The Trade Desk CEO Jeff Green on Google, Netflix and the death of linear TV
Jeff Green, founder and CEO of The Trade Desk, isn’t shy when it comes to sharing his opinions. He says Super Bowl ads for connected TV will soon cost more than their linear counterparts because "in the future there is no linear TV." Green also says he “firmly believes” that Netflix will soon start selling ads on its platform. And when it comes to the demise of the third-party cookie, which has much of the industry up-in-arms, Green thinks people are "overreacting.”
“It’s really important for the open internet to have a voice, but I’m not the only voice,” Green says. “In fact, it’s not open if I’m the only voice.”
In 2007, Green sold his first company—AdECN—to Microsoft for an undisclosed sum. Two years later he stood up his second business, demand-side platform The Trade Desk. Agencies use DSPs to programmatically buy ads in areas such as connected TV and digital audio—and they seem to like using Green’s software: Stock for The Trade Desk is up more than tenfold since its 2016 IPO.
We caught up with Green and asked him about Google, connected TV and his overall thoughts on the industry. This interview was conducted on March 11, before the novel coronavirus shut down much of the U.S. economy, and has been edited for clarity and brevity.
Do you get fired up when you do The Trade Desk’s earnings calls? Because it sounds like you’re fired up.
I love doing them. I know there are publicly traded companies, especially CEOs and founders, who look at the earnings process as a 90-day rat race. They don’t love it, but I absolutely love it.
What do you like about them?
It’s a way to talk about the way we see the world to a group of people who are brutally honest and who vote with their wallets. I love it because you find out what people really believe. It’s a place to have your ideas challenged.
In your third quarter you said it was only a matter of time before Netflix sells ads. What makes you say that?
Because Netflix will eventually be forced to show ads. We are living in an era with the most premium content. If any of us go to a party, you’ll leave with multiple homework assignments for what you’re supposed to watch next. There’s that much content. At the same time, content has never been more expensive because historically, almost all of it has been ad funded. So what’s going to end up happening is every content creator is going to have to offer consumers choice: Either pay to get rid of ads or watch some ads in exchange for free content.
Talk about The Trade Desk and connected TV.
We’re all in for a bunch of reasons. It’s the most effective form of advertising to win the hearts and minds of the consumer. In seven years, when advertising becomes one of a handful of trillion dollar industries, I believe half of that pie will be some form of video. There’s also no one in TV who has the lion’s share of market share—it’s really fragmented.
What’s your response to broadcast publishers who say they won’t go all-in on connected TV because they fear programmatic will drive prices down and devalue their premium content.
There is nothing about the form of delivery that adds or detracts from the value of the content itself— content isn’t more valuable because you aired it on linear pipes. “Homeland” is a great show on linear and it’s a great show on demand. So it’s about the content and the reality is the consumer would rather watch it on demand.
People also don’t like change, but consumers are driving this specific change and there is no way for content creators to stop that from happening.
Google is killing the third-party cookie in two years and you don’t seem concerned even though some of your tech relies on cookies. Why?
It’s a complicated topic and I could give you pages worth of thoughts on why it will shape out a certain way.
Do you think marketers are overreacting to the cookie’s demise?
I do think marketers are overreacting to a blog post written by Google.
Some people suggest Google will just get rid of targeted advertising.
I don’t believe they can even if they tried. There is not a company in the world that is more dependent on targeted advertising than Google. If Google did, the open internet and the millions of publishers who are dependent on targeting advertising to survive, including most of our journalists, will find a way around it. What’s likely is they will land in a place that continues to enable targeted advertising while enabling consumer privacy.
Let’s change gears. Twitter banned political advertising. Can you share your thoughts on that?
We think sitting out the election process is a huge mistake. We believe there is an opportunity to make the process better and to make it possible for politicians to say something meaningful. I want to be part of that and make the political process better.
You recently told investors that more brands are now using The Trade Desk. Do you think that will send the wrong message to agencies, who are your core customers?
I’ve been an advocate for agencies because I believe they add value. But that doesn’t mean they don’t have to change. And it’s unreasonable for anyone to think that a brand isn’t going to get more involved in programmatic advertising because it impacts success so much more than it previously has.
Last question: Do you believe a Super Bowl ad on CTV will cost more than linear TV in the future?
Yes. I believe in the future, there is no linear TV.