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Robert DeSalvo (Undertone) on Sales, Coaching & Mentoring | Thoughts on Ad Networks, Troubleshooting and Mentorship
In this episode, Jeff and Andy discuss the most suitable ad networks, troubleshooting and the importance of mentorship. Later in the episode, Jeff and Andy speak with Undertone’s SVP, National Sales & Content Solutions, Robert DeSalvo about all things sales, coaching and mentoring.
Listen to the episode on Spotify, now!
About Our Guests
Undertone’s Senior Vice President, National Sales & Content Solutions, Robert DeSalvo has been a member of the team since 2015. He is an advertising sales and marketing executive with 20+ years of experience covering major brands and agencies with campaigns in traditional, digital, experiential and social media.In his current role, Rob leads our national sales team & content solutions initiatives. Rob is also very involved in the advertising industry community serving on the Board of Directors at the Boston Chamber of Commerce, MITX & BIMA. Previous to his tenure at Undertone, Rob served as the President/Founder of RMD Media, Inc., where he partnered with publishers from Conde Nast, Hearst & Meredith/Time Inc to lead their Advertising Sales initiatives.A graduate of the University of Rhode Island, Rob currently lives in MA with his family.
I’m not afraid to have a big heart. Let’s let’s shoot for above the ceiling that you fit through the ceiling. I want to know where they see themselves in two years and five years and 10 years. And I want to help them to find that path with very specific goals and measurable milestones to hit along the way. Welcome, welcome, welcome.
This is the Freestar presents Blood, Sweat and CPMs podcast. I am your host, Jeff Kudishevich.
And I am your far less hyped co-host Andy Forwark. Yeah.
Yeah. Andy, we’re recording this in early November, so there is a national pastime that we just got through that we’ll chat about in one second, if this is your first time listening to our show. Welcome. Tell all your friends, family members, anybody you pass in the street.
Hey, ADTECH, listen, so we have our special guest today, Rob DeSalvo from Undertone. He’s going to chat all things sales and content initiatives and product roadmap and all of those good things. And before that, of course, we have our reddit ad ops threads of the week. We’re going to impart some of our wisdom, I guess you could call it wisdom and hopefully help the community around a little bit.
Yes. Always looking forward to some good Reddit threads to get us through the day. All right, Andy. So speaking of this national pastime, Halloween. Beggars night, as my grandmother called it.
Nice. It obviously looked a lot different this year than it has in years past. What did you guys do in your neighborhood? What did you do in your family?
Well, it was pretty much a standard Halloween and by standard Halloween. I mean, just what I did and what we did with with friends and family we set up in the front driveway. We get a bonfire going. We have a table set up with candy on it. And then. Bonfire. Excuse me. Yeah, yeah. We’ll do we’ll do like a nice fire. You know, it was quite warm this year. So the fire wasn’t really there for warmth.
It was just more there for visual effects and that wonderful smell of campfire. That’s cool.
Andy, it sounds like you guys do some cool stuff for Halloween as my yearly tradition of not having a tradition. We had a very sad chair with a very sad bowl of candy outside for people who walked by. I think some people did. It was nice. And I got pizza and we had some pizza. As far as traditions go, I don’t have one for Halloween. I kind of want you to adopt me so I can do your family Halloween stuff. Yeah, next week or next year.
We’ll bring you over and you can do the whole thing with us. That’s so there will be more people next year, too.
We only had I counted maybe three trick or treaters or three groups, I should say. Sure. Small groups, not not large groups, except for that large group of teenagers that walked up and down the street a couple of times but. Menacing, huh?
Yeah, I would say they were pretty nice, though, you know, they walked by, said hello, told me go cubs because they could see my cubs flags hanging in the garage. And that’s always nice.
That’s nice. How pleasant is that? What just a a delightful scene. If anybody could just think about that for a second. Make you feel warm and fuzzy inside. OK, Andy.
Well, hopefully we can make people feel warm and fuzzy in their brain, unless that’s something bad for you, and give them some knowledge about our industry and some things about pre-bid and some things about mentorship. And then, of course, our conversation with Rob as well.
Yeah, should be a bunch of good stuff today on the episode. Love a bunch of good stuff. All right. Sounds good. All right, Andy. Now the moment of truth, our time to break down the top reddit adops threads of the week, in case you don’t know, which I would imagine most don’t. I actually started the ad ops sub Reddit in 2012, and it’s now somehow become one of the leading ad ops communities in the industry.
What do you think, Andy?
Yeah, it’s a great community. Happy to be a part of it. I’m excited for this segment to just run down all the different threads that we see over the weeks and give our opinions on it.
Awesome man. All right. And our first thread of the day is entitled Combining Data from GA and GAM. So the user here is asking about reading and analyzing data from these two different data sources and studying page view trends with ad requests and effectively asking for suggestions about how to manage and merge these two sets of data. They mentioned that they’ve used data studio but would love to hear ideas from other companies. So we asked our head of analytics, Manny Balbin, to sub in really quick and give us an awesome answer.
No pressure, Manny, and thank you for joining us. Hello. All right, Manny. So can you talk us through just some ideas how to attack this question from this user?
It’s a common problem amongst all of us who would love to see merge data between analytics and our revenue data models. The issue here is that we typically don’t have a lot of controls when there are two disparate data sets. So with GAM, I think most of you know that once you have the impression recorded to a time zone you initially decided to have, it will be like that forever. So there’s no going back. And then with GA we believe that you can make changes in the time zone.
So at least that’s something that you can potentially do. But the challenge here is how do we turn to data from these two sources cohesively without doing so manually? And obviously you’d want that in a data pipeline where you can rely on and you don’t have to recompile the data set like a Google sheet over and over again. My recommendation is to have a platform that does help you aggregate those data sets or ingest those data sets for you so you can have them.
So after defining your schema and then you want to look at your data by day and whatever is supported between GAM or GA as well. You want to make sure that you have those data models mapped out initially to ensure that when you’re trying to pivot the data, whether you want to break it up by devices or video, you want to make sure that the two data sets have the same exact columns and dimensions.
So many after the users sort of make sure that the data looks similar between the two. Can you give us a snapshot of some of the bigger steps to then actually get this data into the same warehouser or software UI? So everything I mentioned earlier is all about data warehousing. So you want to ensure you have a nice structured process and flow that does it for you. But once you actually have it in the data warehouse, the next challenge is how do you present the data and visualization tool?
Or is this Reddit thread mentions data studio, which is a nice free tool that Google provides on top of a big query or anything else that you can connect to it? There are many options from data studio, one of which is Google Sheets. But once you figure out how to get the connection into the studio, I could say that data studio is one of the most intuitive and user friendly visualization tools out there.
They make it really easy for you to filter, slice the data and create your own custom metrics. So now you can join revenue against page views or sessions to come up with RPM, RPS. And even further, you can try to generate impressions for page views or impressions procession. And as long as your data models have the same dimensions or unique relative peace between the two that you can join the date, you can certainly expect a nice clean data set to be able to pivot in a table in data studio.
Awesome. Awesome. Really appreciate it, Manny. I sure I’m sure everybody will really love hearing from you. I learned a little bit, so thank you for your time. Thank you.
Our next thread is entitled Suitable Ad Networks for Header Bidding. So the user writes, I would like to extend my header bidding set up for other ad networks. Now I am using Teed’s and some local partners. My sites have about five to six million page views per month. Do I have a chance to get direct access to major ad networks such as Pubmatic, Rubicon, Smart, AppNexus, or do I have to use some intermediary? Well, I think most of these SSPs have their minimum’s things like age of your site.
Certainly page use but five to six million a month. You certainly cross the minimum thresholds for most. I think it’s usually like a million a month or something like that category to some networks might just not take certain types of categories depending on what it is, but those are usually edge cases. Outside of that, you can probably figure out your own setup, getting your own seats with those SSPs and just negotiate as good of a rev share as you can get.
Andy what are some where are some suitable ad networks that come to mind for you that the maybe the user didn’t mention here? I think they hit a couple of the the big players.
But I would also suggest looking at open X and index exchange as other networks, they didn’t mention Amazon.
Amazon is a good one too.
Usually what I what I would do if I was the if I was a publisher, I would go to who I consider my competitors. And now we have this beautiful thing called ads dot txt so or adds dot text, go to their domain dotcom or what have you asked to text and see who they’re working with. Right. It might give you some ideas too of of hey, these guys are relatively my size in my vertical. Here are the vendors that they work with and that might help you also either come up with other ideas of who to go to to work with that you’re not currently working with or didn’t think about.
But it also might give you some ammunition, right. If you go to sign up for Pubmatic, let’s say, as an example and Pubmatic says, oh, sorry, Mr. Webmaster. Publisher, sir, madam, you don’t fit our minimum.
You can then link to your competitors as text and say, well, we’re we’re the same size based on similar Web or some of these other metrics. I think if you approve them, you should aprove me. Just gives you some a little more ammunition when you’re having those kind of kind of conversations and also gives you some ideas of of who to potentially go after that, that they already did the the heavy lifting or the legwork for for you.
Yeah. Some of the other ones that came to mind to just thinking about it was sharethrough andtriple life lift provide native gumgum comes another one that provides some display in their own direct sales too. So there’s quite a few networks out there. It really depends on your page too, and what you’re willing to serve.
There’s one last thing I’ll mention. If you’re on the add up sub Reddit, as you were to post this this thread, you can look in the right hand column under resources. We link out to a Google sheet entitled Demand Sources for Publishers. It’s pretty robust, maybe not completely up to date to the minute, so to speak, but you’ll see a lot of information in there about either intermediaries or direct SSPs that you that you might not know otherwise as well.
So I think that be another thing to look at if you’re going at it alone and once you want some crowdsourced information as well. Our next thread is entitled Pre-bid GAM Winning Bid Will Not Serve. Hi, facing an issue which, by the way, I love that as a first sentence, it’s facing an issue we are using Pre-bid J.S. along with UAM with GAM, fairly typical. For some reason, GAM chooses to return house ads instead of a winning bid from Pre-bid.
What are we doing wrong? How is this possible? And it sounds like super, super straightforward.
So I’m sure. I’m sure right off the top of your head you’ve got the answer for us, right? It’s a one size fits all. Yeah. There’s just one answer to answer this question for sure.
So for the interest of time, Andy, why don’t we just give some ideas of what to look for? Right. Let’s not let’s because this could take probably three days of investigating to figure out. So let’s just start there.
Well, I think they’re on the right track. They they say that it seems to be set up properly with the priority of their line items. They also check their granularity to make sure that matched up without seeing this. It’s tough to say. Right. But the one thing that I would do is look at the page and use the Google counsel to pull up the ad serving that’s happening on the page, Google Counsel, Questionmark GOOG F.C. Add that to the end of your URL and then you should see the the counsell pop up from the bottom.
And in there you can kind of look and see, are you sending the HBPB? Those are the h.b underscore PB are the standard key values that come in that are sent to them from Pre-bid and just kind of make sure that there are bids on there. If that’s happening, then GAM really should be serving as long as those are matching up. And if not, reach out to us.
Maybe we can help you out before you do that, because I know what it’d be general to support. And would it be worth the time to strip away Amazon and just focus on pre-bid and make sure Pre-bid is delivering? Maybe the reason I say is maybe there’s there’s something with the setup that they that they had with the orders or line items from Amazon, UAM that I don’t know is adding, let’s call it an extra layer of an extra variable right.
So could they strip away one variable to kind of give themselves one less thing to worry about? Yeah, definitely.
And Amazon works independently from Pre-bid, although when you are sending in the prebid bids, the Amazon bids are getting sent in as well. So there could be some something that’s not set up properly. So it would be good to eliminate that. Also just ah, your Amazon bids actually winning too. I mean, I think that’s something to be looking at as well, because Amazon has their own orders and line items. So if those line items and orders are winning, then, yeah, I think you can isolate it and say that there definitely is something at the pre-bid level that’s just not getting sent to GAM.
Right. Or whatever it might be.
The last thing that I’ll say Andy is I believe it’s Xander AppNexus who provides some some key values to like force an ad every time. Right. So I don’t know where am I? Maybe I’m getting ahead of myself, but I don’t know where and where in the process. Like, if this were you, Andy, when would you go to that to isolate, like, OK, let me just force ads to see if I’m getting pre-bid to deliver.
No, that’s a really good point, Jeff. You can get those if you go to pre-bid dot org under their example philes you’ll see under the AppNexus Bitta there are some IDs that are purposefully set up there to be test ads. They just show the word. It’s like a blue background with pre-bid. Jeff’s on there. I’d start there if you can put that test ID into the better configuration and you actually see an ad showing up there, by the way, it bids at ten dollars.
So it should beat out anything that you have running in the ad server. If you do see ads there, then that that should indicate that everything’s working properly. I guess the other thing coming to think of it, too, is depending on how you set up prebid, you can send all bids to the ad server or you can send just the winning bid. So check your configuration there, because those are major differences in what you need to set up inside of GAM to get everything working properly.
All right. And our last threat is I’m tired of looking for a mentor. And the user here writes, I’m trying to learn more about ADTECH and find it difficult to simply Google was looking for a tutor or mentor. I could Venmo you and you could explain ad tech concepts to me via chat or phone. Well, Andy, you know that mentoring is really near and dear to me. It’s something that personally has significantly helped shape my career. I had a manager early on at Break Media, Charles Goff, who’s effectively what I consider a mentor for me, still a friend, somebody I can reach out to at any time.
And I and I do from time to time, reach out to him. If I have a complex issue or something I’ve never dealt with. It goes beyond kind of a teacher relationship. Right? These are these are conversations that don’t have to be in in any type of cadence, just keeping in touch and whatever way that might be. I would never say go pay for mentorships, because that’s that’s not a mentorship. That’s more of a consultation or or something like that or taking a class.
So to this user, if they’re listening, just don’t talk about the Venmo piece. It should be I’m giving back. And in many ways, you also get back as a mentor. And I don’t think there’s ever a time where a mentor can also be a mentee. Right. There’s always somebody who you can learn from in whatever facet that maybe you just don’t have a full grasp of yourself. The last thing I want to say is I have a couple mentees at the moment.
Each of them is in different career trajectories and looking for different things. So what I do is just try to make myself available to work on occasion and. That works for both of us and just be flexible, right?
People live and have lives and you know we’re mid-covid so schedules kind of can get out the window a little bit, too. So I just make myself available. We have conversations, we talk about their issues. I like to have them also come to a conversation sort of prepared to bring things up and we just check in on where they are.
Yeah, Jeff, a lot of a lot of good points there. I mean, mentorship is a huge thing for me, too. I mean, I learned I’ve learned so much from various folks that I’ve worked with in this industry, even if it might not have been a formal relationship of mentor and mentee. When you work at a company, you can you can see if you can figure out who the real key players are. And without even formally doing it, you can probably learn a lot just from the way that they work and interact.
And in this user’s particular case, you know, there may be looking for somebody to actually help teach them more so than even mentor, like if you’re willing to pay for it to as a consultation, as Jeff mentioned, put together an agenda like, what do you want to get out of it? Maybe it is, you know, actual mentorship type of stuff, but it could just be like you just need help understanding some general concepts. And and people can help out with that and definitely try to reach out in, and our ad ops.
Reddit Slack is another place that is full of a lot of people that can help you out and maybe you’ll be able to find somebody that’s willing to mentor you. And and like Jeff said, I strongly encourage don’t look for to pay someone to do it, but try to get something that’s going to be a give and take type of relationship.
All right, Andy, I think enough is enough with all of this reddit Ad ops-zari, why don’t we go ahead and switch gears and chat with Rob today?
Yeah, really looking forward to hear what Rob has to say and learn some things about undertone. All right, and now we get to speak to our special guest, Rob DeSalvo, undertone, senior vice president of National Sales and Content Solutions. Rob DeSalvo has been a member of the team since twenty fifteen. He’s an advertising, sales and marketing executive with 20 plus years of experience covering major brands and agencies with campaigns in traditional digital and social media in his current role
Rob leads the national sales team and Content Solutions initiatives. Rob is also very involved in the advertising industry community, serving on the board of directors at the Boston Chamber of Commerce. Previous to his tenure at Undertone, Robb served as the president and founder of RMD Media Inc., where he partnered with publishers from Conde Nast, Hearst and Meredith’s Time Inc to lead their advertising sales initiatives. He is a graduate of the University of Rhode Island and currently lives in Massachusetts with his family.
We are so happy to have Rob today. Thank you for joining us.
Thanks, guys. Appreciate you guys having me on today. Absolutely. Rob. To start us off, just like to see how did you get into ADTECH in the first place? Yeah.
So I’ve actually been in the media industry for a long time, started off on the agency side of the business, and after that moved over to sales and actually had my own rep firm up here in the Boston area in the Northeast, where I partnered with a lot of traditional publishers, Condé Nast, Meredith Time, INC, Hearst Rodeo, and worked with them on their magazine brands back in the day. They wouldn’t put full time employees in satellite offices in or in different regions.
So I’m based up in Boston. So what I would do is pitch these guys on making sure that they had someone in market. They needed feet on the street up in Boston. They couldn’t have someone calling on the territory from New York. So I was able to parlay that into a pretty successful business where I handled publications like Golf Digest and Glamour and Gourmet, House Beautiful, smart money, and basically handled all of the print advertising up in New England for those brands and did that for, like I mentioned earlier, 11 years.
And as print started to dwindle a little bit and their digital companion sites weren’t quite rising up the same tides as they were sitting on the print side, I decided that was time to make the full leap into digital. And I happened to have some former colleagues in adtech and got connected at Undertone through a few of them and made the jump over to undertone. And that was about five and a half years ago. I originally came over as the senior AE in the Boston market.
It was just me solo up there with one account manager that helped me out on my business. And I’ve had a pretty good run for the past five years to get to run a normal sales team.
Now, I was going to ask you, Rob, you sort of mentioned even on the print side, you’d sort of be on a little bit of a Boston island. Was there ever a point where you’re like, I’m a one man show out here, maybe a little, a little less stability, so to speak, just not being in in the headquarters with with the rest of the staff?
Definitely. I think that that is something that I held on to for almost all 11 of those years that I was in a satellite market. I wasn’t at the mothership. Everything’s kind of being done down there. And you hear about it, you know, a week later after it’s been implemented, the entire New York team knows about it and then it trickles out to the rest of the areas. And I’ve been very fortunate to be able to get the opportunities to run some sales teams from not being based down in New York.
And I think it’s actually helped me from a leadership standpoint to look at everything through that lens of being in an outdoor market and not necessarily being at the mothership all the time. And it’s helped me to really give our other outer markets the opportunity and always thinking about the fact that they’re getting the information at the same time as everyone else is they don’t feel like they’re sitting out on that island. They feel like they’re part of everything from the get go, which is nice.
So, Rob, what are some of the things that you do to keep yourself organized?
I look at it in a couple of different ways. I try to organize my brain, my time, my workspace and my projects. And I look at them even though they’re all put together. I look at them a little bit siloed when I look at it from my brain standpoint, I’m actually not a big sleeper, but I do try to get solid sleep. I like to wake up early. I like to get a workout in before the day starts and it’s really key for me to get my day going.
And then what I’ve found that really is successful for me is just taking a little break during the day, whether it’s five minutes, whether it’s ten minutes, just to walk outside for a minute or clear my head and really get the creative thinking going and then get back and down and sit and start going at it from there has really been helpful for me. From a time standpoint. The way that I call it is I have daily successes and goal lists that I try to adhere to, not necessarily a to do list, but I feel like a to do list kind of bogs you down.
There’s a lot of nonessentials that you’re looking at. It doesn’t really help me focus on the prioritization of things. It’s kind of like, OK, check off, check off, check off. But when I look at it from a success and goal list standpoint, some of those priorities that I need to get done that.
Concentrate on those first and really kind of put my mind to it and then the other thing from a time standpoint is time blocking. I definitely want to make sure I block some time to complete those important tasks. This, in my mind, creates a deadline, a very succinct deadline and puts a time limit to those tasks, which is really helpful for me. And then from a project standpoint, I like to keep current projects front and center, and I like to map out milestones for those projects.
So when I get handed a project, I try to look at the end game first and then work my way backwards from my desired end point to create milestones along the way. And then what that does, it helps me provide a vision for that project and a sense of priority both in the short and the long term.
You have a lot of things going on just from that little list there. Does it ever feel like, man, I’m putting even more burden on myself just to stay organized? Like, I hear that from some people, like, well, I’m going to put in a lot of time to be organized. Is that not going to waste more time than it’s going to solve for other issues?
Right, right. Yeah, it is. It’s a it’s a good point. And and I think there are some times where you just have to put that stuff by the wayside and just dive right in. Right. There’s not time to put that list together because you just need to go right at it. I guess I should preface it with saying that when I do have the ability to kind of clear my head and put my time into it, then it’s certainly the method that works best for me.
I really like doing it that way. But I mean, you guys know this business as well as I do. Sometimes there’s a fire and I need to be put out yesterday and that’s just for the preparation like that. You just have to jump right in and get it done.
Yeah, no doubt about it. We sort of talked about how you keep yourself organized and balanced there. Moving on to undertone. How does the company really find that, let’s say, balance that sweet spot between the supply and the demand sides?
Yeah, I think I think from the undertone standpoint, first and foremost, it starts with us having a very close relationship between sales and my team and our publisher team internally. And we tend to look at things in a couple of different increments. We look at six, eight, 12 months in advance and work to monitor the trends in the industry and keep a close eye on what buyers are looking for to make sure we have enough of what they want and the correct supply to support our business.
The other thing we also look at is a lot of clients will come to us with specific goals and objectives as far as editorial adjacencies or editorial content that they want to be a part of. So we’re constantly evolving our publisher list and making sure that we’re talking to publishers within specific verticals that might be important. And so a big one for us more recently has been there’s been a big surge in our retail business going into the holidays. So fashion and lifestyle sites, especially on the female side, have been really something that we’ve been trying to make sure our publisher team is digging in on to make sure that some of our retailers are comfortable and confident that we’re going to be able to hit the audiences that they want.
The other part to this that’s always makes me super curious how other businesses deal with it is what came first, the chicken or the egg? Who’s driving the ship? Is it the advertiser business saying, hey, I just struck this multimillion dollar deal in retail, let’s go get some e-commerce sites or or is it the other way or is it just kind of two ships passing in the night? And then at points you check in and make sure you’re just kind of curious, like who’s driving the direction, so to speak?
You know, it’s funny you say that because we literally had a chicken or egg meeting on Friday. It was almost the exact situation that you just brought up. And that’s why I think I started the answer to your question now with it’s a very close relationship between sales and the publishing team, because sometimes it does go both ways. Sometimes it’s driven by us going to them and being like guys, we just saw this deal through. We have clients that want these types of sites.
Here are 10 sites that they were very interested in. So we need to go out and get a couple more sites like that. And here are some examples that they gave that they’d be interested in and then vice versa. We’ll have our publisher team come to us and say, hey, guys, guess what? We just signed a huge publisher deal with x publisher. This is going to give you guys a huge scale in these units. Go to town and then we’re able to then go to some advertisers and be like, hey, guess what?
We were able to add this publisher to our mix and hopefully drive some incremental business from that. So it definitely does go both ways and driven from both sides. But sometimes it can be like ships passing in the night for sure.
So one of the things we saw undertone do this year was fully adopt header bidding, kind of curious, like what else are you guys thinking about doing next on the product roadmap?
Yeah, I know it’s a great question. I think I’ll answer it from both sides, both the supply side and the demand side. On the supply side, we’ve invested a lot into the supply side of our business the last two years and have many more things planned for for 2021. What we support is client side header bidding for pre-bid index exchange stands right now, but offering flexible integrations that meet the needs of our publisher base is very important to us, which is why the support was rolled out for both display and video.
We’re currently working on the server side header bidding aspect of that support through Amazon TAM and researching header bidding support actually for CTB, which we just launched as part of our product portfolio a couple of months ago.
Also opened RTB and support is on the roadmap and no official eta on that yet. And then outside of integrations, we’ve also launched a new report and payment system which was desperately needed. It’s been asked for by our publishers for years now. It’s called You Drive and it’s significantly more advanced than the platform that we previously had. And there’s a ton of advancements planned for you drive, including more reports and insights, a report builder, API and more on that coming for 2021.
And then on the demand side, you know, we continue to be heavily focused on innovating in the video and CTB and high impact space. We’ve also are especially involved and really trying to grow our social to display amplification for high impact. We’re going to be releasing several new features, formats and advancements in the data market data and measurement side of things in the New Year. These areas that we’re going to continuously push the envelope in and be even more robust, solidifying it as a leader in the space as we go into next year.
So lots of lots of stuff on the roadmap, Rob.
That was that was that was a long list of stuff. Can I ask you what’s what’s your thing like where your you really are going to hang your hat, something you’re, like, personally very excited about. Right. Obviously, lots of different lots of different things you went over. But I’m just kind of curious what’s something that really motivates you? Excites you? Yeah.
What’s it what excites me the most is this new partnership we have with Innervate and what we’re doing in the interactive CTV space because of our high impact capabilities and our creative resources that we have with our in-house creative shop, pixel studios. We’re now able to extend what we’ve been doing in the high impact space for so long into being really creative and impactful on the CTV side of things as well. So to be able to come at it from the creative standpoint and really put execution’s out there that are going to evoke an emotional reaction from consumers is definitely what I’m excited about the most.
I think it’s just a natural extension of what we’ve been doing for so long and really fits into our DNA pretty nicely.
Rob, I listen to a podcast you were on recently, the For Purpose podcast. A lot of the things you touched on really hit home for me because I’m always thinking about different ways that Freestar can be doing more with the with the community, doing kind of more charities and so forth. You sort of we’re getting into undertone cares and kind of how that initiative got off the ground, how you’re working with charities. I’d love it if you could kind of talk us through a little bit about how that got started at Undertone.
Who were some of the champions there behind it and kind of how do you guys keep that amber going, so to speak?
Yeah, you know, it became a really big initiative for us in 2019 where we partnered on a couple of different events and just saw how impactful and how powerful they could be, not only for us, but for the clients that we had involved in it and the fact that we were just able to make a difference in a couple of really cool areas of of charitable giving. But undertone care is really was borne out of our marketing team. Vanessa Confessor, who runs our marketing team, came to me with some opportunities to be able to really grow our corporate social responsibility capabilities.
And HR was very involved. Louise Bedel, who was our VP of H.R., got very involved. Also, we’ve made a commitment to our communities across the entire country and through our employee volunteer days, our partnership with a company called Gislee. We take social responsibility very seriously here and we encourage our teams and our clients to get involved in their local communities. Across the entire amount of years I’ve been in media, we’re doing client entertainment all the time, right?
We’re taking people to ball games, to dinners and to events. Well, instead of spending all your money on things like that, what if you took a portion of your money and utilized it for events where you’re partnering with one of your clients and you’re going to a homeless shelter and helping them with leadership, all sorts of mentoring and coaching skills? Or you’re going to an event that is supporting a charity that is raising money for people that need to have heart surgery but don’t have the money to pay for a procedure like that.
It is a much deeper, more impactful connection and experience that you can go through with your clients. It just puts things on a whole other level, then going to a Knicks game or a Celtics game and grabbing drinks afterwards. It’s just such a deeper experience.
I’m just kind of curious. Is there a particular event or obviously I’m talking about before covid hit that really stuck out for you, that really hit home for you.
Yeah, I think the one that I started I mentioned a little earlier was an event. We went to a homeless shelter in Brooklyn. We partnered with a group called Dare to Be, and we were partnered up with Wave Maker. They represented the account Maybellene. And what we did was we got paired off with teams with these kids that live in this community. They get a chance to be a part of these types of events and social gatherings to really just kind of let loose a little bit, have fun.
And we did a whole bunch of different games with them, some competitions. But then at the end of it, we sat down and I had a group of, let’s say, five or six kids where I really talk to them and learned about them and learned about the things that they want to do and the goals that they have. And the and talked a little bit about some of the things that I’ve been doing and how my role can be a mentor and a coach and a leader.
And that event was about a year ago now and we’re still talking about it all the time. So to know that we have more of those types of events coming up and and will be part of our DNA as a company is is just really cool. As we round out the rest of this year, we’re partnering with Gislee and also Advertising Week for an initiative called Season Without Swag. And it’s a new way to show client appreciation during the holiday season and get back to the community.
So, you know, industry wide, as you guys know, we’re always putting holiday gifts together for our clients, tchotchkes and, you know, smores kits and hot chocolate kits and flowers and things like that. Well, this is a campaign that urges companies to instead of spending that money on holiday gifts for clients to actually make donations to nonprofit organizations in the names of our clients instead. That’s really cool, too.
I mean, any anything you can do to give back to the people that need it more than, you know? I mean, the clients appreciate it. I think a lot more. It’s like, hey, thanks for the gift. But if I see my gift going to somebody that needs it more, that almost feels better. And so one of the things you kept mentioning on talking about Undertone Cares was coaching and mentoring. And as a leader of the organization and the sales group, what are some of the things that you do to like?
How do you approach that with your team?
By far, the favorite part of my job is the coaching, mentoring and teaching aspect of it. I love the opportunity to teach myself team my client experience team, not only the great words of wisdom that I’ve learned from the mentors that I’ve had over the years, but also talk to them about what I’ve been able to learn and grow from through my own experiences and path to where I am today. I think what’s great is that I can talk to every single one of them and be like, listen, it wasn’t that long ago where I was in your shoes and doing every single thing that you guys are doing on a daily basis.
And here are the things that I mapped out from a career timeline path to get to where I am. And these are the things that I can work with you to put together. So I actually approach it in a number of different ways to provide support and encouragement to to the entire team, whether it’s helping them make decisions at solving problems, it’s developing their skill sets. The first thing I try to do is build an authentic connection with all of them.
I think it’s it’s a huge part of it. So I’m I’m a very warm and personable guy. I practice a lot of humility. I try to be funny. Sometimes it works, maybe sometimes it doesn’t. But those types of those types of attributes are grounded in vulnerability. And those qualities help lay the groundwork for authentic connections with everyone on the team and everyone on the team I have a different connection with based off my experiences with them.
And once we get to that point, I really try to sit down with them and learn as much as I can about them, not only from a work standpoint, but also from an outside of work standpoint. It helps me really recognize the strengths that they have and then it helps me to understand and build upon them. So I try to pay attention and ask questions to what they do outside of work. And I try to utilize that info to help them align that with their roles within the workplace.
And what does that do? I think it helps me in a lot of different ways to earn the trust of the team. It obviously takes time and patience to do that. You don’t earn someone’s trust overnight the day you hire them or even a few months in. But it’s huge and it’s essential in my opinion. I tend to give a lot of credit to the team for their accomplishments, no matter how small or big they are. I try to model the behavior that I expect from them, from a from a sales standpoint, from a representing the company in the marketplace standpoint.
I am very transparent from a leadership standpoint. I mean, there’s feedback that is hard conversations you have to have, especially this year. We had to have hard conversations that I’ve ever had to have in my entire career. But I think it’s a hugely important characteristic of mine and one that resonates super strong with the team and they really appreciate it. And then last but certainly not least, I really try to identify and outline stretch goals for them and career timelines.
I’m not afraid to aim high. Know, let’s let’s shoot for above the ceiling. Let’s shoot for through the ceiling. I want to know where they see themselves in two years and five years and 10 years. And I want to help them define that path with very specific goals and measurable milestones to hit along the way. So it’s a really fun part of the job for me. I really like doing it.
One of the things that we we sort of like to end on with all of our guest and what some advice you maybe give somebody who’s looking to get into ad sales or get into our business, know how do they approach, what should they be thinking about?
You know, I think some people, especially on the agency side they’re at the agency for a couple of years and all of a sudden they hear moving over the south side is a great place to be. Let’s just jump right into it. Let’s get right into media sales. And I think that it takes a really long time to get comfortable and to to get their feet wet. And so what I really suggest is that we’ve seen tremendous success in our client experience, account managers transitioning into AE roles.
And part of the reason for that is the experience that they gained while working on proposals and managing campaigns and optimizing learning all of our internal systems, learning our product portfolio. To me, that’s invaluable. Not only that, but they’re also very client facing. So they get to meet and work with a lot of our AE customers. So they start to build that aspect of the job while they’re in the account management role.
All of this gives them a tremendous amount of experience. That translates to being an AE and to all of the responsibilities that it takes to be engaged. So the suggestion that I tend to give people that want to get into it is get into one of the tech companies or one of the digital media companies in an account management role first. Get your feet wet there, learn about all the intricacies of the business, then gives you a really nice, seamless transition into the role.
And the ramp up is so much shorter than when someone just jumps right into an AE role. It could be a year, year and a half.
Well, really appreciate it. Rob, thank you for for letting us kind of pick your brain and hear your perspective around kind of what’s undertone doing, how you build out your your day and then how you help within the community and focus on your team as well. Was really great chatting with you. Yeah.
Thank you, guys. Appreciate the time and and really loved sharing and appreciate the questions. I thought they were great.
Really good answers. Thanks for joining us. Well, that was fantastic, speaking with Rob today and we got to learn a little bit more about the undertone roadmap going forward and the types of things that he’s most interested in. And, of course, also hearing about Undertone Cares and some of the work that their company is doing to partner with charities.
That was really nice. Talking to Robin, as usual, brings in some great insights for us. So thank you, Rob.
A reminder for everybody that the links for the Reddit threads we discussed will be in the show notes if you want to check them out afterwards. Thank you again for everyone who made it this far, for the Freestar Blood, Sweat and CPMs podcast. If you do have a spare moment, please check us out on Google Play or iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts and leave us for review and subscribe to make sure that you get all of this high quality content directly into your ears.
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It’s basically an image of a monitor that has cabinet hinges and appears to have screwed them into the bezel of the monitor, right. That that looks like are four screws not ideal, but for overkill to literally screw four screws into a monitor just for effectively blocking. Right rail adds little do they know we still get paid for those ads and our visibility still stays through the roof. I just really like the ingenuity of this.