Doing the Work from the Inside Out: Rewriting the Rules for Digital Advertising

January 12, 2020 — by Joe Zawadzki


Originally published on MarTech Series.

Digital Advertising needs a shakeup. The only way to rebuild, to effect big, bold change, is to do the work from the outside in and rewrite the rules for Digital Advertising. The industry simply must come together around an end-to-end rules-based platform for Marketing that connects brands and agencies through tech to media and consumers with accountability and transparency at each point across the media supply chain.

What does it mean to be a “rules-based” platform?

In basic terms, the goal is to adopt high standards where they exist and work across the industry to build and/or fine-tune them where they don’t. These rules should form the basis for things like data provenance, defining who’s a legitimate buyer and seller in the supply chain, banning vectors for fraud and malware, redefining legacy practices in areas as basic as how numbers are counted and money flows.

All these rules will need to comply with the regulations currently in effect around data privacy—the GDPR for those doing business in the EU and soon the CCPA in California—while adapting to the new law and anticipating what laws should become when yet unwritten.

The stakes are high, the cause urgent. Companies need Marketing to survive, people need companies for jobs. Advertising funds quality journalism, journalism supports democracy. People like to discover the products and services they want and need while supporting content creation both professional and amateur.

And, while Digital Advertising has the power to grow and deepen brands’ direct customer relationships and make marketing the most measurable medium ever, we’ve never fully delivered on the promise. Brand investments in digital get lost in misaligned incentives and opacity as they make their way through either a dizzyingly complex chain of independent companies, or to the walled gardens who fund massive growth off massive bases by making the market between brands, consumers, and the third-party media owners they enable. We need a third way.

How we got here was the growth born from technology and consumers’ rapid adoption of it. In the decade and a half since the iPhone made supercomputers in pockets ubiquitous and media mobile, televisions, billboards, and radio went digital. As nature abhors a vacuum, so do advertising dollars follow eyeballs, where the dynamism of technology met a marketplace that was never designed but simply evolved.

Over the last decade, certainly, companies have adopted standards that have been defined through trade associations, but it’s been challenging to ensure system-wide implementation or compliance. It’s also been impossible to do it on a global basis. And far too many companies have shown no interest in standards at all. To ensure new industry standards aren’t just recommendations, but also carried through to be implemented, disseminated, and enforced, technology companies and content owners must work together to:

  • translate principles and law into technical code and multi-firm contractual agreements across this new infrastructure
  • impose new standards of behavior, data distribution on new rails; and
  • use market incentives to reward alignment and compliance

Essentially, build the ideal state as a microcosm of what the world should look like—show people that it works better, and then aggressively recruit everybody else to be part of it.

This rules-based platform is truly a new model for how digital advertising should operate, and one that will require a deep level of industry collaboration. To get to this ideal state, technology companies and content owners must be willing to make changes at the enterprise level. They must be prepared to change their business, in many cases—to change their business model, to define new technical standards, and to create joint roadmaps together. And brands too must change—paying more to get more—in order to reward the media owner to invest more, across a backbone of trust.

My strong belief is that if we design a new digital advertising ecosystem from the outside in—starting with the standards and rules, and building it through the lens of the consumer, we the people are it were—we will be able to deliver on the promise as originally intended: enabling brands to build meaningful, measurable connections with customers.

It’s a rare opportunity to be able to define rather than evolve. It behooves us to do it now.


MediaMath is Re-Architecting Digital Marketing to Create Better Connections Between Marketers and Consumers

July 11, 2018 — by Joe Zawadzki


With great enthusiasm and pride, and also a sense of responsibility, I write to highlight the exciting initiatives and people that will build MediaMath’s bright future. We have led our industry for more than 10 years, creating one of the largest, most respected independent digital marketing platforms in the world. We’ve done so by being restless innovators and committed collaborators—by constantly driving ourselves, our clients, and our partners toward a better vision of what marketing can and should be.

Today we begin to write our next chapter: a new technology architecture to connect marketers and consumers more effectively, promoting transparency, and preserving trust with measurable, meaningful experiences that are responsive to consumer needs and wants. Backed by $225 million in new financing, we are investing in the people, technology and relationships that will make this vision a reality.

Our vision is to make marketing everyone loves. That takes innovation, partnerships, new technology, and an empowered consumer. With the scale and financial resources commensurate of a publicly-traded company, we now have the means and teams to get it done. Indeed, we’re in an enviable position to be a catalyst for continuous innovation and a consolidator as our industry evolves.

And evolve it must. Our industry is confronting the structural limitations born of its technological progression over the last 20 years, which has for the most part been too reactive and too iterative. The principles we’ve always believed in — quantitative, outcomes-oriented, technology-powered marketing — are now acknowledged as fact. The palette with which we operate, the spectrum of digital devices, is ubiquitous, consuming more than half of our waking minutes. Digital marketing turns the crank of the global economy as a percentage of GDP. It funds the free internet, creates jobs, and sustains communities. And yet, you would be hard pressed to find anyone involved in the making or consumption of marketing that is completely… happy about it.

We’re going to do a crazy ambitious thing: bring our whole industry together around new technological standards, with modern terms of trade across old roles and new. Insisting, as we always have, upon shared goals, a commitment to ever-increasing transparency and control and an uncompromising respect for consumers’ privacy. We’re going to build a third decade of digital not for the next quarter, but for the next generation, so we can look back on this transformative time of punctuated equilibrium and know we made the right choices in this critical moment. We’re going to deliver marketing everyone truly loves — from consumers to advertisers to everyone in between.

We’re going to do the hard thing. Everyone means everyone; the right answer can’t be zero-sum. Marketing can be a force for good. It can create value, and when that value is shared instead of hoarded, marketing can fuel virtuous cycles of innovation—for consumers and brands, and for the agencies, consultants, media, technology, and data that connect them. Loves means loves. Not barely tolerates or occasionally appreciates. In short, we can and must do better. We will.

At the core of MediaMath’s vision is a strong belief in a “consumer-first” marketing future that respects and prioritizes the needs and rights of consumers. As exemplified recently by the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica scandal and its legislative investigations, concerns about the accumulation and dissemination of consumer data are on the rise, to put it mildly. MediaMath has consistently led the industry in responding to these concerns. For example, in 2016, we published self-regulatory standards that give consumers more control over their data and guarantee greater transparency in the use of that data.

We’ve bolstered our commitment to prioritize the consumer on several fronts. Danny Sepulveda, for example, spent the last two decades working with the U.S. Senate and representing America abroad on digital economy issues, including as an ambassador and as deputy assistant secretary at the State Department. He recently joined MediaMath as Vice President of Government Relations and is now helping to shape and communicate MediaMath’s policies and practices concerning privacy and consumer protection. As Vice President of Data Policy and Governance, Alice Lincoln, CIPP, defines our strategic policies around data privacy, has oversight of our global data footprints, and maintains strong connections to self-regulatory groups around the world. Over the last eighteen months, MediaMath has, under Lincoln’s direction, led the IAB EU working group that authored the Transparency & Consent Framework, a set of policy and technology standards developed in collaboration with IAB Tech Lab in preparation for the GDPR, which came into enforcement in Europe in May. In an expanded scope of responsibility, she has recently taken the helm as the leader of our Consumer First initiative. More generally, Sepulveda and Lincoln are helping us work with policymakers, industry colleagues, and thought leaders to modernize the legal and regulatory social contract for the digital age.

As to product development, we’re focusing on three core initiatives: open identity, reengineered infrastructure, and artificial intelligence. Because we recognize the importance of recruiting companies off the Lumascape to address the challenges in it, we’re partnering with the best of them on these initiatives — companies  like IBM, Akamai, and Oracle. We believe, for example, that IBM’s 107-year history of building enterprise-class technology and shepherding organizations through the disruptive changes that technology brings is a needed ingredient in this industry-wide re-architecture; that Akamai’s hundreds of thousands of servers powering a full quarter of the web’s content is a useful backbone to build off. We’ve put our best and our brightest team members behind these “Super Friend” partners, including Ellie Windle on Akamai, Al Gotbaum and Chris Victory on IBM, and Frith Fraser and Rebecca Spigner on Oracle.

Open Identity

First and foremost, to enable meaningful conversations that are informative, entertaining, and worthy of advertising’s implicit bargain (e.g. free content, promotions, discounts, experiences, loyalty, a relationship worth having), a brand’s conversation with its consumer must span that consumer’s digital devices—laptops, mobile phones, connected TVs, smart speakers, in-store beacons, and the growing range of IoT devices. Today’s world of closed graphs, regional differences, and misaligned consumer expectations doesn’t cut it. So, we’re taking a fundamentally different approach.

We’re creating a global, open, enterprise-class, pseudonymous identity solution, designed from the outset to put the consumer first. To that end, we announced earlier this year key moves like support for the IAB’s DigiTrust initiative, a non-profit organization focused on building shared identification infrastructure. And we formed a product development partnership with Oracle around cross-device recognition, measurement, and attribution.

Reengineered Infrastructure

MediaMath’s second product focus is reengineering the plumbing that connects consumer touchpoints to drive increasing efficiency and effectiveness. In the last year, we’ve kicked off several key initiatives under our Curated Markets product line to foster accountability in media procurement, optimize the number of “hops” between publishers and advertisers, and make the most premium advertising environments available to the most appropriate advertisers. In the coming year, we’re planning to roll out further innovations with partners across linear and connected TV, digital out of home, and audio, in particular, to bring the full power of programmatic marketing to these formats as well.

As Bill Wheaton, Akamai’s Executive Vice President & Chief Strategy Officer and MediaMath Board Member, recently said: “solutions that drive better user experiences and better business outcomes for our publisher clients are critical, and our partnership with MediaMath is an important part of that effort.”

Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence is the only way to create great marketing experiences that truly leverage the explosion in connected formats, devices, and data points across “paid, owned, and earned” activities.  AI is therefore our third area of focus. We’ve always brought “math” to “media,” by developing proprietary algorithms to optimize marketing activities, and more recently by opening our platform up for clients and partners to design their own algorithms. Now, we’re helping to bring the power of IBM’s pioneering Watson AI technology to all aspects of the advertising industry.

“Together, MediaMath and IBM are infusing AI into real-time marketing decisions, arming marketers with the insights needed to more effectively delight their customers,” says Inhi Cho Suh, General Manager, Watson Customer Engagement. “MediaMath’s focus on machine learning in the paid digital advertising sphere complements IBM’s leading-edge AI and cloud technology to enable brands to make the connection with consumers personal and meaningful.”

The incremental financing announced today, brings our total capital invested to over $500 million and provides ample resources to accelerate our next phase of growth. It was led by Searchlight Capital Partners, whose investments include Rackspace, PatientPoint, Ocean Outdoor, Octave Group, General Communication, Hemisphere Media, Liberty Cablevision Puerto Rico, and Global Eagle. With its investment in MediaMath, Searchlight joins existing shareholders Goldman Sachs, Santander Bank, Spring Lake Equity Partners, Safeguard Scientifics, Akamai, and Capital One Co-Founder Nigel Morris’s QED Capital. “MediaMath is uniquely positioned to architect and deliver the idealized version of the marketing stack of the future for brands and agencies,” says Darren Glatt, a Partner at Searchlight Capital.

As you know, MediaMath was recently selected by Dentsu Aegis Network to power its digital and programmatic business under Amnet’s Amnet Audience Center (“AAC”). Following a year-long deployment, a still-growing advertiser base of more than 600 advertisers in 30 global markets utilize AAC’s audience segmentation, analytics, and insights to deliver better business outcomes for its advertisers and partners.

“The industry has evolved together, with a class of consistent change-agents-for-the-better constantly redefining the status quo in pursuit of an idealized state of ‘better’ for people, for brands, for the ecosystem that connects them,” said Amnet’s Global President, Ashwini Karandikar. “We see ourselves as that, and we see great partners in the team at MediaMath.”

In addition to the personnel updates mentioned above, I wanted to highlight a few more recent executive appointments, including former Oracle exec Heather Blank, GM of Audiences; Anna Grodecka-Grad, SVP Global Head of Professional Services; Ross McNab, Managing Director of North America; Dave Reed, Managing Director, International Business Unit; Lewis Rothkopf, GM, Media and Growth Channels; and Leon Zemel, GM, Intelligence. Further reinforcing our bench strength, Franklin Rios, Global Head of Corporate Development joined the team this year following the promotion of Jenna Griffith as Chief Operating Officer, Dan Rosenberg as Chief Marketing and Strategy Officer, and Daniel Bisgeier as Chief Financial Officer.

We truly believe that digital marketing is still in its adolescence and needs a host of supporting institutions as it matures. MathCapital, a MediaMath-affiliated venture capital fund focusing exclusively on this sector is on track to make a dozen investments this year, including our first formally incubated investment in Underscore CLT, a company that develops cryptographic ledger technologies (aka “Blockchain”) to power transactions in this category., and its mission of applying the power of programmatic not just to sell products but to fund charities and nonprofits; the work of the New Marketing Institute and the Marketing Engineer Program to bring new talent into the industry and support the careers of those in it: all of these vehicles designed to achieve the vision that we began pursuing ten years ago – a vision that is increasingly becoming a reality – and we look forward to writing the next chapter with our many great team members, clients, partners, investors, and friends.

As you’ve heard before: if not us, who? If not now, when?

Let’s do this.


APAC: 2017 Programmatic Trends

December 27, 2016 — by Amarita Bansal


With 2017 around the corner, programmatic continues to grow with digital ad spending reaching record highs yet again. We take a look at what’s trending next year in the programmatic scene across North America, EMEA, LATAM and APAC.

APAC is forecasted to have $1.48 billion smartphone users by 2019, due to a surge in smartphone adoption coming from emerging markets like China and India.



Webinar Recap: Grovo and New Marketing Institute Talk Microlearning

December 22, 2016 — by Julie Gora


This article originally appears on the Grovo Blog

Just because robots aren’t taking our jobs (yet) doesn’t mean technology isn’t drastically changing the way we do business. Nowhere is that more true than in the marketing and advertising industries. SEO, SEM, programmatic, mobile, social—every time the modern marketer blinks, there is a new ad tech du jour. And with new technology comes the need for new competencies. MediaMath noticed this need early on, which is what led them to partner with Grovo to develop the New Marketing Institute (NMI).

Grovo’s Director of Learning & Innovation, Alex Khurgin, was recently joined by Elise James-Decruise, VP of MediaMath’s New Marketing Institute, for a webinar entitled Technology’s Role in Educational Expansion. Alex and Elise discussed the partnership between Grovo and NMI, how NMI created an effective learning strategy with microlearning, and how anyone can use that framework to build their own effective microlearning strategy for their organization.

If you missed it, you’re in luck! Read on for a recap so you, too, can get started building your own effective microlearning program.

What is microlearning anyways?

There are all sorts of definitions for microlearning out there, but if you want to do it right, you need to do a whole lot more than just create little bits of content and put them in front of people. If you commit to transforming your people, then the true definition of microlearning becomes more specific: a method for changing behaviors through short, spaced out learning experiences timed to points of need.

NMI uses microlearning for training, certification, and their Marketing Engineer Program (MEP). In the ever-evolving world of marketing, microlearning is one of the most cost-effective ways to scale training in new technologies and skills that meets the learner where they are in location, language, learning style and level of experience.

The 4 steps to creating an effective microlearning program:

1. Set expectations

It’s surprising how few organizations take the time to spell out exactly what’s expected of their employees. Define concrete behaviors you expect from any given role or as an outcome to training so that everyone knows what they need to do, when they need to do it, how they need to do it, and everyone at different levels and departments is aware of expected behaviors across the board.

NMI identified their success goals as: expanding program reach to 10 countries worldwide, increasing client satisfaction through their client-centered training approach, getting over 10,000 individuals trained through all of their programs, and celebrating big and small wins. They make sure to take a step back as a team to ensure that they are creating memorable experiences within a training environment every step of the way.

2. Surround the moment

In order to motivate people to engage with and apply training, you need to provide them information at the moment they need it. You can do this by paying attention to when there’s a  powerful moment of need approaching—like Black Friday for customer service reps—and placing the learning in advance of that. Or, you can create a moment of need by launching learning with fanfare—like posters or email—and building excitement around it.

NMI motivates learners by listening to the needs and wants of their learners to create timely content, developing a curriculum that supports a structured path to certification, and creating an experiential environment that gives participants hands-on opportunities to put lessons into practice.

3. Make learning stick

Once you’ve engaged people, you need to make sure the learning they receive actually changes their behaviors: from the moment of inspiration—that “aha moment”—through transformation. Giving them quick, digestible lessons that can be revisited, prompting practice through realistic challenges with realistic consequences, providing feedback, and following up with review and reinforcement are all ways to ensure that your learning actually sticks and behaviors change.

With 100% job placement for participants in their 13-week MEP program, NMI has surely mastered this step. Some of their secrets to making learning stick include bridging the gap between knowledge and experience, creating a learner-centric environment, and staying ahead of the industry trends.

4. Improve outcomes over time

Finally, it’s important to create a feedback loop in order to improve your program over time. Take a step back and assess and report how much behaviors have changed rather than learning metrics such as lesson completions. If you figure out what is and isn’t working, you can easily tweak the program to improve outcomes over time.

The idea and development of NMI came from MediaMath’s desire to fill education and talent gaps throughout the marketing industry, so they are always looking for ways to stay one step ahead of the learner. NMI encourages feedback during and after training and constantly updates their content to ensure it is as meaningful and relevant as possible.

DataDIGITAL MARKETINGMediaPROGRAMMATICTechnologyTrendsUncategorized

Marketing Wiki: Machine Learning

December 8, 2016 — by Jesse Comart


Machine learning describes the practice of a computer adapting without having to be programmed. The more data that’s fed into the computer program, the smarter it gets. It can make better predictions and continuously evolve without the computer engineer having to make adjustments to the code based on the outputs. Machine learning influences lots of things in our world today, from internet search to voice recognition software.

Machine learning also plays a critical role in marketing!

How does ML learn to improve its performance through practice? As the program gains “practice” with the task, it gets better over time, much like how we humans learn to get better at tasks with experience. For example, an ML program can learn to recognize pictures of cats when shown a sufficiently large number of examples of pictures of “cat” and “not cat.” Or a real-time bidding (RTB) system can learn to predict users’ propensity to convert (i.e. make a purchase) when exposed to an ad, after observing a large number of historical examples of situations where users converted or not.

Why can’t humans do the job? Some things are just outside of our human capabilities, like trying to predict which types of users in what contexts will convert when exposed to ads. Marketing folks might have intuition about what conditions lead to more conversions. But the problem is these intuition-guided rules can be wrong and incomplete. The only way to come up with the right rules is to comb through millions of examples of users converting or not and extract patterns from these, which is precisely what an ML system can do. Such pattern extraction is beyond the capabilities of humans.

So does this mean ML will take our jobs?  No. In fact, machine learning is increasing the number of job opportunities in the field of Data Science. Plus, humans will always be needed to understand the goals and motivations of their clients and the nuances between them.

What’s an example of how an ML program works? Say you’re an ad campaign for a new shoe on the New York Times website. Every time a user visits the website, an ad-serving opportunity arises, and given the features of the ad opportunity (such as time, user demographics, location, browser type, etc.). You want to be able to predict the chance of the user clicking on the ad based on previous data about the anonymous user. A ML program can improve its performance at some task after being trained on a sufficiently large amount of data, without explicit instructions given by a human. And with 500 billion ad opportunities every day, the machines are getting really smart, really fast!

CultureDIGITAL MARKETINGMediaMobilePeoplePROGRAMMATICUncategorized

Employee Spotlight: “I Saw Mobile Coming”

December 2, 2016 — by Amarita Bansal

From a philosophy and religion major, to touring the country following the Grateful Dead and even becoming a professional canoe guide, Michael Weaver, VP, Product Strategy, Growth Media at MediaMath, never thought he’d end up in the advertising field or digital economy while in college.

“In my dorm, there was one person who had a computer that we all tried to share to write papers on,” said Weaver. “But most of my papers were written on a typewriter!”

Now, Weaver is at the forefront of mobile.

He got his first taste of digital through a friend. “In 1993, a friend of mine who was very involved in the new age of computers was talking about the World Wide Web which we were just coming into familiarity with. So we started a little company out of our apartment where we would go to stores and restaurants offering to build a website for them.”

After his first exposure to the digital landscape, Weaver’s college roommate started his own company called BlueStreak. Here, Weaver was able to go to ad agencies and explain that there’s this thing called the internet.

“I’d have to explain to people that they’re going to need a website and, when that happens, they’re going to want to advertise. And when they advertise, they’re going to need to measure and deliver ads,” said Weaver. “So it was a lot of explaining the future to a lot of ad agencies in that role.”

After BlueStreak, Weaver started his own company Third Screen Media because, he says, “I saw mobile coming.” This was pre-iPhone days, pre-apps, pre-universal SMS, but he saw it coming because it was the future and advertisers were interested. Thereafter, it was sold to AOL, which was known as America Online at the time and after a stint at Microsoft, Weaver landed a job at MediaMath.

“Mobile is necessary. It’s 60 percent of the supply right now coming in to the bid stream, so six out of 10 hits on the internet are basically mobile-first. And if you start to skew towards millennials, its even higher,” said Weaver. “So it’s new and it’s exciting, but it’s not new because people are there. And its funny, I think back on talks and how positioning mobile has changed and it used to be messaging. Now it’s just ubiquitous, and it’s there and it’s the primary way people consume media, and that’s only going to increase.”


Social Countdown to 2017

December 1, 2016 — by Annie Fei


As 2016 is a coming to a close, the MediaMath team is looking back at the terrific year we’ve had. We’ve had the pleasure of making senior appointments in APAC, attending both Cannes Lions Festival and Dmexco and celebrating our 1 year anniversary at 4 World Trade Center!

We’ll be hosting a Twitter countdown to 2017 by highlighting our favorite moments and milestones of 2016 throughout the month of December, so follow along at @MediaMath, @MediaMathEMEA and @MediaMathAPAC or follow our hashtag, #MMLooksBack2016. You’ll be able to see our year in review and see predictions from our executive team and partners for 2017.

Thank you for continuing to support us in our journey and stay tuned for more to come in 2017!