Gabey Goh
Feb 1, 2016

Building 'win-win-win' partnerships: MediaMath CMO

Brand, agency and technology vendors can all come out ahead in programmatic partnerships, according to MediaMath CMO Joanna O’Connell.

Joanna O'Connell
Joanna O'Connell

From its roots as a demand-side platform, MediaMath has grown to record sales of US$800 million in 2015, according to a Forbes interview with founder and CEO Joe Zawadzki, with some of the growth coming from acquisitions, four of which were completed in 2014.

Most of MediaMath’s revenue, about 85 percent, comes from software licensing; the balance comes from the company supplying a managed solution to clients. The New York City-headquartered company has about 750 employees, 300 partners, and some 60,000 global deals. Its programmes reportedly power the marketing of some 3,500 companies, and generate a tenfold return on investment, according to the company. It’s flagship TerminalOne platform enables marketers and ad agencies to buy targeted ads online at the best price.

In October last year, the company announced the appointment of Joanna O’Connell to the role of chief marketing officer. In an email interview, O'Connell shares some insights into her plans for the company and brand.

You stepped into the role of CMO in October. How has the transition been for you, moving from analyst / researcher to marketer?

I was a research analyst for three years with Forrester Research, and later the founding member of AdExchanger Research, where I spent two years. When you’re a research analyst for that long, it can start to feel a little theoretical, removed from the realities of the market.

The ad-tech landscape is constantly changing and improving, and I started feeling that it was a problem to be that far away from the action. I wanted to get back into what was really happening, and truly immerse myself into it. 

Way back in 2007, when I was a media supervisor at Razorfish, MediaMath was the first DSP I’d ever encountered. The concept of buying media (think impression-level buying, de-averaged pricing, tech-driven, real-time decision-making) struck me as revolutionary.

Fast forward to today, it is a great time to be at MediaMath because it feels like everyone is ready to think about things in a new way. I’m coming in at a time where things are changing in a useful direction, and I want to help harness that energy of change.

What is your personal philosophy or approach to marketing?

To be human. As more revolutionary technology and processes emerge, I think it’s important to remember that marketing is done by people for people. You’re trying to connect with a human being and tap into their needs and desires, and programmatic is the brilliant matchmaker.

What are your immediate objectives for the brand?

My immediate objectives are to listen and learn. I’m going to rely on all of the people at MediaMath who are experts at what they do.

Using that, I will be an internal and external voice for marketing at MediaMath. We have a compelling story to tell, and we are working on new and better ways to tell it. There’s so much room to grow in this space and as a company.

What’s the long-term big picture?

In terms of the big picture, we do feel we are at the forefront of a larger shift in the industry. Addressable inventory, including for TV, custom attribution models, the next phase of mar-tech meeting ad tech—these are all things that are not just on our radar, but things we are embracing.

We want to continue to challenge the status quo on how marketers think about their goals and improve the marketing infrastructure for everyone who has a stake in it.

What will be your biggest challenge in terms of fulfilling marketing ambitions?

MediaMath is truly a global company, and because of this our marketing team necessarily is global too, sitting across four regions.

We want to ensure we are taking an increasingly global approach to marketing while supporting each region as they require based on geography, market, language and other factors.

One of the ways to combat that will be to get a better sense of their landscape so we can bolster their efforts, which is one of the reasons I am visiting the APAC region in February.

When it comes to the Asia-Pacific region, what will the approach or strategy be in terms of engaging with target audiences? What are your plans for the region and what is your opinion on the challenges or potential of markets here?

The region, generally, is less mature in terms of understanding programmatic marketing and all its benefits. While media markets like Australia and Japan are progressive, developing ones, such as Indonesia and Thailand, have massive potential for programmatic adoption, especially with the rapid uptake of mobile technologies. Therefore, I think education is key.

While we continue to engage audiences across APAC in a language they can understand and at an appropriate level that they can appreciate, our New Marketing Institute will also play a significant part in contributing to marketers’ knowledge on programmatic through training programs and masterclasses for senior leaders and practitioners alike.

We also believe in win-win-win partnerships, in particular, the triumvirate that is the brand-agency-technology vendor micro-ecosystem.

Our strategic plan is to actively partner with both brand and agency clients and prospects across the region to enable programmatic thinking within their organisations through education and consultative engagements.

Any advice for fellow marketers currently grappling with Ad Tech?

Focus on what good advertising looks like. Don’t get caught up in the latest technology, approach, bright, shiny object.

You’re a consumer, too—what types of advertising appeal to you? What is the visual, what is the message, how do you respond differently depending on channel and device?

Apply this mindset to your customers, with the aim to delight them. Programmatic should be in support of these things.


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