Q&A with Rob Williams – Kargo
Meet the People Behind Adtech: Thought Leadership Series
Written by publift2019
23 Sep, 2020
Rob Williams is the Director of Operations at Kargo for APAC.
Rob has worked with and led teams across a broad range of industries spanning insurance, the not-for-profit sector, finance, media and ecommerce. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Physics and has a keen interest in guitar and Japanese.
1. What led you to start working in the ad tech industry?
I’ve actually worked across a few different industries and lines of business but it was largely Kargo that brought me into the mobile ad tech space.
2. How did this lead you to join Kargo?
We were originally consulting for a number of different types of companies. Kargo approached us to support their expansion into the region. In the process of building the plan it became really clear that it was a great company, built on a great set of principles with a killer product set. What really impressed me was the level of rigour in the research and product development and the rate of innovation. So the opportunity was self evident.
Importantly too, it looked like it was going to be an interesting challenge and a lot of fun. I really haven’t been disappointed.
3. What are your main roles and day to day priorities?
It’s pretty broad but fits into 5 key areas:
- Business Operations – Forecasting, Process, Strategy, Admin etc.
- Publisher Operations – Biz Dev and supporting our publishers to get the most out of their Kargo partnership
- Tech Partnerships – DSP/local tech and supplier relationships
- Ad Operations – Campaign management and Client Services
- Sales – We all do sales
Honestly though my job is largely taking credit for the work of the team and our US colleagues, so I’m very lucky.
4. What’s a problem that you are passionately tackling with Kargo at the moment?
It’s an ever evolving industry, and the company is always innovating, so there’s always something going on. That said I think there are 3 persistent challenges we aim to address:
- Kargo was born out of working with and supporting professional journalism. We (Kargo and the industry at large) know editorial environments are critical for advertising success for brands, as behavioural research, including ours, shows time and time again. If advertisers want to build trust in their brand they need to align it with premium editorial brands. That said there is a time and a place for display advertising on social media websites, it’s just not all of the time. Aside from advertising there are clear societal benefits for supporting professional journalism too, so brands can achieve great results and exercise corporate responsibility at the same time – a great result all round I’d say.
- Showing that cookies aren’t the only user data available and will soon become perhaps the least useful and prevalent. Great advertising and audience targeting has always relied on great insights – what does my target consumer really do? Why? And when? – You can apply these insights to achieve great results without ever dipping your hand in the cookie jar (horrible cliche). That’s not to say it’s not useful, just that identity data isn’t the golden bullet on mobile.
- Creative – Advertising has always been about storytelling, and so inevitably (and this has been proven time and time again) the most important factor in advertising success. By success I don’t mean CTR or viewability, I mean that someone saw an ad, remembered it and went on to consider and buy a product. Despite this, creative has been reduced to the lowest common denominator – driven by the myth of buying efficiency (it’s not efficient if 7/10 people don’t even look at your ad), viewability (a useful measure that is well intentioned but perverse when used as a measure of success and not reflective of whether people actually look at your ad) and industry moves away from intrusive advertising – which are indeed the right moves.
5. In what way has the digital advertising industry changed and developed over the years? What are you most excited about right now?
I think a major change – more an evolution I guess – is that buying mobile isn’t a niche skillset anymore, and the realisation that mobile needs to form a core part – so not planned last – of any digital media plan as that is where the audience is consuming most of the time. One thing that hasn’t changed in a while is that it’s the “year of mobile”….again.
The prevalence of programmatic trading is probably the other major one that has affected all media. I think this has presented a number of challenges, the main one has been securing the know-how to make it work as efficiently as promised. This has been on both the agency/client and publisher side. For publishers, particularly smaller ones, this has been a difficult thing to navigate given the limited resources in terms of both people and money available to them. As a result I think tech companies that have made adoption easy have benefited the most, notably Google.
I’m really excited to see how the market adapts to the increasing privacy focus of the device manufacturers and regulators. This will hopefully spur on a lot of innovation by publishers, advertisers and the tech providers.
Excited perhaps isn’t the right word, but I’m also very keen to see what happens with ACCC and the big tech players. Shots have been fired on both sides, but it will be interesting to see at what point pragmatism kicks and things get sorted out – one way or another.
6. What are some key takeaways from Kargo’s research initiatives on effective mobile advertising you would like to share with us?
I think the 2 single most important things for Mobile – and indeed any advertising – that is consistently born out by the research is that environment and creativity are the major determinants of success.
More specifically our research shows that relative to Social, premium editorial environments are the most efficient at generating recall and building trust. You only need to think about your own behaviour when you’re reading an engrossing article. Your attention is greater and ads are on the page for longer so you are more susceptible to a great creative message.
Advertising is, and always has been, about telling a story. There is a ton of best practice that our research shows works really well in terms of design elements – animation, scroll reactivity, etc. – that will boost the performance and true efficiency of advertising. A word of caution that bigger or intrusive ad units can be counterproductive. So whilst they may hit a viewability metric for example, they can also generate negative brand sentiment and damage the publishers’ UX – think about the interstitial, forced ads or those that require multiple scrolls to get off the page. We all need to be cognisant of the fact that users didn’t go to a great news website to browse the ads, and annoying them unnecessarily is bad for everyone – so try and keep some content on the page.
7. Kargo stresses the importance of creative science and building mobile-first ads to lift viewability and engagement, could you elaborate on this? How do you see the role of creative science for mobile now and going forward?
Our entire model is built around research. Our creative science really involves building ad formats and behaviourally testing them in the lab with our research partners to figure out what actually gets people noticing and positively engaging with them. As a result all of our ad units are built with a set of design principles in mind. Ultimately our aim is to balance the needs of the user, publisher and advertiser – whilst delivering campaign performance orders of magnitude higher than standard video or display.
Moving forward I think it’s going to be critical and the industry will hopefully become a bit more critical/exacting in terms of the creatives they approve. So for example to buy a standard 320×50 on mobile for the sake of “buying efficiencies” is crazy to me when we know 7/10 users don’t actually look at them. Creative science aside hopefully the economics will push buyers towards better ways of storytelling. Similarly, I think, or at least hope, the days of hyper intrusive banners are behind us. If I’m reading the news and my content is squished to one side, I am subjected to an interstitial or I have to scroll for days to get through an ad I’m probably not going to think too much of whatever product you’re trying to sell me or the site that hosted it. All of our research shows that these type of executions, whilst perhaps nice on a powerpoint, can actually have the opposite effect for advertisers and publishers alike.
8. What do you see as the major challenges for publishers on mobile and what advice would you give them?
I see a few:
- There are a lot of tech providers and products out there, which in itself can be pretty overwhelming. Particularly for smaller publishers. Things are always changing so do be open minded and flexible so as not to miss the opportunity, but also make sure you’re asking a lot of questions of new potential partners and the implications for your revenue and audience.
- Balancing UX with yield:
• 7/10 people don’t see a standard banner and your CPM’s largely reflect that
• “High Impact” can be a double-edged sword so ask your partners about their UX testing. It’s nice to get the sugar hit of a new ad format, but when you start losing audience that will hurt more over the longer term.
- Paying for journalism and high quality content – obviously we are in an interesting place with the US tech giants right now. This is a really important issue that has implications for publishers’ commercial prospects (largely on mobile) but also society at large. It is going to be an interesting period.
9. How do you view the future of mobile advertising?
I think there are a few things that will happen in the coming years, some major themes are:
- Privacy both in terms of regulation and device manufactures – This has been an ongoing theme which has seen ITP, GDPR, CCPA, PDPA etc. next up are the “Cookie apocalypse” and the new iOS rules.
- A redistribution of social display spends driven largely by privacy / brand safety / trust issues, towards high quality publishing and platforms that figure out how to make UGC environments safer for advertisers.
- Supply Path Optimisation, a desire for unique access points and a rationalising of suppliers and partners for both buyers and publishers.
- Hopefully we’ll all be able to meet in person and have some of those fabled media lunches again safely soon.
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