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Why Incoming Professionals Should Choose A Career in Ad Tech

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As the world becomes increasingly digital, it is no surprise that brands and agencies constantly search for innovative solutions to reach and engage consumers through digital advertising. Through my product marketing internship at Innovid, I have witnessed the dedication and intensive work that goes on behind the scenes in the ad tech industry. In doing so I realized how valuable marketing is to businesses today. 

However, outside of the industry there is often confusion and misconceptions around the differences between digital marketing and advertising technology, including how they provide value. The vague and opaque nature of these overlapping industries is often a barrier for young and talented marketers. It can push them away from a sector that is integral to our daily lives. 

In order to share what I have learned this summer, I sat down with senior product marketing professionals to discuss their industry experiences, clarify common misconceptions, learn about their evolutions within the field, and gain advice for young professionals interested in advertising technology. As a student embarking on an M.S. in Marketing Management, I hope these first-hand accounts from high-level marketing professionals provide a sense of encouragement for like-minded individuals while showcasing the pivotal aspects of marketing in real-world practice.

How would you define Ad Tech to someone who doesn’t know what it is? How does ad tech differ from digital marketing?

“I think people often conflate digital marketing and ad tech. I would describe digital marketing as any marketing effort on the internet, whether it’s Search Engine Optimization, social media,  banner, or streaming television ads.

Ad tech is the technology that powers digital marketing executions. We provide software solutions that enable anyone from Fortune 500 companies and brands to small businesses to individual marketers with tools to target, reach, and engage consumers. So ad tech is an umbrella term for the technology and all the processes that go into delivering ads to audiences. This includes everything that happens in the background to ensure an ad reaches the correct audience, if the ad was viewed or engaged with, and how to measure performance. 

What’s funny is that anyone with a device that connects to the internet is interacting with some sort of ad tech solution, whether they know it or not. It’s an integral part of our daily lives.”

— Stephan Morse, Senior Product Marketing Manager at Innovid

What is a common misconception around Ad Tech that you can clarify?

“I think the biggest misconception is the value of advertising. You’ll often hear people saying they are annoyed by targeted ads and see it as an invasion of privacy, especially when there are conversations regarding data. I understand the sentiment, and even though I work within the industry, I can get fatigued. What I think many of these conversations miss is how crucial advertising is. Advertising sponsors and pays for most of your favorite content, allowing us to enjoy the content we love for significantly cheaper. That value usually doesn’t get talked about nearly enough.

There’s a lot of content out there that I view all the time, but if you asked me to pay $3.00 for it, I wouldn’t do it. So if we want access to cheaper content and we’re going to have advertising, why not make it a more enjoyable experience? That’s what ad tech enables. It makes advertising more targeted and relevant to the end consumer.

The goal is, even with a break in-between or before the content, the ad is hopefully relevant to you and adds value versus something completely random. In that sense, I think ad tech provides a ton of value.” 

— Simeon Powers, Senior Product Marketing Manager at Innovid

If you could change one thing in the ad tech industry, what would it be and why? 

“I would love to change the way we think about data privacy. It’s a recurring theme in every meeting, and everyday consumers have exacerbated it over the past few years due to data scandals. It’s common to hear ‘my phone or my computer is listening to me, and that’s why I got an ad.’  

In reality, some tools exist to track the content people are consuming, but there is a ton of privacy and regulation to maintain compliant standards and protect consumers. Additionally, data aggregators and ad tech companies work together, but these regulations are very explicit on what can and can not be shared. 

There is no single entity collecting and listening to everything you’re doing on the internet. Often the reason people get an ad that is highly relevant to them, like for a product that they were talking about thinking about, is due to algorithms and a lot of technology and work behind the scenes making an extremely calculated response to a consumer. It’s basically proof that ad tech works while still maintaining consumer privacy.

However, I think we can improve on how we talk about privacy. I believe, as an industry, we need a stronger centralized voice to align on how we face these challenges and develop future solutions. Frequently, data access and privacy become competitive advantages and company differentiators when in reality, we should be working together to foster a better advertising ecosystem. We get this feedback consistently in the market, and it is making the market healthier. But at the end of the day, I think a centralized standard to address pushback from consumers could help us approach these challenges a lot better.”

— Sara Lambert, Senior Product Marketing Manager at Innovid

How has Ad Tech evolved since you first started in the industry? 

“It’s an interesting question because ad tech evolves but at the same time… it stays the same. At the end of the day, everyone in our industry has the same goal: we want to provide better, more relevant, and engaging experiences that provide value. That always stays the same. However, the way we go about this and how we execute that goal continues to change over time. For example, social media advertising was a hot topic when I first entered the industry. Social media advertising is still an effective marketing channel, but the channel focus has shifted again.

Now, the focus is on converged TV and connected TV because advertisers can get the viewing experience of traditional linear TV combined with the audience targeting and interactivity enabled by internet-enabled streaming environments. The end goal stays the same, powering effective marketing strategies but the channels and ad tech solutions powering those strategies are constantly in flux.”   

— Stephan Morse, Product Marketing Manager at Innovid

What are some challenges associated with breaking into the ad tech industry?

“An immediate challenge when breaking into the industry is getting in touch with the language of ad tech. It feels as if there are 8 million acronyms that you need to remember. It can get confusing very quickly, and often no one wants to admit they are googling a term during a meeting. 

I’ve had calls with all ad tech industry veterans, and we've had to set aside a few seconds just to align on terminology. So that’s definitely a big barrier for entry that is unnecessary. At the end of the day, it takes 2 seconds less to say the full word or phrase, and I’d rather just say what I mean.”

— Sara Lambert, Senior Product Marketing Manager at Innovid

What advice would you give to a student unsure about a marketing major or an incoming professional entering an Ad Tech company?

“I think getting a baseline understanding of the ad tech industry is extremely valuable for anyone who wants to be in marketing. Even if they choose to be outside of ad tech, understanding the tools and capabilities available gives you so much context for what is possible when attempting to reach and engage your consumers.

I think it’s so valuable to have that foundational knowledge of how some of these technologies actually function, what can and cannot be done with them to engage your target audience, and how they can be used to measure performance is vital.”

— Stephan Morse, Product Marketing Manager at Innovid

What's the best piece of career advice you received?

“Feedback is a gift. I experienced significant growth in my career once I learned not to take feedback personally, no matter the language used or how the feedback was conveyed. If you can detach yourself from the initial emotion of negative feedback, it’s really interesting to consider the content and context of the feedback. They can provide a new perspective that can really take an idea or project to the next level, but you can only gain insight if you're open and willing to listen to feedback.”

— Simeon Powers, Senior Product Marketing Manager at Innovid