"Identifying the gaps in the existing technical infrastructure and understanding your customers' pain points is how excellent products are born."Elena Podshuveit, Admixer
Elena Podshuveit, Admixer’s Chief Products Officer, recently contributed to our expert roundup on how the recent Facebook ad boycott could impact publishers long-term.
I was curious to learn more about Elena’s work and career, and the changes the pandemic has brought to Admixer’s programmatic ad business and product team.
My recent interview with Elena offers ad product insights and advice, including her predictions for how the pandemic and privacy regulations will impact digital advertising in the coming years.
How have Admixer’s ad products changed during your time as CPO?
Admixer started out as a Ukrainian advertising network in 2008. Since the founding, we have used in-house technologies, adopted the best practices of Tier 1 countries, and adapted them to the CEE (Central and Eastern European) market. We’ve listened to our customers and their concerns and spotted a critical need for a flexible ad serving solution.
We built our industry expertise, and in 2015, released our first SaaS product — an ad server for publishers, Admixer.Publisher. In 2016, we made the next logical step and went live with our enterprise solution, Admixer.Network, for ad network management. The release of our SSP in 2017 allowed us to expand our product line even further. Within the next couple of years, we rolled out our own DSP, DMP, and white-label DSP for advertising agencies — Agency Tech Stack.
I’ve been the Chief Products Officer at Admixer since 2015, strategizing our product development and market positioning.
My vision for the Admixer product line is that we become a complete toolset for any ad tech player. Not a one-size-fits-all solution, but a customizable tech stack.
How are data privacy laws, changes in browser settings, and Apple’s upcoming IDFA changes impacting your relationships with advertisers and publishers? Any thoughts on Apple’s decision to delay IDFA?
With the elimination of third-party cookies and the IDFA phase-out, the addressability across the web and in-app channels will be fading out. It will affect several important features like audience targeting, remarketing, frequency capping, and multi-touch attribution. The importance of first-party data will rise immensely. Advertisers will need to strike partnerships with publishers and big data owners to cross-reference their audiences to establish user identity.
Publishers without their own data collection functionality will experience major setbacks, while businesses that collect their user segments are in a unique position to reap the rewards of this new advertising landscape.
There are several proposed solutions to the identity problem, such as user graphs, data pools, and unified IDs. But, it is still unclear which solution will eventually get the upper hand. However, all of them would require a close-knit collaboration between the publishers and advertisers.
Apple’s decision to postpone IDFA opt-in resulted from the backlash from the advertising industry, along with the public scrutiny of App Store fees and policies, and alleged monopoly status. The industry got much-needed breathing room to adapt to the upcoming changes, but they shouldn’t expect Apple to soften up on this issue.
How has the pandemic affected your product management and development?
Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have transitioned our team of more than 100 people to work fully remotely. Surprisingly, it didn't affect communication and productivity within the team. Everybody rose to the occasion and did their best to support the company during these turbulent times.
Of course, we had to master new collaboration tools and software, but we put back on track all our major business processes within two weeks. The key to success is the team's integrity, forged by shared values and mindset. Without it, even the strictest supervision doesn't work.
We are planning to continue our practice of remote work even after the end of the pandemic. Partly-remote work with appropriate checks saves the employees’ time and increases overall efficiency.
How have your advertisers’ and publishers’ needs changed during the pandemic?
That’s a great question. Admixer extensively surveyed the CEE market to determine the impact of the pandemic on the digital ad spend. Recently we released research on the impact of COVID on digital advertising budgets in the region, where we investigated the decision-making of the major industry players.
The current market situation is quite straightforward. It is a combination of a surge of available impressions and depleting marketing budgets. This stagnation lasted for the first half of 2020 when most countries were under strict quarantine. In Q3, markets started to rebound.
Advertisers have become more preoccupied with the overall efficiency of their programmatic buying, transparency of the supply chain, optimization, and quality of inventory. Admixer has products that are ideally positioned to address those concerns since we sell premium inventory and provide transparent conditions.
On the other hand, since publishers had to sell the surplus inventory, they started to experiment more with additional demand sources.
What long-term effects do you predict the pandemic will have on digital advertising?
It may sound corny, but life will never be the same after the pandemic, especially for our industry.
- Traditional retail will continue to decline, as the e-commerce platforms will lead the global transition to online shopping.
- Subscription services will dominate the marketplace of video streaming, music, and online education while continuing to expand their audience.
- Collaborative work software will continue its rise in popularity.
These and other factors will increase the available ad inventory, while it is still unclear whether there will be the appropriate demand to match it.
Two pillars of digital advertising demand, Travel and Booking, fell prey to COVID-19. It is still too early to predict when the industry will recover to the pre-pandemic levels of 2019.
What new challenges and opportunities do you predict for programmatic advertising? How do you see Admixer’s products changing/evolving over your next five years?
First of all, one should acknowledge that all the recent changes to advertising IDs (third-party cookies, IDFA) are propelled by the wave of privacy regulations and public concerns regarding personal data ownership.
For the years to come, this sentiment will dominate the industry, and we will witness many innovations in contextual targeting, open user IDs, extended functionality for device targeting, etc. In light of these changes, the number of technologies for data management will undoubtedly increase. Admixer is already working on solutions to provide our customers with the same level of targetable impressions, including products to leverage their own data segments.
The share of video and audio ads will also keep increasing, mainly due to the arrival of 5G and changing consumer preferences. As part of this trend, CTV and DOOH will also experience a significant boost in popularity and will likely transition to programmatic media trading.
Of course, the market will gravitate towards maximum transparency and a stricter regulatory environment. This sentiment will certainly lead to market consolidation, with small and medium-sized ad tech companies going out of business.
In our recent roundup on the Facebook ad boycott, you stressed the importance of leveraging first-party data. What advice would you offer publishers looking to focus on contextual targeting and other user-first ad targeting tactics?
Your strategy should be centered around data because in the cookieless and post-IDFA world it will become the most treasured asset.
- If you don’t have capabilities to gather first-party data, consider getting them. Until that time, stick to contextual targeting.
- If you collect first-party data but don’t have enough of it for effective outreach campaigns (e.g., you can target less than 30% of your country’s unique users), try to find a reliable partner or data-vendor to cross-reference your audience.
- If you have plenty of data, contract a tech provider who will allow you to segment and monetize your data.
What advice would you offer product managers/teams looking to build innovative ad platforms? What advice would you offer those just beginning their product careers, particularly women?
Suppose you are aspiring to come up with a truly innovative solution. In that case, you have to be a market insider, have an extensive network of connections, and profoundly understand the industry infrastructure. A decade ago, ad tech was going through its formative years and had a low entry barrier and many lucrative opportunities for newcomers.
Nowadays, the market is oversaturated with companies and products. This is why the competition is fierce, but there is always room for improvement. Many ad tech products that were developed 10–15 years ago have a lot of technical debt and can't be changed quickly. Identifying the gaps in the existing technical infrastructure and understanding your customers' pain points is how excellent products are born.
Here’s my advice for people who are just entering the field:
"People skills are the key to success in the ad tech industry. Nurturing your leads and establishing meaningful industry connections can get you a long way. The gender aspect doesn't play a defining role in our industry. As long as you are empathetic, thoughtful, and hardworking, you can succeed."Elena Podshuveit
Elena Podshuveit is Chief Products Officer for Admixer, which provides full-stack programmatic solutions (ad server, Network, DSP, DMP, SSP, etc.) for publishers, media houses, ad networks, brands, and advertising agencies.
Thanks to Elena for sharing her time and ad product insights.
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