Interact Online! Meet The Speaker – Oliver Whitten, COO at Adform

On 3rd June, IAB Europe will be hosting our flagship event Interact, virtually! This free-to-attend virtual conference will allow the digital advertising and marketing industry to interact online! It’s never been more important to come together to help support, build and sustain our innovative industry. Expert speakers include senior executives from Coca-Cola, Zalando, Adform, Google, ProSieben, RTL, GroupM, OMD and OneTrust.

There is still time to register for free here

In the run up to the event, we wanted to introduce you to some of the great speakers that will be discussing and debating the latest industry topics in our panel sessions.

We are pleased to introduce Oliver Whitten, COO at Adform.

Q. Firstly, thank you for supporting Interact Online. Thanks to the help of our sponsors, we’ve been able to create a free event for all of the industry to join. Apart from your own session, what are you most looking forward to seeing at Interact Online?

I’m very much looking forward to hearing Daniel Knapp’s research and the following panel on the outlook for the digital market. I‘m particularly interested in his take on the effects of Covid on the outlook for the rest of the year.

Q. What is your role at Adform and what’s been your focus so far this year?

I am Adform‘s Chief Operating Officer and lead all commercial and client facing aspects of the business. We have been very focussed on scaling our US business this year and are seeing great traction both with domestic and global clients. In addition, like many, we’ve been very focussed on supporting clients through the Covid crisis, including particular initiatives around adapting creative messaging through DCO and reaching consumers via Video and CTV.

Q. Outside of work (and before the lockdown) what do you most enjoy doing in your free time?

Like many, I love going on holiday with my family, especially skiing. We were actually booked to go to France just before the lockdown started, but pulled the plug at the last minute … very glad we did as we easily could have been among the thirty thousand Brits that got stuck in Geneva airport! Fingers crossed that we can all take some holidays later in the summer and support some of the deeply impacted regions.

Q. You will be participating in the ‘Changing Roles and Responsibilities across the Value Chain’ panel. Ahead of the session, can you share your thoughts on how roles and responsibilities have changed within digital advertising over the last 12 months?

The industry has been on a journey to mature over the past 10+ years and, whilst I don’t think the value chain discussion is new, and we are still battling with many of the same issues – transparency, brand safety, fraud etc, I do see some positive maturing of business practices over the past year.

Most notable, I think, are that advertisers are increasingly owning their tech and supplier contracts, with a four way relationship emerging between brands, agencies, consultancies and vendors. This is certainly positive, as increased understanding of the value chain by brands shines light on the more challenging parts of the market and helps the industry move forwards.

Second, I would point to the increased focus and shifting ownership of the supply path. This takes a lot of different forms; in some cases agencies and brands building their own supply paths with publishers, in others, preferred partnerships with SSPs and exchanges. All of this helps to create more transparency, resulting in more investment going towards working media and thereby funding quality content. Clearly, there’s still a long way to go in this area, but we are seeing green shoots of a better way to transact media, which must be seen as positive.

Q: We’ve seen the creation of Chief Privacy Officers, Brand Safety Managers, what do you think will be the two most important roles in the next 2 years?

First, all roles dealing with identity, be that in terms of the technology, making the most of available signals or from a privacy perspective. It’s critical that marketers can continue to understand and reach their consumers in digital environments and everyone in the sector will need to focus on this in the coming years.

Second, I think we’re headed for a period where all businesses in the sector will need to be highly optimised to thrive. As such it will be important to have a focus on business fundamentals. This would suggest that a strong and tech savvy CFO is what most companies need through what looks likely to be a difficult market backdrop.

Q: Transparency is key in digital advertising – how do you think we can work together as an industry to continue to improve transparency?

The industry has shown it can develop and implement standards quickly, for example TCF as a response to GDPR or Ads.txt as a response to inventory fraud. As other issues such as supply chain transparency come to the fore, it’s crucial that we collaborate as an industry to develop the needed standards in these areas and get them to a relevant level of market adoption rapidly.

Q. Why should people attend Interact?

It’s more important than ever to come together to share and learn. Usually we might meet over lunch, at an event or at the water cooler but the distance created by the Covid situation makes it harder to share ideas and opinions and thereby move our industry forward. We’re still battling with many fundamental problems as a sector, and I am sure interact will provide a great forum to address them.

Q. What’s your top tip for getting through lockdown?

A trampoline for the kids … and then wine for the adults!

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