In our industry, the end of the year is a time for R&R — not rest and relaxation (as the digital ad ecosystem never sleeps), but reflection and resolutions. It's a time to evaluate and digest our successes as well as our shortcomings, allowing us to set a new direction as we continue to evolve, iterate, and innovate in the new year.
By and large, I'd say my resolutions are likely no different than any other CEO's, inside or outside of our industry. I'm hoping we'll get faster, a bit leaner, and more robust; that we'll strengthen our relationships and learn more about our own identity.
That said, resolutions are best kept when you've got a partner by your side, pushing you, both literally and figuratively, to go that extra mile. Which is why I'm hoping our partners and competitors across the industry will join me in the resolutions I've set out for 2019:
Every now and then, I think we forget that our industry is still incredibly young. And though we're growing at a meteoric rate, I fear the fact that we're still getting our footing might keep us from innovating as quickly and efficiently as we could be.
With great scale comes great challenges, and if we're going to create solutions at the rate I know we're capable of, we have to step up our game and work to innovate at warp speed. We also need to help our partners do the same.
Let's not sacrifice our agility for the sake of growth.
Strive to support all stakeholders
In a product-driven space like ad tech, the user always comes first, and so much of our role revolves around anticipating and innovating to best serve their needs. Of course, it's important to remember the teams who are not only working to support customers day in and day out, but also building the products that allow us to best serve them: our employees.
In 2019, we should all aim to reconfirm our investment and commitment to internal talent. Our success rests entirely on their shoulders, so — as tech leaders — we must do our part to properly educate our employees, while also helping them cultivate relationships, reach career goals, and ultimately gain access to the tools they'll need to continue propelling our industry forward. To quote Scott Keller and Mary Meaney of McKinsey, "the relationship between quality of talent and business performance is dramatic," and in few arenas is this truer than in tech.
Agility is key, yes, but not at the expense of our teams' well-being.
Break outside of your comfort zone
The digital media landscape is fragmented, a challenge that impacts communication, sales, and technology adoption rates (and seems to be getting worse before it can get better).
Some may argue that competitive advantage lies in these factions, that having truly in-depth knowledge of one aspect of our ecosystem is more powerful than a holistic understanding of the landscape overall. And, in many ways, I'm inclined to agree: specialized knowledge is extraordinarily important. But in the coming year, we have to continue to unlock the greater potential of programmatic for audiences outside of our tight-knit ad tech bubble — deepening our understanding of the ways in which our specialized pieces fit into the bigger puzzle. If not as an industry, then as individuals. You could be the greatest coder in the world, but if you don't understand how that impacts the business, you're going to lag behind.
Furthermore — on the theme of redoubling our commitment to talent — we have to ensure that we're creating opportunities to add new knowledge and skills to our employees' arsenals, taking a metaphorical sledgehammer to any barriers that may exist between our own teams. This also means allowing everyone within our organization to bring their own ideas to the table, and giving them the tools to innovate from there.
Focus on identity
There's been a lot of talk around Identity lately, but trust me when I say it's not your average industry buzzword. Identity is not just the future of programmatic, it's also our only shot at leveling the industry-wide playing field.
There's so much ad spend locked within the walled gardens, and Identity is the key to ushering this budget into the open web (and our partners' pockets). Simply put, if Identity is not at the forefront of your strategy in 2019 — whether you're a buyer, seller, or independent tech partner like us — you're holding our industry back.
Set an example
2018 was an exciting year for programmatic, but it was also a pretty tumultuous 365 days.
Competition is fierce in ad tech, and I truly wouldn't have it any other way. But let's remember that the new year brings with it a blank slate, and therefore the chance to reset industry standards. If we collaborate, cooperate, and rally behind common goals (see: Identity), we have the opportunity to change the game — to take the ball out from the walled gardens' court, so to speak. And we'll never be able to progress if we distract ourselves with in-fighting.
Again, I can appreciate the temptation to throw a few punches; or equally, to pound your chest when you're feeling on top. However the result of such behavior is more damaging than beneficial for our industry. As programmatic continues to mature from a product standpoint, so too should its leaders.
Ultimately, we are all responsible for the reputation of programmatic advertising. Let's fully embrace this by amplifying our successes, rewarding our innovations, and resolving past conflict.
Here's looking at you, 2019.