Looking Back, Looking Forward

December 31, 2015 — by Joe Zawadzki    

In some ways, 2015 was the year of adolescence for MediaMath. We’ve matured, coming into our own and defining what we are as a company. We grew up, in geography, size and scale. And, at the risk of overplaying the metaphor, we’re starting to think about what being an adult means in terms of both ambitions and responsibilities.

Let’s start with what we know.

Today, MediaMath has the foundational technology, processes and people in place to achieve the marketing outcomes for thousands of clients. We’ve wrangled the fragmented pieces of our industry into a semblance of order. Due in large part to the hard work of our teams, this year we solidified our position as the largest independent demand-side platform. You’ve heard me say it before, but we are reaching escape velocity, with the resources, long-term vision and orientation to make 2016 a defining year for the industry and our place in it.

Starting with our clients, we have become increasingly focused even as we scale. One of the rewards of success is to be even more selective in terms of who we work with and how. As leaders in the industry, our clients are smart, sophisticated change agents who envision a powerful new future for their company’s marketing efforts and the very marketing profession. They are willing to both push and be pushed to see that vision manifest. Together we are challenging the status quo on measurement and metrics, creating brand new connections to media and data partners through private and privileged marketplaces—dissolving artificial internal and external barriers to create structural long-term success.

Advertisers don’t want more noise. They want the human and technical connection to a complicated marketplace. They’re asking: Who do I trust—from media partners, to data sources, to cloud, point and emerging technologies, to marketing services firms and agency partners—to achieve my most pressing business goals?

This year, we saw new adherents to ProgrammaticFirst—a focus on addressable media, data-and audience-driven marketing strategies, all optimized to true business goals—across most or all of their digital investments. New clients across the globe like, Grainger and Dell have embraced this with great results and even more transformative ones to come. Our account model will help identify and cultivate clients toward this end, with our programmatic playbook effort led by Jocelyn Hayashi and our vertical strategy led by Abhijit Shome—both designed to accelerate outcomes.

To push the boundaries of where programmatic is relevant, we evolved how we work with our partners. This means shifting the mix of digital, mobile, video and social. We made real strides with our video solution throughout the year, closing it out with video spend breaking 10% in Q4, and mobile close to 40%. The combination of scale and willingness to innovate (scalable innovation!) had us first on most partners’ lists to create new and differentiated offerings, from Apple iAds to Time Inc.’s programmatic print, to unique relationships with global publishers like Globo, Daily Motion, Yahoo! and eBay.

In 2016, expect MediaMath to explore new frontiers like addressable TV, thinking about how to fundamentally improve the advertising infrastructure for consumers, brands, and the entire ecosystem that supports them with initiatives with Akamai, in member cooperatives and through direct investments in disruptive categories and companies. You’ll see “walled gardens” feel more like “gated communities” to our clients as a result of our focus on true incremental marketing outcomes for clients and willingness to share it with partners.

Our product and engineering teams were busy this year. A significant investment of time and capital went into stability and scalability, upgrading software, hardware and architecture to create capacity for the future. We have also committed to doubling down on our strengths in machine learning and data-driven insights with the hiring of Prasad Chalasani as our Senior Vice President of Data Sciences with a mandate to maintain and extend our lead in these areas.

A number of market-first products went into open beta. You’ll hear more about these in early 2016, but our focus on identity management and data management are unique offerings for our industry and will be married to strong commercialization efforts in the new year.

We’ve become increasingly involved in helping shape policy related to consumer privacy, helping define and promote best practices globally through our work on the Interactive Advertising Bureau, Direct Marketing Association, Network Advertising Initiative, Digital Advertising Alliance and other industry groups in which we hold leadership positions. We’ve also started the process of becoming SOC 2-compliant, a standard for regulating organizational controls related to security, privacy, confidentiality, availability and processing integrity.

We continued to educate the industry through the New Marketing Institute (NMI) and usher new talent into the digital marketing landscape via its Marketing Engineer Program (MEP). As of year-end, NMI has trained more than 4,000 marketers on certification content and graduated 36 participants from MEP with 100% placement rate, including our first six from our EMEA expansion of the program this year.

We made a number of key hires in 2015 to support our aggressive growth plans. Media industry veteran Peter Piazza joined as General Counsel in June. Rich Schmaeling came on board as CFO in September. Advertising industry pioneer Joanna O’Connell became our new CMO in October, joining from AdExchanger’s research practice. We plan to hire aggressively in 2016 as we continue to grow our footprint.  And to support this growth, we rolled out a new 360-degree review process, visible by all individuals in the company and introduced an equity program for employees normally contemplated by companies substantially later in their lifecycles.

The move to our new global headquarters at Four World Trade Center in October marked a milestone in our growth. We have enough space to properly house half of our global employee base and host our clients and partners. As we prepare for 2016, we’re at the epicenter of the digital marketing ecosystem.

This is key, not just for our New York City contingent, but also for our EMEA, LATAM and APAC colleagues. It’s the right place to be at the right time, because I believe there’s a transformation happening in the industry. Huge new swaths of inventory will become addressable, while dynamic creative and media decisioning begin to converge. Leading marketers will start to implement custom attribution models and use them to take action, while true omni-channel executions will be seen at some scale.

There’s a lot to be done and I can’t imagine doing it with a smarter or more driven group of people. I’m incredibly excited about this coming year and hope you are too—see you in 2016!

Joe Zawadzki

After a decade representing buyers at top-tier agencies and Fortune 500 companies, Joe Zawadzki saw the need to reshape the online marketing landscape by integrating technology, data, analytics, and marketing best practices into a single media platform. He founded MediaMath in 2007, launching a technological revolution with the first demand side platform (DSP) and today, the MediaMath Marketing Operating System, TerminalOne, powers the marketing practice of more than 3,500 brands. Joe holds several patents in the area of online methods for dynamic segmentation and content presentation. He is a graduate of Harvard University and was a Teaching Fellow in cosmology, set theory and the history of science. He lives in New York City with his wife, Daria, and their children Dune and Jack, born on the summer and winter solstices respectively.