Q&A: Rahul Vasudev, Managing Director at MediaMath Asia-Pacific


In January of 2015, Rahul Vasudev left his position as regional head at MediaCom to run MediaMath’s operations in the Asia Pacific.

The now 10-year-old programmatic ad firm, with 15 locations across the U.S, Latin America, Europe, and Asia, has enjoyed a steady wave of success with the execution of its business model that earlier this year saw MediaMath secure a $175 million credit facility from Goldman Sachs in partnership with Santander Bank.

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In a further sign of the firm’s promise, Forrester earlier this year recognized MediaMath as one of the more prominent players in an increasingly crowded programmatic industry.

Branding in Asia recently spoke with Vasudev about his career, MediaMath’s place in the industry now and in the future, and his take on the state of programmatic in the marketing world.


What’s been keeping you busy lately?

The world of ad tech is a space of almost-constant excitement and developments. Rather than slowing down, we see the rate of change actually increasing. So, there are constantly new things to work on, new technology to bring to the region, and new clients to onboard and grow with. The end of the year is also typically when we start to think about next year plans. With the list of new releases that we are working on, it’s a really exciting project!

Your background was in engineering while others in your family were marketers. How did that influence you and where you are now?

The engineering degree was more to do with my approach to life in general, rather than an interest in becoming an engineer. It really helped me with bringing a scientific approach to everything I take on.


 

With the exposure to marketing through my family members and close friends, it was natural for me to bring the two together and approach the advertising space with the same building blocks approach.

Given internet marketing is inherently addressable, and allows significant depth in measurement, it was a natural place for me to start. Today, ad-tech is rife with buzzwords and jargon. My natural approach is to try and break through the clutter by taking clients and even our own teams back to the basics and then building from there.

MediaMath received high regard from Forrester earlier this year when recognizing it as one of eleven prominent players in the field. How do you see the roster of competition shaking out moving forward?

Forrester’s latest DSP and DMP Wave reports are a testament to the importance of programmatic marketing for marketers of all types. It reflects just how much the ecosystem has evolved thus far and how well-equipped we are, as an industry, to meet the needs of marketers today.

As an industry and speaking on behalf of MediaMath, we are driven daily to recognize what is and isn’t working. We are motivated to help our clients identify their best customers and communicate with them in the most meaningful way possible.

The engineering degree was more to do with my approach to life in general, rather than an interest in becoming an engineer. It really helped me with bringing a scientific approach to everything I take on.

Moving forward, marketers will continue to need a tool that allows their brand message to reach the right customer, at the right time, and the industry needs to consistently work towards this.

The ad tech space is in a consistent period of consolidation, where the larger players, with the scale and ability to capitalize on the Network Effect, will survive. MediaMath is focused on bringing the best of breed technology to our clients and working with them to implement truly customised marketing technology stacks for them. It was indeed an honor to be recognized as a Leader by Forrester.

Realistically, where are we at in the evolution of DSP and DMP capabilities and ease of use for marketers?

Great question and very timely since MediaMath is 10 years old this year, which marks the coming of age of the industry given we were the first DSP. The space has evolved significantly, with a lot of features that were innovations in the past now becoming table stakes.

From a time when marketers had to work with Point Solutions (a partner who only did mobile, or social, etc.), we’ve now arrived at a stage where being Omnichannel capable is a minimum requirement. It is super inefficient for marketers to work with so many different partners and results in a terrible consumer experience, so it’s a basic qualifier we see in all new RFPs.

Marketers have to own the measurement, period. They have to have an opinion on the measurement to use, bring in the right attribution solutions, and drive the results of that into every media dollar being spent.

Similarly, having basic data management capabilities is no longer enough, clients are expecting full-fledged DMP capabilities in a technology partner so that they can onboard their data once and activate it everywhere. There are several other areas of capabilities that are also being demanded that are now critical – mature APIs, comprehensive feature set covering onboarding of data, attribution, algorithmic decisioning, access to social, etc.

In the near future, we see a drive towards integration of martech and adtech, an area that MediaMath has been working very hard over the past couple of years. Clients are increasingly asking us to integrate with their CRM systems, POS systems, and other enterprise software, to help them deliver a truly seamless and comprehensive consumer experience.

You recently said that “targeting past site visitors isn’t enough” and that MediaMath aims to “enable clients to adjust bid strategies and messaging based on customers’ actual online activity across all devices and channels.” Elaborate more on that and its importance.

At MediaMath, we are focused on helping clients find their most valued customers. This requires so much more than targeting past site visitors. It means truly understanding customer browsing and buying habits and knowing which customers are likely to return.

It means understanding which potential customers are most likely to convert, in a predictive environment, making the media buying decision, and then tracking it back to the actual conversion event. Of course, we need to apply machine learning to constantly improve our ability to make this prediction.

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We have also introduced a full suite of audience solutions, MediaMath Audiences, to enable our clients to reach more customers in a meaningful, cost-effective, and predictive manner.

MediaMath Audiences is built on a backbone of data from more than a billion global consumers, allowing marketers to apply the power of observed and transactional data to drive successful outcomes. It is specially designed to help advertisers improve the reach of their marketing campaigns, in a truly omnichannel way, targeting only consumers who are highly likely to re-engage and respond.

What are some of the biggest mistakes marketers are making in their use of programmatic and what advice would you offer them?

There are several opportunities for advertisers to take advantages of the technologies that are available to them today. The top three in my book would be:

– Care about the knowledge – programmatic technology today enables a lot of transparency for advertisers and they are in a position to improve their organizational knowledge about what drives a sale, a conversion, or brand positioning. It is important for them to think about how they can get access to this data, rather than allow it to remain in the hands of the technology partner. Future success for marketers will be dictated by their knowledge of the consumer and their ability to replicate performance by themselves.

– Own the attribution and constantly improve it. Marketers have to own the measurement, period. They have to have an opinion on the measurement to use, bring in the right attribution solutions, and drive the results of that into every media dollar being spent.

– Eliminate all silos – Working across multiple partners and measurement systems, being dictated to operate in silos by their media partners, and spreading themselves terribly thin are all areas that marketers need to own, align, and fix.

 

 

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