, all of our technology needs to work together seamlessly, and it’s my job to make sure this happens.
How big is your team and how do you serve the Programmatic ad marketplace?
My team is about 120 people globally, including a large engineering center in Kraków. We make the process of buying and selling digital ads as efficient and effective as possible, which includes helping our partners best leverage the latest technology. A prime example is the work we’re doing around Prebid.
Prebid is an open-source solution for publishers to manage their header bidders and their full AdTech stack. OpenX contributes code to the project to improve how the solution helps publishers, and I personally sit on the board of the organization. Prebid also gives publishers greater control over their ad revenue, which is great, but it can be difficult for some publishers to manage alone, so we have made a concerted effort to lean into this and help our partners figure it out.
We’ve also invested significantly in People-based Marketing — an area where the ‘walled gardens’ have been known to thrive. Our OpenAudience™ solution aims to help marketers replicate the successes of those platforms, but across the massive scale of the open web. It’s important that marketers have options that allow them to diversify their spend and maximize reach, without sacrificing on the performance they need to deliver on campaign goals.
You recently moved to Google Cloud Platform. How has it helped OpenX achieve a progressive technology framework and timely support?
Moving our infrastructure to the Cloud has already paid major dividends for us, and the benefits are clear. Our platform is scalable in a way not possible on physical servers. When there are peaks and spikes in traffic, we can adjust in real-time to meet the needs of our partners. Additionally, we pay for what we use and don’t have to provision services for peak loads.
Another benefit of GCP is getting access to advanced services like the Google AI platform. We’ve uncovered a variety of areas where we’ll be able to tap into the AI and Machine Learning capabilities. It’s something we’re actively using now to streamline the operation of our exchange.
We have seen a spike in the Video streaming platforms and Audiotech (Spotify, etc). Conferencing tools are the new lifelines of many B2B collaborations. Which other sets of technologies are making lives easy for Advertising teams to meet parallel expectations from internal teams and customers?
Outside of Video conferencing, Communication tools like Slack and Jira (and the whole Atlassian suite of products) have grown in importance, and at OpenX, we’re certainly seeing a shift in how we use these platforms. In recent months, we’ve leaned into webinars and have started initial conversations about hosting virtual client events later in the year instead of our annual summits.
Technology tools that help manage costs are also emerging as a critical part of navigating the current landscape. As an industry, we need to be smart about moving forward and CTOs, or other people in my position, are often the ones being asked to look at the systems in place and potential areas for savings.
COVID-19 has been the biggest disruptor in 2020. How’re you dealing with the chaos? What preparedness have you built to lead and sustain your business goals leading to the future?
COVID-19 has certainly been a disrupter, something that no one could have predicted or planned to tackle this year. For our business, we’re looking at this through two lenses that may seem contradictory but actually go hand-in-hand. The first is that we don’t expect a fast return to normal. Rather, it’s more likely we’ll see a slow, steady return. We can’t look at this as a tough quarter or two that we need to get through, but as something that fundamentally changes how we operate.
On the other hand, we also need to operate under the mindset that the business needs to go on. Certain Advertising verticals are understandably pulling back spend, but others are growing.
Advertising can still deliver ROAS for marketers, even in this new environment. And for publishers, while many are seeing traffic spikes as people stay home and consume more content, it’s more important than ever to strengthen our relationships and help them figure out the best way to maintain or grow revenue through this time.
Could you tell us more about the Adtech partnerships you are forging to fight COVID-19 slowdown together?
It’s less about forging new partnerships, and more about being the best possible partners to the advertisers and publishers that depend on us. We’ve already been working closely with brands and agencies on SPO reviews, sharing info they need to make informed decisions about who to work with. This has accelerated in recent weeks as many are looking to limit partners to a smaller, more trusted group of companies that have proven their ability to add value.
Prebid, which I mentioned earlier, will also become more important. As an open-source project, Prebid is already collaborative, and publishers can use its code across the world. If ad spend is going to experience a global pullback for the coming months, publishers need to be sure they have the best possible AdTech stack in place to maximize revenue. If we can help publishers optimize and get the most out of Prebid, we can help them get through tough times.
Tag the one person in the industry whose answers to these questions you would love to read.
Scott Howe, CEO at LiveRamp.
Paul Ryan is the Chief Technology Officer at OpenX where he oversees a global team of more than 150 engineers and data scientists to foster the development of new, innovative programmatic technology.
Prior to OpenX, Paul was the CTO and founder of the mobile search company Zowdow. He has also held CTO roles at Yellow Pages Group, Leads360, and Overture. During his time at Overture, Paul was principally responsible for engineering the world’s first high scale auction-based market for the web, an innovation that established the foundation of today’s $45 billion programmatic marketplace.
Paul holds a BSE, EECS from Princeton University, an MS in Computer Science from John Hopkins University and an MBA from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.
At OpenX, we solve a fundamental issue for brands: how to reach consumers, at scale, in a fragmented media environment. We power highly relevant advertising, delivering quality and value to consumers, publishers and marketers across every type of connected screen and ad format globally.
We have built a team that is uniquely experienced in designing and operating high-scale programmatic ad marketplaces, and we are constantly looking for thoughtful, creative innovators who are as fascinated as we are about solving big problems with a dynamic and diverse team doing the best work of our careers.