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Hey, everybody it's Rob with AdButler here today. I'm joined by Matthew from Criteo. He's the vice president of partnerships over there. He's an industry veteran and he's built a really successful publisher business at Criteo. I believe you've also been involved in Linkedin's programmatic stack before that.
A fun fact and a little claim to fame that he touts about himself is that you've invented your own way of tying your own shoelaces. Maybe throughout this call at some point, we can demonstrate that because I'm really curious. Matthew welcome. It's nice to have you maybe you want to just take a quick second and introduce yourself I'm sure the listeners would love to hear a bit.
Thanks, Rob. Lovely it to be here. Out of all of the achievements that we listed that you chose the shoelace tying one. It's definitely the greatest but I have to say.
It is my own unique way of time. Everyone who's ever seen - says it's very weird but it's terribly inefficient so I wouldn't recommend others to try and copy it or learn from me.
I live just outside New York with my young family. Originally from London as maybe, I've retained some of the accents. But we've been here a good 5 years in America.
Do you have a preference now that you're here in America? Do you miss home? Are you homesick would you prefer to be back in London do you like it here?
I'm always homesick I miss my mom and my family a lot. I guess everyone who's an expat wherever they might be probably feeling similar. But there are a lot of great things about living in the states.
Do you work remotely or do you work out of the office?
We have this open concept where you can you know so choose when and if you want you to wish to come in. I like talking to people I have a client-facing role and team. I love seeing my team and seeing our clients and getting out to events. So I'm kind of working from home Mondays and Fridays and then coming into New York or going you know travelling so much on Tuesday Wednesday Thursday usually. So I get a good mix.
I actually did a podcast a couple of weeks ago with Ron over at Weatherbug. One thing that we were talking about then was just hiring in the ad tech industry in general. You know it's not like you can go to college university and learn a bit about marketing and things like that. But there's not a lot of ad tech that's taught in these sorts of courses.
It's kind of like it's a skill set that you pick up as you go. It's really cool to go to see some people come out with marketing backgrounds but a lot of the people I've spoken to ad tech didn't come from ad tech backgrounds at all. Myself, I was a paramedic long before I was an ad tech.
So from your point of view and you're in your position over at Criteo, how do you guys find that kind of ecosystem so far when you're branching out and you're hiring in the ad tech ecosystem? You know for listeners here that might be in a similar space. Have you found a struggle in people with ad tech experience? Do you have people that have come from other industries that have transitioned relatively well?
We had a call this morning. One of my team calls. This new gentleman Casey who's joined and we're asking I think the intro question was like what's your favourite TV show and he said ‘Mad Men’.
If you remember that, it's a great show. He said - that's actually why I got into digital marketing because I was at uni watched that loved it changed into marketing and now I've ended up here and I don't know if you know doing partnerships deals at Criteo is quite the same as being like Roger Sterling or someone in Mad Men.
I know Top Gun was used to attract people to the air force. Maybe Mad Men's done that for our industry but I definitely you know would look at it that way.
It seems to Attract people who are very caring and passionate and want to do well but they're like quite nice and collegiate about how they want to go about their business. I talked to friends in legal and finance and I'm kind of happy that we took this path.
It seems like technology seems a good place to be. So I can see that it's attractive for people who want to go and work and grow and be challenged on a regular basis. I think that's kind of a cool thing.
The past few years, we've seen that there's been a huge influx of investment into technology businesses right? Both public and private, that has driven along with other sectors that are going through kind of similar periods a massive pull on the available talent pool and experienced people.
So there's been this and drive off of money available and growth ambitions for businesses and there haven't been enough experienced candidates and that's driven up. You know the competitiveness and the cost of hiring over the past couple of years and everyone you speak to is the same right? The cost of hiring has gone up beyond what they forecast in the past couple of years.
I would say great for all the people one like that's cool, right? You get to go into and see your career accelerate during this kind of periods of time and so you know that's a cool thing. I hope people are enjoying and have taken advantage.
The challenge, I guess, within that environment of competitiveness for great talent. How do you win? How do you get the best people into your business into your team? How do you keep the ones that are happy?
We work really hard on it and Megan Clarken, our CEO has been incredible on this. We try to thinki about - What's the culture of our business? What do we want to be about we have this mantra around you know, open together impactful and try and anchor of this being a really good, kind, cooperative place to work.
If that fits with people's mindset and cultural ambitions and it's kind of an good environment for them. So we try and make sure the environmental piece is there. Try and make sure the work is meaningful that we believe and have a good way of operating in order to win. And the spaces that we want to play in and that thankfully has been you know very successful over the past couple of years for Criteo.
So try and offer that - what is it you're going to provide to them. And I think for my teams, I love we talked a lot about this at Linkedin and I've really kept on board when someone comes on board to one of my teams I really think about how do we set them up with their skills experience and network exposure that's going to mean that the time they choose to spend within my group is an accelerant for their career.
So if they had a nice positive trajectory before that this actually sharpens that curve and makes it a really impactful time for their career that they're going to look on and go those few years. Wow I learned so much I did so much I met so many folks and that's really growing my career right?
I would like to think about that as an obligation for me as a leader to try and create that environment for people and for them to be able to write their story within my organization to kind of do that with their career. So we look at those like elements of competitiveness of obviously compensation as well. And um. So far, touch wood, every role we've managed to fill that we've opened in the last couple of years and filled with frankly, some exceptional people. Some of them are Mad Men fans some of them have other TV choices but like there's ah, there's been, it's been a good run for the past year or two or three years since I've been at Criteo.
Awesome! Yeah, no, that's absolutely. Yeah, no, that's that's a 100% percent splendid culture is a really big thing. You know it and not just like yourself I also come from like a client-facing role. But you know even on kind of the backend where you have you know developers and engineers and things like that. The culture is a really really important thing here and if you don't have the right culture. You know the pickings are not so slim anymore.
Well-versed devs and especially somebody with ad tech experience is pretty much a unicorn in the hiring pool right now. So you know if they have years of experience in ad tech. It's pretty easy to jump ship and find somewhere else so you definitely want to retain you know the team you have which is something we focused quite a bit here on as well.
It's really cool to hear you guys do the same is there any tips and tricks that you would recommend to you know to companies to retain beyond the idea of the trajectory?
One is being really clear with yourself. The the way I look I look at it is there are there's a mindset of people who are often very successful in digital advertising. For me, I use Cardwell language of growth mindsets of people who are hungry to learn and grow and want to develop but the industry's always changing. So do you have that kind of innate motivation and the kind of intellect and curiosity to put it to good use?
You know you want to be clear as a leadership crew who those folks are in your organization that kind of have that so that they have the ability to scale and and and move into new areas and have more value for your company over time and then how do you invest in them? How do you fulfil their need? To grow in their desires and learning and expectations whether that's through projects through assignments role expansion team expansion taking on new business opportunities for you.
Whatever that you know looks like in your setting I think is really important to be methodical and precise about That. Who are those top people in your organization? How are you helping them develop their career every week? What is it, you're doing for them in terms of exposure you know I think a lot about this kind of idea of skills experience network. What is it? You're trying to do for them in terms of exposure to their network experiences. You're giving them skills. You're helping them develop along the way.
What you want to be able to be really clear with yourself and your leadership team on is like we're doing everything for these top people that high potential the high performance is in our organization that we can think of and we're having an articulate open dialogue with them about the other things they think we should be doing right? So there's nothing left and untried.
Then at the other end of the spectrum that means that there isn't as much time and you should be clear about who are the folks that aren't fitting quite with what your expectations are and how you're helping them grow or find other avenues for their career and that allows you the freedom to be really clear that you know this is an environment for exceptional people and we're doing everything to make sure that they're as happy as possible.
And then the old backup rule I had this guy Joshua McGrath who was a super inspiration in my career. He said like for every role, everyone leader should have 2 or 3 backups for them. So even if you've done all that work to make sure that they are rewarded and happy as you can make them. You got to know that there's always going to be something else that might come along and you should be prepared for that and for your organization So that's if they're critical roles. You have some optionality as a manager to you know, fulfil them or whether that's succession planning whatever it might look like over time.
I love that - excellent advice. I'm going to shift gears a little kind of back to the ad tech space a little less around. Let's talk Criteo a little bit. I want to give you a little bit of time to maybe delve into what exactly Criteo does for publishers. So for folks that are new listening in that maybe haven't had experience with Criteo so far or maybe they've done a little bit of research and find you online. Tell us a bit about Criteo what you guys do what your offering maybe gives us that thirty thousand foot pitch.
Yeah, my lift pitch or elevator pitch - Criteo is a 15-year-old tech company. We've been around the block. We've done some stuff - few billion dollars, few thousand people, very global. It’s built around retargeting as a core business. So there are ads that follow you around the internet I think everyone in the industry is pretty familiar with. But really in the past three years we've been on a journey of transformation to think about what is the next fifteen years of growth for the company.
What is that going to take? What are the core assets and capabilities we have that we want to bring together and utilize in a way that's going to drive that growth of the next decade plus? For us, we've anchored in building out what will be the world's leading commerce media platform. There are 2 elements - one is how do we drive outcomes for marketers and advertisers with a commerce intentions thing like a sale or driving towards a sale. And on the other side, how do we drive monetization yield for media owners, whether they are retailers or more traditional publishers or digital publishers. So that platform is now a year plus into its life and we have 23000 advertisers and a thousand media owners connected through our technology and utilizing our products and services in order to drive like I said either outcomes or monetization. We're constantly building upon that platform all around this core concept of performance. If you've got media, you want it to make the most money out of it. Or if you've got advertising needs, you want to get them here in terms of the objectives that you have so.
That's really where we've been focused as an organization and everything we've done in the market is about driving this kind of Commerce Media platform concept and now kind of product set forward into the market.
That's Awesome. So you guys started in the retargeting space. It's obviously a giant elephant in the room in the ad tech space right now with third-party cookies dying off. And everybody coming up with their own solution - you've got unified ID and a bunch of these other ones. Are you going to continue to focus on this a bit have you switched gears completely to now this like Commerce profile? are you still doing anything around the remarketing or retargeting?
I think as a business we've shifted gears completely. But there are and in terms of you know this sort of platform play rather than being a kind of product play for the company but The retargeting remarketing is still incredibly valuable in driving outcomes for our client base and so it's hugely important for our business and there are many people working on it every day.
We se that as being one facet of things that we do for our advertisers and one facet of how we drive monetization for media owners. But it's a very important one for sure and it's us our history, our heritage. So we continue to invest in it. I think what you can see is that whether it's you know cookies or maybe just to broaden that out, signal degradation over the past couple of years and different environments makes some of the ways that were traditionally done around cookie matching more challenging.
Every business is aware of that in the space and you can see that in Facebook - kind of earnings updates. We see a couple of solutions to that one is - had you rebuild signals into your buying path that actually has more persistent longevity to them and you know rearchitect the way that some of these things are done in a more sustainable manner? For us we look at that on a spectrum. So in our case because we work directly with the advertiser. Most of the time they're passing as a customer list in the form of a hashed email and then you know in some environments we translate that into a cookie in order to buy against that hashed email. This is obviously you know much less efficient.
If the media owner has a hashed email or the ability to acquire one then we can match. You know do a high fidelity match and actually directly do that. What I mean is architecturally that's much smarter than translating into cookies and utilizing those. So that's kind of you know one of the areas of the solution.
We also have worked within the prebid community and now the IAB to think about - are there other ways that media owners can secure and remarketing-type investment without needing to go fully into acquiring a hashed email? or a phone number? Because obviously, that creates some drop off from their user base. So we have a released that and started to you know, talk to a lot of potential partners about an open source initiative to help secure that kind of revenue for partners.
The second avenue there are many identity solutions some of them you pay for some of them you trojan horse it and you pay for them somewhere else. We're working through which ones are those makes sense for our ecosystem and for us it's really about like what is going to be the easiest way for our partners and our advertisers to kind of work together and drive value and not being too hung up on a single solution set. But the more high fidelity and the fewer intermediaries probably the better in terms of the architecture and the cost base being for us being able to drive the outcomes and the monetization. That’s what we aspire to.
But adtech has its own thoughts and own complications and so we'll plug in you know and I'll look after the general partnerships as well and we'll plug in the partners that we need to in order to kind of make the most value for our customer base.
Yeah, awesome. Yeah, yeah, it's a problem kind of faced by everybody right now in the ad ttech ecosystem. It's not Criteo specific. Everybody kind of you know is faced with the same thing. It's interesting you brought up, that that high fidelity match.
You think an email address is a kind of like the best thing you could match on you think of you know, publishers or retailers. Anybody that has you know first party data. I work a lot with publishers directly here. We see anything from like demographic data that when the user signs up they put in their age their location you know, consent things like that are there any particular subsets that you've seen publishers have a lot of success with in terms of targeting either programmatic or direct deals like certain demographic stuff was super popular years ago. It's a little less relevant now. Is there anything beyond email address and things like that is there any other demographic details that you find are really successful for publishers today as opposed to you know a few years ago.
Yeah I think there's definitely a trend and this you know depends on what content you have and what data you have on your users. What you can make available. But there's a good flow. Like if you've got a high fidelity and match right? That allows you to not only do targeting but also prove the efficacy of the ads that you're selling.
You know the higher point of value and recurring spend so that's definitely for me. I think saying that I encourage publishers to think about aiming for is like hey how do we introduce into our you know user models some degree or log in right and capturing some data.
And then you can start to think more broadly about well I don't have that I've only got that for 5-2% of my inventory or whatever it might be. But what do I want to do for the other 98%. Well I can start to capture interest. I can start to capture an inferred demographic data and start to build up some models based on that at least.
Think about enriching the value from like hey this is when you come into my site you know in the old days of you know blind buy used to just be opaque. You didn't know what you were buying and now you know I know the yeah URL, I maybe know some other details about the user.
Maybe I can even get a match for a certain percent of them that all expand the value potential from you know we buyer like we spend billions of dollars a year for our advertisers that will expense spans the value potential for that and media owner I think definitely trying to get a handle on everything you can get and what you can make available. And then start to test and learn as to what adds the most value. What's going to drive the RPMs for you.
Has ad blockers been a challenge? I can't remember the last number it was like 30% of Chrome users using adblockers.
I've had some wildly different estimates depending on who we talk to and what it looks like.
I don't know like there are different ones. You know some numbers from the e-marketer and they'll say like 30 or 40%. I know I have you know some friends overseas and they swear everybody uses it and then other countries nobody uses it whatsoever.
I think it really just depends on like you said who you talk to you but have they been a challenge for you guys? If so how do you overcome them? What are your whole thoughts on that whole thing right? Losing 30% off of you know, potentially 30% of your ad revenue can be yeah, can be cumbersome.
Well there's sort of an industry point right? Where if people don't find utility in the ads that are being served to them - we're in the business of driving effective ads then we've not done a good enough job. So we should own up to that and say look I think there's an opportunity for us to drive a higher level of relevance in advertising and better types of formats and usage of those formats so that people don't feel that it's worth installing an ad blocker.
When you do have the ad blocker in and I don't know if it's 5% or 30% honestly everyone I've spoken to I've got a different number from. When you do have that in and we work with many of the ad blockers then there are paths for providing kind of reasonable or acceptable ads within those environments.
I think that is a way for a media owner to reopen some of that inventory that might have been cut off and to enter a dialogue with the user with their customer and saying yeah ads are how I make money. That's how I provide all this content for you and we'd love you to keep reading it. We'd love to be able to keep producing it.
Is there a different dynamic that you would like? Maybe to switch that adblocker off for this site or this app I think is pretty reasonable request. You know it's kind of like um, you come into the free buffet every day and there's a jar as you exit that says like please leave a donation.
You're never leaving a donation but you expect the free food to still continue to be there. I don't know if it works like that in the longterm. So I think there has to be you know some and I saw some really good ones from different media owners. I think FT has a lovely kind of quiz process so they just ask you a couple of questions instead and get some customer data.
I think the Guardian has this kind of ‘support us’ idea and which I think has proven really successful for them. There are over a million subscribers now. So I think there's past for media owners to kind of enter that dialogue and try and recoup some of that value opportunity from their users.
You hit on a really a really good key point. It's that you know maybe historically we haven't been doing as good as we should have been. Digital advertising was kind of in his infancy for years. So the whole idea of you know, just getting you to know ads out there kind of made sense. But now that technology has changed. You know it's ah it's a very privacy-centric world out there for people. We Absolutely can do better.
As a user myself I honestly have no problem sharing. I'm interested in now as long as as long as the content and the ads that I'm looking at that are being presented to me are relevant right? if I'm searching for a new bed and there's an ad for bed sheets or a pillow. Right? Like that makes sense to me I'm more than happy to see that ad and share whatever data I need you to get there. Hopefully, we start to see you know some of the adoptions of these ad blockers you know, a fault to the wayside right? Relevancy is key. So yeah I love your sentiment.
Yeah, whether we're an infant, a toddler, a teen I don't know but like the industry's got a lot of opportunities to improve the creative aspect of what we do. I think there are many great businesses including our own that have a huge investment in dynamic content optimization trying to make ads as relevant and as useful as possible and I think that should only continue for yeah, a good foreseeable future So you'll get better.
Awesome! Well I know we're at the 30 minute mark and we usually try and keep these short and sweet and I've kept you a little longer than I typically do. But I think everything we talked about was was super great.
The last step here is we typically roll the red carpet for you guys and give you a few minutes to talk about Criteo. What's new? What's coming down the pipe. Where can people find you can they find you on Linkedin where can they? How can they get in touch with yourself the Criteo team and from there so I'll pass it over to you.
Yeah, hey look I know I've taken off ah a good bit of your time. So yeah, very happy to have had a chance to chat with Rob and talk everyone through what we're doing and some thoughts on the team thing you know I'm very optimistic about digital advertising and I think as I said I think there's an opportunity for us to get even better and even more mature at what we do. If anyone wants to chat or they'd like to think about partnering with us and yeah reach out to me on Linkedin. Thanks for the opportunity to chat with everyone.
Excellent, excellent. Thank you so much for your time, Matthew. I guess people can just go to CRITEO.com and and and find you guys there find him on Linkedin. It has been an absolute pleasure, Matthew. And wish you all the best with Criteo as you go forward.
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