Denise Shrivell

Digital People - Stephen Hunt

Welcome to Digital People where this time I'm pleased to present Stephen Hunt, Managing Director - Asia-Pacific at video advertising business - TubeMogul. Stephen outlines his history with our industry & highlights challenges & opportunities surrounding the fast growing programmatic/RTB 'revolution'. A comprehensive & informative read where Stephen's passion for our industry jumps off the page....

Stephen Hunt, TubeMogulName:  Stephen Hunt
WorksTubeMogul
Job Title: Managing Director – Asia-Pacific
   
Please highlight your industry experience and how, where and when you came to digital media?
   
My path to digital media and ultimately to TubeMogul’s real-time video ad buying platform has been a long journey from my days as a lifeguard and swimming teacher.  My early professional career was focused on the HIV/AIDS cause leading me to take roles with several Not-For-Profits, divisions within the United Nations and eventually to co-founding a charity called YEAH (www.yeah.org.au) which still does great work to this day. 
   
Prior to that, I was an actor/musician and when I applied for my first digital job at News Interactive, the two poms who interviewed me (Danny Bass and Phil Duffield) were more interested in my acting roles and a charity swim I had completed across the English Channel than anything much related to media.  I had no idea about the industry though a good friend had prepped me on a few of the agency names just in case I needed to blag my way through the interview.  Unfortunately when Danny asked me if I had dealt with any of the agencies I gave it away when I pronounced the ‘T’ in Carat while rolling off a few I’d learnt the night before. Whoops!

In any case, I was hired and started at News Interactive in 2006 amid their re-branding to become News Digital Media.  Paul Fisher was the National Sales Director and I quickly cut my teeth as a sales person responsible for GroupM.  It was a time when digital marketing was considered a value-ad for print buys (oh how things have changed) and most briefs could be answered with a combination of a homepage takeover and some RON impressions thrown in for good measure.

My career progressed quickly at NDM when I was given the opportunity to create an advertising model around the acquisition of ticketing site Moshtix.  The numbers went through the roof and I was quickly made responsible for the monetisation of several other NDM assets. The strategy team was born out of this approach and after a couple of great years I left NDM to travel Central and South America for 12 months on my honeymoon.  At NDM I realised that video had a great future but its time was yet to come.
   
I returned to the market in late 2009 eager to make a career in video and found Adconion looking for someone to drive their Adconion.TV initiative.  This would become the first video ad network in the country delivering ads via in-stream and in-banner formats to audiences at a scale that could rival traditional television.  We quickly re-branded the business as the Joost Video Network following an acquisition and went about simplifying online video broadcast.  The growth was staggering and we were quickly joined by TVN who were a great competitor for the two years I was Director.

Adconion and I parted ways amicably just a few days before the birth of my son and while taking some time out I was approached by TubeMogul to lead their growing Australian business while venturing into other markets in the APAC region.  TubeMogul had already secured several high profile DSP deals and I quickly realised the opportunity to revolutionise brand marketing was at my fingertips – how could I say no?
   
Outline your role with TubeMogul  - what do you actually do?
   
As Managing Director, Asia-Pacific my job is to make brand marketing simple, safe and effective for brand advertisers.  If you believe that the digitisation of all video is inevitable through the gradual transition to Connected TV from STV and FTA, then there is an opportunity for a company to pioneer a new approach to branding.  Almost every other digital business is primarily focused on direct response metrics like clicks and acquisitions while paying lip service to branding.  We are solely focused on bringing accountability to branding while simplifying the whole process with our media buying platform (PlayTime) and our brand survey tool (BrandSights).
   
Can you offer a brief insight into TubeMogul  – your journey so far, current market position and forward plans?

The doors of TubeMogul’s Sydney office opened in January this year.  Over the last 10 months we have led a rapid transformation of the market away from broad-based network buying toward a model of transparent impression buying, with RTB (Real-Time Bidding) technology as its core.  We are currently regarded as the market leader in video advertising, with most agencies utilising our technology and/or services in some way.  We also found new success working with publishers to extend their audiences while helping content houses add media to their revenue streams by adopting our buying platform.  With an office in Singapore and a team of 10 across the region, we are established and here to stay with a big focus on delivering the legendary service our reputation is built on. 
   
It is a competitive space that will only get more crowded so it is going to be crucial to continue our rapid evolution on the technical side while also driving an agenda of thought-leadership with research and analysis.  We are the experts in brand marketing and will continue to evolve our knowledge faster than anyone else to stay ahead of the pack.

Please share your views on the current state of the digital media market?
   
Having just overtaken print and hot on the heels of FTA, it’s a good time to be in digital.  That said, digital itself is going through it’s own transformation as the traditional media sales person and planner/buyer are learning to live with programmatic buying platforms and trading teams.  There are incredible efficiencies being gained and the opportunity is there for digital to be GREAT!

For video, we still have some obstacles to overcome before we can rightly take the mantle of TV. These obstacles are largely structural issues on the supply side and education on the demand side but we are well on our way to removing these roadblocks and I’m excited about the next 3-5 years where I predict the most dramatic changes will occur.
   
Is there any one person, digital business or sector you think we should be keeping an eye on?
   
I am probably a bit biased, but it is amazing to work directly with the people powering the agency trading desks.  These guys and girls are operating on another level and are constantly challenging my team to make their innovative ideas a reality.  They are the people in the agencies who know what is real, who are thirsty for knowledge, who are onto the latest thing, who understand how technology can integrate with the human element and who aren’t afraid to fail in the spirit of trying something new.  Australia is earning a reputation for leading the RTB/programmatic revolution largely driven by the courage of these teams to push the boundaries as they test, learn and evolve. 
   
What do you see as the key challenges and opportunities in the digital media market in the coming 12 months?
   
At a high level, as the market shifts to an era of transparent buying very quickly, we are in a transition period where the marketers are ahead of publishers to a certain extent and there is pressure on the supply side, a challenge that private exchanges should alleviate over time.  
   
As video viewership adapts, another challenge is figuring out best practices for lifting metrics like message association and purchase consideration across screens and leveraging this data in real-time. Where an ad runs is important, but how much do third-party audience segments affect the equation? Do auto-intenders measurably lift brand metrics for a car ad?  How strong is that intent?  How much should you pay for it?  Where was it collected?  When?  In many ways, the new frontier of transparency is audience data, and these are tough questions for a nascent part of the industry, but one that a real-time buying platform is in a great position to answer since it gives marketers total transparency and control over every aspect of a media buy.

In terms of opportunities, real-time buying is poised to grow, letting marketers shift budgets fluidly based on what is working with a specific audience based on custom goals. Other opportunities include the online TARP, which will be a real and accurate measure though debate will rage for some time as to why we should apply to old measure to the new medium when we can measure so many other things that are arguably more important.  We are seeing pioneering research suggesting that TV can be a very expensive way to extend reach past a certain sweet spot.  Even doubling your TARPs will only bump your reach up 3-5% past this sweet spot.  Spending a minor portion of that investment with online video closes the remaining gap efficiently while savvy researchers can also determine the optimal frequency across the multiple screens for a given target audience.  Each brand needs to do the analysis to find their perfect mix.  This mix will change with consumer behaviour of course, so it might be best practice to keep regularly analysing the mix until we reach some sort of equilibrium in viewing habits again – probably 5-10 years from now.
   
How do you see digital and other media evolving in the next 5+ years?

I am betting on the consolidation of media (companies and sectors) contrasted by the fragmentation of audiences into niches as interruptive marketing gives way to branded content. 
   
To start with consolidation, look at the restructure of FairFax and News Ltd as they accept the leading role digital needs to play in their future – digital is merging with print as we speak.  Radio stations are becoming digital publishers with great success.  Out-of-home is already very digital and it might not be long before ad delivery is controlled by platforms connected to locations (maybe guided by some data) much as online display is currently delivered.  TV is already digitising with connected TV platforms, and this is sure to expand as the online and lounge room experiences merge. With several debt-laden commercial networks vying with Foxtel for share, I wonder if consolidation could be on the cards there too in the next decade but it would be a tricky one to get past the regulators. 

The agency model may evolve to a full-service offering as the creative, media and strategy specialists begin to eat into each other’s business models in search of additional revenue streams while brands seek partners who can bring all the pieces together.  This might finally mean that the ad creative will always have some relevance to the ad unit and the content will actually be shot with interactivity in mind for the end consumer. Simple things that almost always get lost in the complex cluster of agency groups in the present day.

Even the nascent video landscape is fit for some consolidation. For a viewing audience of just 14m people we have a huge number of businesses stacked with C-Level execs fighting for a share of the pie.  It’s not sustainable, but those who get their Asia-Pac strategy right can branch out into emerging markets and avoid the crush.

In contrast, audiences are fragmenting everywhere.  As print fragments online it creates an opportunity for niche publications to stake their claim.  For content, just look at STV and FTA in the last 5 years – channel proliferation.  Online, a scalable online video buy is usually comprised of up to 500 different websites allowing a brand to reach a common demographic of viewers through an incredible variety of contexts.  As this behaviour shifts to the TV screen, consumers won’t bother waiting until 8pm for their favourite TV show, they will stream it at a time that suits them and may be offered the choice of accepting marketing for a free service or paying the content owner via a subscription model for an ad-free experience.  If the subscription model proves popular (Apple TV is an early example), then brands will need to create content that matters to their audience, that entertains them, that makes them want to share it with their friends – the shift to branded content will take flight.  Red Bull is the hero brand in our current era for understanding this with their hold on action sport content that has made them one of the biggest production houses in the world.  The statistics state that almost half of TV viewer attention is focused on another screen.  So channel fragmentation is a reality marketers are dealing with right now. 
   
Ultimately, the industry will become more efficient through consolidation and the consumer experience will improve through meaningful content designed to add value to a consumer that is tailored to their interests and delivered through niche channels.

What does the digital/interactive industry need to do better right now? 
   
Be real. Be honest. Be transparent. At TubeMogul, we built a strong business on these values.  The days of hidden margins and brands not knowing what they are buying are numbered.  Everyone should be comfortable showing their clients what they were charged for a service.  Do great work and work will find you.  Keep hiding things and your clients will soon hide from you.

Where do you get your industry information from?

Digital Ministry, Ad News, B&T, Mumbrella, eMarketer, TechCrunch – big fan of Seth Godin’s blog for inspiration.
   
What industry groups or networks are you a part of?
   
RTBreakfast (an initiative we adopted from Singapore to built a community around Real-Time Bidding), IAB, AIMIA.

 

See an overview of all 101 previous Digital People profile articles here.

Thanks for your continued support and interest in Digital People.  If you have any comments please feel free to get in touch - denise@mediascope.com.au or phone: 0424 100325 .  I welcome all comments.

 


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