Niraj is part of APAC’s first generation of programmatic evangelists, with 9 years in the region. Niraj leads IPONWEB’s APAC sales efforts and was recently voted “Adtech Personality of the Year – APAC” from ExchangeWire for his contributions to the region.
Niraj Nagpal is Director of Business Development APAC for IPONWEB
1. What led you to start working in the ad tech industry?
It was all accidental if I’m honest. I wanted to be on the creative side but saw in 2008 that this thing called digital was growing in importance. The financial crisis at the time made the job search a bit challenging, but I was accepted for a position at Adconion in New York and found my passion for the ad tech industry and its fast-moving pace.
2. How did this lead you to join IPONWEB?
I was lucky enough to make the switch from a leading ad network (Adconion, go orange!) to programmatic in 2009, working for one of the first global agency trading desks, Varick Media Management. That experience got the attention of Brandscreen, a leading Australian DSP, which recruited me to move from the US to Sydney to be one of the first-in-market practitioners.
Since then, I’ve worked across APAC in a number of roles on both the buy and sell-side of the ecosystem; this was good preparation for working at IPONWEB, which builds highly customizable programmatic solutions for companies across the digital advertising ecosystem. My experiences working with brands, agencies, and publishers equipped me with the necessary tools to understand digital advertising’s macro trends and be consultative in my recommendations.
3. What are your main roles and day to day priorities?
I look after business development across the region, which encompasses much more than just the actual sales component. I’m expected to be a subject matter expert on a number of complex solutions while also staying up-to-date on industry trends. As the solutions we provide are SaaS in nature, my day-to-day includes speaking with a number of companies, be it an agency, publisher, or ad tech provider, about their current goals and challenges. I work with them on envisioning what long term solutions can look like to help them transform their businesses and control their advertising destiny while navigating complex procurement, finance and legal teams.
4. Could you tell us more about IPONWEB’s The MediaGrid solution and its key takeaways for publishers?
Programmatic is rapidly becoming the dominant buying mechanism across all media formats. This shift, however, has pushed agencies and publishers further apart and forced both sides to give up control over critical pieces of their media buying and selling strategies. The MediaGrid aims to solve that.
The MediaGrid is a next-gen supply management platform that brings agencies and publishers closer together and empowers both sides with tools that drive greater trading efficiency, performance, and value. It allows publishers to:
- Take back control over their inventory, pricing, and trading partners
- Get closer to agency buyers to strengthen strategic partnerships
- Access curated demand from major agencies and brands
- Package inventory with first and third-party data to create new value for buyers and increase yield
- Minimize concerns over ad quality, fraud, and hidden fees
It has been designed to lessen the complexity of the programmatic ecosystem, bringing media buyers closer to publishers, while acting as a framework on which companies can build to better use their first-party data and leverage IPONWEB’s machine learning capabilities.
5. What’s a problem that you are passionately tackling with IPONWEB at the moment?
The convergence of TV and digital is something that I’m always excited to talk about. This trend has gained momentum during the pandemic, and the platforms we have built in the US, Europe, as well as in Australia (Foxtel), Thailand (True Digital) and other APAC countries allow broadcasters to package and represent their audiences across linear, OTT and digital in revolutionary ways.
Even before COVID accelerated the changes in consumer viewing patterns, we were already seeing a shift of (TV) advertising budgets to digital platforms, which are becoming increasingly focused on programmatic. As users view more content through digital channels, we are beginning to see the transformation of the TV towards digital; at the moment, according to MAGNA, connected TV (CTV) accounts for 12% of the time a user spends with media, but only receives 2% of total ad spend. I am looking forward to the ongoing work to help broadcasters transform their businesses for this digital convergence and even up this balance.
6. In what way has the digital advertising industry changed and developed over the years? What are you most excited about right now?
Since the early days of programmatic, there has been a massive expansion in the different offerings that are available in the ecosystem, many innovative and insightful, and some that are a bit dubious. All of this has resulted in a massively complex ecosystem that is compounded by the unique and challenging trading landscape of APAC.
I am glad to see that many of today’s conversations are focused on increasing transparency and the value of working media as well as industry-wide efforts to help clean up media trading. The efforts of SPO, ads.txt, and sellers.json, are helping the sector to move in the right direction – but current initiatives are just the beginning. It is also good news to see issues like transparency, data activation, privacy and value creation in the ecosystem take centre stage. And it’s rewarding to see how the convergence of new formats in SMS, Audio, VR, CTV means all things are becoming digital – and how all things digital are becoming addressable through programmatic tech.
7. What do you see as the major challenges for publishers and what advice would you give them?
The rise of programmatic and the resulting shift to platform-based buying and commoditization of technology, data, and supply have created a precarious situation for many publishers, most of whom report the following challenges:
- Disintermediation from media buyers by technology platforms
- Inconsistent reporting due to the many platforms in use and inconsistent measurement methods
- Lack of transparency with the buy-side
- Frustrating technology fees, leading to revenue loss
- Rapidly changing privacy landscape, often dictated to pubs by the big platforms (ex: Chrome cookie and Apple IDFA deprecation, Google adoption of TCFv2, etc)
Consequently, it is essential that publishers pick their partners with long term vision in mind. They should be selective, thorough, and plan to grow with them and remove the silos of inventory to truly maximize their value.
8. In your opinion, what are the most important industry changes/trends as we navigate through the pandemic and into a post-COVID-19 world?
Both pre and post-pandemic, the fundamental challenges that our industry faces remain the same: privacy and identity, transparency, and value creation.
Over the past few years we have seen a rise in governmental regulations, movement away from third-party cookies and other identifiers (IDFA,) as well as an increased focus by consumers on their data rights; it is these trends around privacy and identity that will shape the future of digital advertising.
Likewise, discussions on transparency will impact how media is traded moving forward, with implications on media standards, processes and visibility into the media value chain. With the commoditization of data, inventory, and technology, the companies that will benefit and grow will be those that are able to create and demonstrate new and unique value for their trading partners.
9. How do you view the future of digital advertising?
The word programmatic will disappear. Everything will be addressable using data. APAC, being mobile-first, will be leading the industry with unique solutions for identity and creativity.