Rob Jonas, the new Vice President and Managing Director for EMEA and APAC, will lead international sales and help drive continued global expansion of the PubMatic platform. He brings 15 years of experience developing high-growth technology companies in the EMEA, North America and the Asia-Pacific regions. An alumni of InMobi, Google, Overture and Yahoo!, he has managed large regional customer relationships and contributed to the successful global expansion of these companies.
What will your experience with global brands like Yahoo! and Google bring to a developing company like PubMatic?
I’ve worked at both large global companies and start-ups like InMobi and hope to bring best practices from each. When you work with different global companies, you see that they approach international expansion very differently — some better than others. You have to make sure you understand the markets you are going into and recognise there is a huge amount of variation in how businesses work in Europe and in Asia. One-size-fits-all is a recipe for failure; there are many nuances and differences across the markets. Secondly, you have to make sure you have experienced people who know the pitfalls to avoid. Ten years ago it was difficult to create a team with adequate digital experience across multiple markets, but today there are more and more people that have that experience, enjoy the business and are passionate. Lastly, you need to have a clear strategy. Many businesses that launch in international markets with only people on the ground fail because they neither defined success nor created benchmarks to achieve it.
What is the biggest challenge for publishers globally today in terms of revenue generation?
There really are three challenges. First, is the speed of change versus ten years ago, which has created higher levels of complexity for operating businesses, servicing customers and managing competitive threats. Second is the multi-platform dimension coupled with the rise of mobile. Even three years ago publishers were not focused on mobile — it was analysts talking about how important it was. Today, publishers are grappling with multi-platform content distribution and monetisation. Mobile usage adoption has caught many publishers by surprise. Globalisation is the third factor. Ten years ago, monetisation operated in local markets. Today however, major players are finding that huge parts of their business come from outside their home market. Take UK news publisher The Daily Mail, a London-based publisher, which has attracted a large US following, making it the largest online news site in the world – even larger than the New York Times. Two or three years ago, few people would have predicted that. As a result, the traditional model of in-house sales teams selling to local advertisers has had to adapt.
How would you compare global markets in terms of RTB adoption to the US?
The U.S. is obviously well established but international markets are becoming more and more important. The UK is a crucial digital advertising market as publishers have more widely adopted the technology – it will be a leader in Europe for RTB growth and overall market size. Japan has caught up to most Western European markets and has the most potential to rival the U.S. in overall size in the next few years. Total RTB spending in Japan will grow from $47 million in 2011 to $1.1 billion in 2016. Beyond these, France and Germany will become critical in Europe. Both of these markets are conservative in adopting new advertising technologies, but once embraced, have the capability to grow very quickly. Australia, India and China will all contribute, with the latter having potential in the long term to be one of the largest RTB markets globally.
How can publishers overcome the current commoditisation of inventory that is often blamed on programmatic?
The first iteration of programmatic buying led to the commoditization of remnant inventory for publishers, which pushed down CPMs and yield. It’s now a very different marketplace with companies like PubMatic offering sophisticated capabilities and platform functionality. Now publishers can take inventory they may not be able to sell directly, layer in audience data and package it in ways they could not in the past. The publishing business is more complex now and requires technology to increase value from global audiences.
What’s your version of an elevator pitch for what PubMatic offers to publishers?
We’re solving critical problems: How do you monetise your digital assets in an increasingly multi-platform and global marketplace? How do you use technology to increase value and complement your direct sales activities? PubMatic is at the nexus of two huge trends in digital advertising: the rise of programmatic buying and selling of inventory and the consolidation of platforms as users consume content across channels.
How do you see the demand side of the business?
I’m one of the big believers that the demand side will drive the ecosystem and will catalyse the marketplace. Leading Agency Trading Desks project that programmatic buying revenue will amount to hundreds of millions of dollars within the next 24 months. European publishers are expected to increase RTB budgets by 1000% in 2013. With this in mind, PubMatic will continue to develop relationships between publisher customers and demand clients.
Unified optimization, or the idea of evaluating all inventory sold through a platform, is a pretty radical concept to a lot of publishers who want to continue to segregate inventory into direct sold and premium. What’s the first step they need to take to better understand this concept?
By articulating our vision of growth, we are able to update publishers’ perceptions. Once they are on board, many of their concerns disappear. Our platform offers consultative, 24/7 support so our customers are able to maintain a solid understanding of the current state of the industry as well as prepare for future shifts.
Coming from a mobile network, what would you advise publishers to do to increase the value of their mobile inventory?
If you are a mobile publisher today, it’s a challenging market. Publishers need to educate advertisers on why they need to be focused on mobile and help them understand how to plan, buy and run campaigns. We’re still having the dreaded “year of mobile” discussion — the market is still divided between performance / pay for download and brand advertisers. We have more work to do on the creative level to unlock the potential of the platform. We have to take into account the personalised nature of the device plus the data that is attached to it. Soon, we will get to a point where targeting will go beyond “male, 18 – 34, ABC1, in London” to intent context or intent-based targeting. We will be able to target someone about to go shopping, get on a plane or commute to work. As an industry, we’re also developing enough experience around gaining user consent; surveys have confirmed that users will exchange consent for more valuable content and relevant advertising. On mobile, there is so much potential for advertising and we are getting closer and closer to this every year.
What are your daily must-reads for business and pleasure?
I use Twitter to stay informed about industry news from outlets such as Business Insider, AllThingsDigital and TechCrunch. As I am relatively new to the programmatic sector, sites like ExchangeWire are also must-reads. In the mobile space, there are a handful of analysts who really understand the hype often associated with the mobile sector such as Ben Evans at Enders Analysis. Outside of work, I am a pretty active road cyclist and am usually checking on the latest European race on The Guardian or L’Equipe or what my network is up to on Instagram or Strava.
Why did you join PubMatic at this point in your career?
PubMatic predicted many of the trends that are coming to market and after coming in to contact with the company more than five years ago, now is the perfect time to help accelerate its plans in EMEA and the Asia-Pacific region. The speed of change, increase in cross-platform complexity and inexorable rise of programmatic buying is only going to increase in the next few years. I am looking forward to working with the fantastic team at PubMatic during this next stage of growth.