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  • Athina Mallis

How to grow your adtech firm globally

The adtech and media landscape is changing fast, and the global opportunities for growth are both exciting and challenging. At AZK Media, we're passionate about helping adtech and martech firms grow globally, and expand in new and emerging markets. But is there a secret sauce?

We've helped incredible businesses like Bonzai, Silverbullet, 4D, The Lumery, the CDP Institute, Tealium, Bench Media and Cheetah Digital - just to name a few. What's fascinating is the common thread that in order reach new markets, there's a need to truly connect with the deeper industry issues on the ground, and be able to showcase how your product or service line solves those issues at a granular level. This needs to come through across both your sales and marketing channels.

Rupert Pay is one of the most seasoned media, programmatic and adtech experts, and former Vice-President, APAC at Blis. With over 20 years' experience strengthening agency relationships and working collaboratively in the region, Rupert and AZK Media's founder, Azadeh Williams, caught up to discuss the current industry challenges and tips on growing your adtech business globally.

You've managed to successfully grow a tech company, as a 'country' manager, but you've also managed to be a very successful 'regional' manager. What are some of the similarities and differences?

The first thing I would say is that there are certainly more differences than there are similarities. It's significantly easier running a single territory than it is running a region. APAC is an incredibly complex region, with multiple markets, all at varying degrees of digital maturity and technological adoption. That's before you even look at the cultural, political and economic differences between those countries. What I have seen businesses sometimes do is create a subsection of APAC.

For instance, South Korea and Japan have a number of similarities. Often businesses might create a North Asia part of that. But what I have learned the hard way is that it's incredibly difficult to be successful in every market in the region simultaneously.

If there are adtech and martech businesses that want to grow in the APAC region, what kind of advice would you give them?

The first thing I would say, is do your research thoroughly engage some local experts before you actually enter the market. I would plan my rollout and my markets really carefully. Human and financial resources for those vendors are always limited.

You can't do everything at the same time. An example might be you look at someone like Indonesia, it has a population of 270 million people, it's the most populous country in Southeast Asia. It might make sense to fully establish yourself there before tackling the Philippines, Vietnam and Thailand, which are the second, third and fourth most that actually added together, they're actually only about the same as Indonesia. Planning is really important.

Rupert, you've seen the good, the bad and the ugly of business decisions in the region, what are some of the common mistakes that you've come across?

I have seen some common mistakes. If I think about an Australian perspective because it's probably an easy one to understand, particularly, for businesses coming out of the US and the UK. A common mistake with Australia is that those businesses assume that the market is very similar. There are some similarities, it's the western market.

In my opinion, Australia's very digitally and programmatically mature, I'd actually argue more so than the UK. In the UK, it's more fragmented from a media owner and a media agency point of view. Things like managed service are still quite prevalent in the UK. Whereas here, it's fast diminishing.

Undoubtedly, the past two years was a very challenging year. Now that positive momentum has built again, what do you think are the biggest challenges for marketers?

You have to mention the first ongoing economic volatility as a challenge that will continue this year and probably go into next year. There are some green shoots showing that some positive data has just come out. So that's a great thing. From a technology standpoint, for marketers, there are probably three key areas that are real challenges. All of them are, in my view, directly attributable to the rapid digital acceleration we've seen of businesses that the pandemic has caused last year.

The first one of those is that a lot of marketers would probably realise that they now have insufficient organisational structure and processes to deal with this new rapidly digitally accelerated landscape they're facing.

The second area is more around the inability of having a shared customer view of customer data across business units within their own brands. The third area for me would really be about engaging customers in real-time.

I recently read that 68% of marketers feel traditional marketing roles limit customer engagement. Now, that number was actually 37% in 2018. It just shows how rapidly things are changing, and how roles need to need to elaborate and change over time.

When it comes to the adtech and data-driven marketing landscape, what really excites you?

We're seeing what's shaping up to be a bit of a perfect storm, you've got big tech versus publishers, you've got the post cookie world, you've got privacy. They're just three hot topics that are really coming to the boil this year.

If we take privacy, we're gonna see a lot more this year around consent management, and consent management propositions. That's going to be due to the Australian review of the Digital Privacy Act here, which will hopefully probably bring it more in line with the gold standards of GDPR and CCPA in California.

The second area that I'm excited about is even though the idea of customer data platforms (CDP). It's not new, we'll see a lot of exponential growth of those platforms this year. That comes back to my previous points about marketers needing a unified customer view, CDP's will start to fill that void.

The third area for me as an agency person, I'm excited to see how the holding companies respond to the meteoric rise of the indies, particularly the integrated indies. Publicis are probably best placed this year to have a really stellar year. The reason being that there's some great leadership across the group. More importantly, they have their brands much more tightly coordinated within the group.

Then you've got Epsilon, which is a great piece of marketing technology that can sit at the heart of that. I remember when they purchased that for north of $4 billion back in 2019. A lot of analysts scoffed at that price. But I actually think that will come back to prove to be quite a shrewd acquisition. It's going to be a pivotal and very exciting year. Let's see what happens.


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