Blood, Sweat & CPMs Podcast: Episode 4

Welcome to the Blood, Sweat and CPMs Podcast presented by Freestar.

Our hosts, Jeff Kudishevich and Andy Forwark are here to add levity and provide helpful pointers for anyone navigating the world of Ad Tech. Each episode, they will go through the top threads from the Ad Operations Subreddit and give their take on each hot topic of the week. They will also interview thought leaders across the industry to get their perspective on what matters most to them. Follow along on our Blog for show notes and associated links to each episode. Enjoy!


Episode 4

Chris Hunter (IBM) on Paying it Forward | Contextual Targeting, Optimizing your wrappers, and Weird Ads

In this episode of the Freestar Blood Sweat and CPMs podcast, Jeff and Andy go through ad operations subreddit threads about Header Bidding Contextual Targeting, some low hanging fruit for optimizations, and weird ads they’ve gotten in the past. They also talk to Chris Hunter, Head of Global Strategy & Business Development at IBM Watson Advertising about his career and how to pay your success forward.


Listen to the episode on Spotify, now!



About Our Guest


Chris is a digital media vet, with nearly 20 years experience managing P&L’s and developing strategic partnerships for some of the biggest brands on the web, including IBM & The Weather Company, Yahoo, and USA Today Sports.  Chris’s career has spanned across multiple verticals and various roles.  Today he’s excited to be part of IBM’s Watson Media & Weather team where he helps by leading global strategy & business development.  

Find Chris on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/cphunter99/



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You got to think back on each step that you took, you know, there was somebody to help support you, they helped get you through.

[00:00:11.720] 

And if you can offer that back to people, I think that’s a big welcome.

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Welcome, welcome. Thank you, everybody, for tuning in today. This is the Freestar podcast, Blood, Sweat and CPMs. I am your host. Jeff Kudishevich. Hey.

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all you cool cats and kittens. It’s me, Andy Forwark, your co-pilot helping us navigate through this world of ADTECH.

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Thanks, Andy. Here’s a quick rundown of what today’s show will look like on today’s show. We’re going to run through some Reddit add ups threads for you where Andy and I discuss some of the more hot button items of the day. And in the second half of our show, we have our special guest, Chris Hunter from IBM, where we’re going to talk about what his day to day looks like and sort of get a little bit about what he does at IBM.

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Andy, are you looking forward to that or what?

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That sounds awesome. But before we get into that, Jeff, how’s your week going?

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It’s pretty good, man. You know, we’ve had a productive week. We have some new hires starting who are getting ramped up. And I think just in general, trying to stay positive and keep a good mood, hopefully learn some things, hopefully teach some things, all of that good stuff. And yeah, I think I think for the most part, things are going well.

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How about you? Deeping busy. Definitely keeping busy, but ready for ready for some changes I think.

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What kind of changes are you looking forward to, Andy?

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Well, I keep staring at these blinds in front of me. I might have to rearrange the office at home just to get a little change of scenery, if you know what I mean.

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I do. It’s funny. We have the slack thread or I guess excuse me, the slack channel. I did a thing at work and I see all of these people installing doors and getting puppies and building decks and building retaining walls. And I’m just here like, yeah, I think I’m going to play Call of Duty. I think the only thing I’ve really done, if you want to call it a thing, is I continue adding to my TV shows 

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I need to watch lists.

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Well, not everybody has to build a deck to get some enjoyment outside of work, right? That’s fair.

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All right, Andy. Now the moment of truth, our time to break down the top reddit ad ops 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 twenty twelve and it’s now somehow become one of the leading arabs’ 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.

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Awesome man. All right, Andy. First up, we have a thread entitled MediaMath is, quote, to explore its strategic options. You know, this is, I guess, a story that we’ve been hearing a lot in our industry in general, in particular during covid-19. There’s a lot more consolidation, a lot more mergers and acquisitions. MediaMath is a massive DSP. You know, they unfortunately had to lay off about eight percent of their staff in April of 2020.

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But at the same time, we sort of you know, we sort of hear this happening kind of all over the place and seismic bankruptcy last year was massive and we all felt it. Unfortunately, it feels like maybe MediaMath is kind of on the chopping block and trying to find solutions to weather the storm or find a strategic partner or something like that.

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Yeah, I don’t know how much I have to contribute here in the sense of why is this happening? I mean, obviously, the pandemic has kind of taken things to a new level of like let’s look at everything and kind of see how we’re operating. Can we save costs? Are there things we’re doing that are just unnecessary? And when companies raise lots of money and aren’t able to recoup from that or, you know, pay that back then. You know, you kind of find yourself in these situations of like.

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How do I get out of this right, and I think Pandemic it doesn’t help. Yeah, for sure. And I think to that point, it’s like we can raise hundreds of millions of dollars, which is which is great. And it’s awesome when money is infused in our industry. I guess it’s what are you doing with it? How are you expanding?  Are you growing your tools? Are you growing your products? Are you hiring strategically?

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Are you keeping a lean team and putting that putting that funding into areas of growth? It’s tough to say from an outsider perspective on what’s the, what is going wrong. But ultimately, I do think there’s going to be some long look in the mirror when you’re when you have a large staff, when you know, when you do have this infusion of cash, what are we what value are we providing? What are we doing? And certainly here at Freestar, we think about that on every single hire we make and every single new product we put out.

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And really, is this bringing value? Are we in an echo chamber? And everybody here is just saying this is great and the marketplace doesn’t care for it. We try to be as thoughtful as possible and try to, try to mitigate the missteps. Or many people here like this kind of say that the phrase like fail fast, right? If a product doesn’t work, let’s go on to the next one or pivot or something like that.

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The next thread is entitled Explain Like I’m five. Are header bidding ads contextually relevant? I love this thread and I love the question that’s being asked. And the users sort of talking about, given the time that the auction has to take place, is a really contextual targeting, contextual relevancy per site or per category. What are your, what are your thoughts on that topic?

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Well, OK, so the point of given the fraction of a second header bidder auction happens. They’re not wrong about that, however. The many sites that you visit, these ESPs are able to collect cookie data on you, and as long as you still have those cookies in your browser, you know, they’re going to be able to transact on it. So I think there is truth to the contextual relevance, which kind of leads us to this cookie-less world.

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And we’re all trying to come up with alternate solutions.

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But, yeah, I mean, like this is happening.

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Like, if I think the obvious evidence is to mobile safari, you know, if you look at your spend on safari year over year, you’re going to see that the CPMs and probably your fill has kind of fallen over the last couple of years with all the changes that Safari has been rolling out.

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So I think it is it is there. And hopefully I explained it like you’re five, like the first.

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Probably not.

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Maybe if I don’t understand, could you understand contextual relevance if you were five?

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Let me try it. Actually, let me try. So, Andy, your your five should I call you Andrew. Hey, little Andrew.

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The way the Internet works is you go on a website and a website is any place you can go to to see a different topic, whether it’s sports or pets or anything like that, and get information. And for those websites to be a business and pay their employees, they have to make money and they make money through ads. So this user’s asking what those ads be relevant to that website. So if I’m on a pet website, am I going to see ads?

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How did I do Andy, year five or Andrew, I should say five year old Andrew?

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Yeah, that’s still pretty good. But what’s the Internet?

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Yeah, maybe, maybe, maybe I need to get that down. But anyhow, to this user, I’d say it’s a combination thing. So to Andy’s point earlier, you know, a lot of buyers are going to be buying based on your cookie data, your behavioral data. Certainly there is going to be buyers who buy relative to the context on the page and they might be getting keyword information back from the site or from the ESP or DSP. They work with some SSP focus on retargeting.

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That user might get a completely different experience and then other SSPs that don’t. There’s also the sort of like deeper into the session, right? Whether it’s you’re getting new ads on the next page, you or you’re getting new ads based on refresh. So, you know, the user talking about it has to make the decision on a fraction of a second. Yes. Initially, if they literally have no information about you. But the second you start consuming content, reading articles, clicking on links on that site there there are there are kind of algorithms and, you know, just the way they they perceive your behavior on the site in the context of what you’re clicking on, what you’re reading, all of that’s then informing those subsequent impressions.

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All right. Our next thread is a little more technical. So Andy is going to take this one on. The title of this is Should I Destroyed DFP Ad slots in Life-cycle Method component will unmount. And this is a spa react question. Andy, I’ll kind of let you take it.

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Yeah. So the component will unmount method that they’re referring to, if we want to get technical at all, is basically just a method that’s invoked before a component is unmounted and destroyed. And what that kind of translates to is they’re basically not going to use that that component anymore. And so in this context, it’s around like whatever component they’re using here is also containing an ad in it. And they’re just asking, do I need to call this Google tag Destroy Slot’s?

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The answer is yes. If, you know, if you’re so essentially what you’re doing is you’re adding an ad to a page and then you’re maybe the user navigates to another page or they clicked on something. And you want to now remove that ad from the page you use. This component will unmount function inside of your react framework. And you also will have to call these additional API calls to Google tag destroy slots that essentially just wipe that ad out from the page so that on the next time that you want to call an ad, you’re invoking like a new slot and it’s going in a new option and everything else happens.

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That should happen when you want to call an ad.

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And that was technical operations with Andy Forwark, thanks, Andy, for the answer. I have nothing to add. Thank you for being the person that can answer that that I can’t.

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All right. Next up, the thread is entitled Best Setup. And the user here is talking about they have, they’re sports publisher. They’re looking to make more money. Obviously,  they have less traffic. Now, as we know, the users says they’re doing a header bidding through the index exchange wrapper and they have server side demand set up with Amazon. He said he or she said they don’t have floor set up. They’re using kinetics for video. They have AMP setup with AMP RTC.

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I think it’s a it’s a really interesting thread here from my perspective, and this is sort of at the heart of what I love to dig into is just general setup’s and and how to improve.

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So from my vantage point, the first thing I would ask is, are they actually seeing a benefit in using the index exchange? Wrapper versus Pre-bid. Have they explored using pre-bid? Sort of, again, like the de facto wrapper in the industry. And I know Andy cringes any time I say wrapper, so I’m trying to say it as often as I can.

[00:13:54.960] 

We could have a whole podcast about that word in this context. So that’s first thought. The next stop for me is, you know, is there a variety of demand? You’re talking about Rubicon cargo undertone, AppNexus concert, conversant, sovern, AOL.

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Have you tried other partners? Are there any others that are missing from your stack that you might want to add? Like I don’t see open X and and some other bigger exchanges, Pup matic and so forth. Have you tried testing demand? What do you, what are your thoughts here, Andy?

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Well, they have a very sophisticated setup and they’re doing a lot of the right things. I would agree that, you know, testing pre-bid as opposed to what index is giving you. I can say that pre-bid is, you know, somewhat more of a more customizable setup.

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There’s a lot more that you can do. That I know that you can do inside of Pre-bid, I’m not sure what your your limitations are with the index wrapper and there I go saying the wrapper word again that I’m so in love with such a thing.

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Yeah. I mean, I say it all the time here on AMP, you know, AMP is is such an interesting beast. RTC Config is probably the best thing you can do there right now, at least from what I know.

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But still it’s questionable since it’s such a mobile heavy product like how much, you know, lift you actually get.

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A couple of the other things I wanted to touch on just to sort of close the loop on some other things to look at rates and payment terms.

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Have you reached out to all of your SSP partners and just see, can I get an extra two points, five points, whatever it is, maybe there’s something you can do with payment terms. Some vendors will give up points in lieu of payment terms. So you might get two, three, four or five percent better rev share if you can go from net 30 to net forty five. And are you able to stomach that? If you are great, go for it.

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Maybe that’s an opportunity for you to just gain more CPM. If not and you’re a little more strapped for cash, maybe do the opposite. Hey I’ll give up two percent if I can move from net 60 to net 30 and see if those conversations hold any weight with the SSPs you work with. Last last item I wanted to touch on is just an add product mix. Right? So the user mentions 50 to 70-ish percent is going to ADEX and they want a better distribution, which I totally agree with.

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That varies considerably site to site. We certainly see some sites that do much better with ADEX and some sites that do much better with the header bidding partners. It is usually a bit of a mixed bag, but some ways you can try to shift the scale a little bit is see if maybe there’s some products you haven’t tried. Sticky footers, sticky sidewalls, sticky right rails, dynamically loading ads and content, lazy loading ads, any of these sorts of things to increase your site overall viewability.

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We know in many cases SSD might not have as sophisticated controls maybe as Google’s ad buying platform. So giving those other partners a way to see a gain in overall view ability might have a bigger impact on them if they have less granularity. And what I mean by that is if you’re, if you’re an ADEX buyer, right, you might be able to say, give me ads in the 40 to 50 percent viewability range or higher, whereas if you’re maybe a share through buyer or open ex buyer.

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And again, I’m just using these as names. I don’t I don’t work at any of these companies, so I want to claim what they can or can’t do. But they might have different ways that they look at viability. Right? Maybe they’re just looking at certain buyers want only 70 percent higher and maybe don’t have that same level of granularity as as Google might. So anything that you can do to make your inventory more valuable overall, I think is the is the key here.

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Last thread I wanted to touch on the thread is entitled, should I be concerned or just bad targeting. I’m just going to read all of this because I think it’s hilarious. So the key to this is this is what the user wrote. I keep getting schizophrenia meds commercials when I’m watching CNN on my desktop and tons of over 40 hair loss stuff on YouTube. As far as I can tell, I have no major mental illness except being in ad ops.

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And I have my hair and a still and still a few years away from forty. What does Google know that I don’t.

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So I love this thread. I love where this user’s getting at.

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I’m just going to kind of mention some of the ads that I just looked at when I was just doing some general web browsing. One is, one is with an Asian actress and it’s in the title of the ad as come as you are Light Ride by Crocs. And she’s kind of like standing on a rock.

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And the other ad also from Croc’s is entitled As Rugged As You Are, it is also people in crocs in the outdoors. For the record, if I do any outdoor stuff, it is not in my crocs.

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The last one I wanted to talk about is a little funny, a little maybe to this what this user is saying. Yesterday, we played a virtual happy hour, a night where we did a virtual escape room with with the team. And in one of the rooms there was Monopoly kind of board game and the other room there was a bunch of dice and we thought the dice represented Yahtzee. If you don’t know Yahtzee, a kind of a classic board game and a board game snob.

[00:20:58.750] 

So that’s why I call it classic. We said yachtie probably five or six times and I kid you not today. I get two ads for Yahtzee. I’ve never played Yahtzee. I have no interest in Yahtzee, but not  a day later I get display ads for Yoza after saying Yahtzee on a zoom chat. So that’s that’s my take on on this hilarious thread. Andy, what do you got to say?

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Wait, Jeff, are you saying that this guy talks about schizophrenia a lot?

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I mean, maybe, I mean, I would say more and more than likely. You know, it’s the sort of thing where some people, they have a cough and they go to WebMD and that leads them down a crazy rabbit hole and they don’t know what they have at that point. So all I’m saying is maybe this user does a lot of searching that they forget.

[00:21:52.780] 

Yeah, it’s totally plausible. I guess maybe I’m a little bit just tone deaf to it after working so many years in this industry, I’ve seen ads that I’ve laughed at and I like. The classic example for me is when you hear about someone complaining about getting all these dating ads, well, like maybe maybe you’re dating and you’re online dating and targeting you and like, that’s OK. You shouldn’t feel you shouldn’t feel slighted by that. But it does have that uncomfortable, uncomfortable context for some people that, you know, maybe are just not aware of what advertisers are able to see.

[00:22:33.160] 

And, you know, there’s it all goes back to the cookie. And if you look at the cookie laws, I mean. When when this when Zuckerberg was in front of Congress, you know, questions were asked where to us in the industry, we’re like, well, we know how to answer that, but they still don’t know.

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So, you know, look, there’s all kinds of people out here in different areas of expertise and how they make a living. And there’s one common theme. We all go on the Internet to find things. So, you know, this user is a little bit more like, hey, am I getting these ads because I’m talking about something maybe like Jeff, you’re alluding to, like just even being on Google Hangouts nowadays, like they have a closed captioning option.

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So if you don’t know that they have that they are translating what you’re saying on those meetings and who knows what they’re doing with it. But, you know, hopefully I’m not scaring people either.

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I was going to say that. I don’t know. I don’t know. If you remember on our talk with Ashley Wheeler from Rubicon Project, she sort of mentioned when she tries to scare her mom, she’ll tell her, you know, we know everything about you, you know, like that kind of tongue in cheek, obviously.

[00:23:50.870] 

So, yeah. All right, Andy, I think I’m pretty done trolling Reddit threads. What do you say we switch gears?

[00:23:57.900] 

Sounds good. I’m not sure about this Reddit thing anyway.

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Well, we’d like to go ahead and welcome our special guest, Chris Hunter from IBM. Chris is a digital media vet with nearly 20 years experience managing PNLs  and developing strategic partnerships for some of the biggest brands on the Web, including IBM and the weather company, Yahoo! And USA Today Sports. His career has spanned across multiple verticals and various roles. Today, he’s excited to be part of IBM’s Watson media and weather team, where he helps by leading global strategy and business development.

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Welcome to the podcast, Chris. Thanks, Jeff.

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It’s great to be here. Thanks for having me.

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Awesome and good to connect and talk through things with you. And we’ll talk a little bit more about your time at IBM and sort of get into things as well.

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Absolutely. You know, I guess it all spanned from being a successful sales person.

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And I may that coupled with the dotcom bust of like 2000, 2001  and then figuring out from there.

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Nice. So so, Chris, you know, IBM, big name, right. Built the first computer, I think, and really became a staple for people at home. So what’s the typical reaction like when people hear that you work for IBM?

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I mean, when I first joined people, I think people didn’t quite understand the move, given my history, my experience, I should say, in digital media and consumer.

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But ultimately, you know, our group, Watson media and Weather, we operate the Weather Channel, that’s that’s IBM’s biggest foray, I would say, into the consumer space. But then when I get a chance to explain how that pieces together, because I think everyone’s been thinking IBM, Watson, Jeopardy, and you spent a little bit more time understanding everything that IBM does.

[00:26:07.630] 

It’s really fascinating. And it’s this crazy learning curve for you know me.

[00:26:13.120] 

Then Chris, do you ever get any kind of IBM digital media, how to what any kind of any of those funny reactions or anything to it?

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Yes, yes. I don’t think a lot of people necessarily even understood that The Weather Company was part of IBM.

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So like you said, Andy, know, a lot of people associated IBM with supercomputers, increasingly with Watson. And IBM has this rich and storied and just massive history in the world of computing. But I don’t think people necessarily always understood that the weather company was part of it. And the weather company is a top 10, 15 consumer brand. And so once you get a chance to explain that and our ability to use Watson on the advertising, Watson advertising?

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I think people’s eyes open. But but IBM certainly helps get people interested.

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It’s a big introduction point. You open some doors that maybe otherwise wouldn’t.

[00:27:16.540] 

Chris, you’ve worked for some heavy hitters. If you look at your resume, IBM, Yahoo! USA Today, what are some of the business mantras you’ve been able to live by to succeed in those circles? Yeah, no, that’s a great question. I mean, each of those brands you mentioned are, you know, sort of really, really sort of infused in sort of the ecosystem, especially the United States, for sure.

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Yeah. And, you know, they’ve all been there very different too. In where they came from and sort of the evolution of their own companies.

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So I’ve always tried to just come in and and learn as much as I could, as fast as I could understand how they operate, you know, sort of build the relationships with people who’ve been there. In some ways, that’s great, because as you can introduce new colleagues, you can sort of help be that bridge, too.

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But  each of them are different.

[00:28:14.190] 

I’ve also done sort of the startup thing where everybody does everything. Right.

[00:28:21.150] 

And I think if you’re always willing to lend a hand and do whatever it takes to help somebody, they’ll lend that hand back and that sort of I think the mantra that that I’ve always tried to to to sort of live by is is is any job that needs to be done to try to help wherever I can. I love that.

[00:28:39.630] 

I like that one. That’s a really good philosophy. And, you know, good to know that that that seems to transcend both the sort of startup worlds you’ve been in and also the kind of the the the name brand blue chips out there as well.

[00:28:55.260] 

Yeah, they,  it is. I mean, Yahoo! Especially when I first joined a long, long time ago.

[00:29:02.280] 

And in the early days we’ll call it. That’s  nice notdating any of us.  The early days. Yeah.

[00:29:11.310] 

I don’t even admit, you know, how old I am and a few days.

[00:29:16.680] 

But but we were learning as we go. I mean, I worked on the Yahoo! Finance property and just sort of just and the team that built that the original sort of product team, the original GM, a lot of a lot of people were still close. So we still are in contact. But sort of bringing that that user experience of checking the stock quotes in the WSJ, for example, every day to online like it was it was new paths and things like that.

[00:29:42.750] 

So it was a really fun curve. And then you talk about some of these others that have, you know, USA Today, for example, it’s based in newspapers. It’s a completely different type of experience. You’re trying to sort of bring digital forward. And  I was fortunate to work with some awesome people who were trying to do that, too.

[00:30:03.630] 

And working in sports, for example, was a blast. Chris, sort of get us more present day, you know, at at IBM, whether it’s the brand or the or the scale, I’m sure plenty and plenty of deals come your way. So just for people sort of trying to understand how you see how your your take on this might go, you know, when you’re vetting a partner or a vendor, you know, what are the things that you’re sort of looking for to make sure this is a good deal?

[00:30:35.640] 

This is a good relationship that we’re going to jump into.

[00:30:40.100] 

Yeah, it gets I mean, in some regards, it gets back to those mantras. Like I always felt that the word partnership is such a strong word as opposed to client I don’t know, it’s just been a thing for me.

[00:30:54.000] 

But each of those I think you’ve got to understand. I like to understand and think about how each party like how, it how it benefits each party, and if I’m going to work with a partner, I want to make sure that it’s it’s going to work for them as well as it’s going to work for us. Obviously, we we have our own interests first in mind. But, but if if it’s if it’s completely lopsided, it’s not going to last.

[00:31:22.470] 

And I think those long standing sort of relationships where you build in, you’re in there together, I think are the ones that are going to thrive.

[00:31:29.780] 

Also. What it looks like when you launch and what it looks like in a year rarely are the same thing. Yeah, sure, for sure.

[00:31:42.010] 

I’ve had deals in the past and this is not an IBM thing. This is a sort of more of a career history thing where you’ve, you’ve tried it so tightly to find a deal that, you know, a year in Internet ages is eons. Right.

[00:31:55.750] 

And so you go there and and you’ve done this and you’ve put everything in a box and then you realize that, well, this box is broken.

[00:32:02.950] 

But like, you want to make sure that you have that relationships, people’s goals and you’re honest about those goals are clear. And then you can kind of be flexible and grow. And some deals work and some deals don’t. But I mean, ultimately, I think if you go in there with, with kind of a shared set, a clear understanding of each person’s needs, I think it helps a lot.

[00:32:25.820] 

So kind of along the lines of that, what are some interesting ad technologies you get to play with at IBM or at Weather other company?

[00:32:36.450] 

we have an amazing team on Watson advertising and they’ve been thought leaders in the industry and taken advantage of of sort of all of the opportunities, I imagine, that are out there to try to just bring the best advertising solutions to our users as possible, like sort of the recognition if you’re trying to drive revenue, obviously, but you also want to make sure that the experience is the best you can for your users.

[00:33:03.220] 

And we care a lot about those those net promoter scores and things like that  for our site, our sites, I should say. So that’s interesting.

[00:33:14.920] 

You guys you guys survey your end users as well?

[00:33:22.250] 

There are teams within the Weather Channel that I mean, we care a lot about the end users and understanding the feedback we spend a lot of time on and sort of the customer reviews and things like that. Got it.

[00:33:36.250] 

It’s important as I mean, it can’t be their sole input for developing product roadmaps, but it’s definitely an input in and there’s a focus on ensuring that we’re always listening and improving. IBM brings a lot too I mean, the Watson advertising product team is interesting as well. They’ve done a lot. They’ve got a lot of products to market, one that was announced at CES because called Watson Ad accelerator. And it’s it’s really focused on improving sort of

[00:34:07.820] 

Both they’ll kill me if I say dynamic creative optimization alone, because it’s so much more than that, but it’s it’s really impressive sort of product that helps bring creative and user optimization. So trying to sort of fast track the idea of making sure that the right users getting the right creative at the right time, reformat the right message, all of that and clear privacy complaint ways. But, you know, having me having IBM support us is, I think, a really, really cool advantage and opportunity that that our team.

[00:34:47.150] 

So when he gets to ad tech, there’s a lot of really interesting development by our product team too that beyond sort of just the third just the third party relationships that we all have.

[00:34:58.430] 

One thing that I’m particularly interested in, Chris, from just a kind of a data perspective. Right. So, you know, there’s always going to be noise and some signal, you know, knowing that you guys just deal with a crazy amount of volume, you know, philosophically how do your business teams. How do you, how do you guys try to identify what I would call like a real trend, like actual signal versus all of the all of the noise that that kind of comes with that much volume that you deal with.

[00:35:33.380] 

Now, that’s a great question. And I think we rely on some really smart data scientists and analysts to help out to help quell that noise. And really, a lot of these people are they’re really trained on understanding what are the core metrics that drive the business and are focused on that. It’s easy to get distracted by a trend to the right or the left, like you said, but having these people being so laser focused on. On the metrics that they know drive the businesses is is something that that we we are beneficial of having such a good team there. and just kind of along those lines.

[00:36:11.400] 

Are there particular things that, you know around data that keep you up at night? If I don’t see this number above this threshold or below this threshold, like, you know, you’re not going to have a good week or something like that. Any thing you can kind of speak to around what what really drives you?

[00:36:32.580] 

Yeah, I it’s interesting. I mean, you know, there’s, there’s there’s this world that we’re currently living in right now, which is sure.

[00:36:41.130] 

Which if you look at any of the industry reports you read and you’re trying to understand the industry trends and how your individual inventory is is sort of trending against that. It’s also new. It’s so hard.

[00:36:55.170] 

But it’s interesting. I was thinking about this, too. I spent a lot of time on on Yahoo! Finance in my in my life. And now I focus a lotlot of my energy on the weather company. Both of them are really interesting. If you think if you kind of take a step back, that they’re both very data driven from a consumer standpoint. And in many cases they’re event driven. But unlike sports, where you’ve got a calendar of events like, you know, you’ve got the Super Bowl, you’ve got the World Series, these are unplanned events.

[00:37:28.560] 

And so you get the timing to spike. So you try to, you try to bring logic and history and understanding to those unplanned events. So for us in particular, we know that, you know, sort of storms are a big driver.

[00:37:46.890] 

Severe weather is a big driver. So, you know, there’s there’s a there’s a controlled and an uncontrolled part of those businesses.

[00:37:55.320] 

You know, one thing that I wanted to see, what from your experience, you know, we sort of all sit in on webinars and industry events and all of this kind of networking when we can, obviously. Are there any particular memories from an event, whether it’s was an internal event or external event that really sticks out for you as far as a favorite goes?

[00:38:22.230] 

You know, there’s one that is always stuck in the back of my head. I don’t know if it’s the best, but I sort of have never forgotten it.

[00:38:30.320] 

Is probably 15 years old. And it was at a client event and it was in the financial services and. The CMO is speaking and he was talking about how. Basically, content advertising is content  from their perspective and how important it was for them. To  make good content, to make the advertising, you know, sort of really speak to people, and it was one of these things that I never thought of it that way. But like I said, it’s always stuck with me.

[00:39:05.770] 

The advertising market is obviously competing for the attention, the sort of limited attention of consumers just like and so the better of a job that the creative can do to pass along that message. And maybe it’s using celebrities. Maybe it’s using comedy, but. That was it was just a statement that I heard I hadn’t thought of before. But totally resonated because you’re not competing in sports, for example, ESPN is is not only competing against Fox Sports, for example, or, you know, we have our own competitors in the weather space.

[00:39:43.500] 

But you’re also competing against Google, you’re competing against Facebook, you’re competing for limited attention. So you’ve got to do a really good job of getting that content in that value to your users, differentiating yourself.

[00:39:55.650] 

And you’re also sort of competing with the actual content on the page too right? As a as a marketer you are for sure.

[00:40:04.140] 

So that was just one in the in an early ad sort of event that I went to. That just kind of it just made me think differently. So, Chris, what are what’s some advice that you could share with people looking to level up in their industry?

[00:40:18.020] 

 It’s nothing new. I think it’s it’s sort of be authentic and  work hard and sort of be nice.

[00:40:25.640] 

Be nice to become the guy. That’s a really big one. But also, I mean, you got to think back on each step that you took. You know, there was somebody to help support you, to help get you there. And if you can offer that back to people, I think that’s a big thing. And I think that’s an important thing, is it’s all it’s giving back. But ultimately, like, you’ve taken those steps. And if you can lend some time, even if it makes your day a lot longer to help somebody get there, as long as they’re willing to put in the effort and willing to try.

[00:40:59.990] 

I think it’s I think it’s a really good investment in time.

[00:41:03.350] 

I love the the concept of being authentic too. Right. So one of the things that I think about when when we’re hiring and we’re between two candidates that are both great for the role is it’s easier to work with like happy people, people who who have joy just in them, so to speak, and and have that kind of authenticity as well, knowing that, you know, if it’s going to be a bad day and certainly there’s plenty of bad days, even in good times.

[00:41:36.620] 

So knowing that you can kind of be in that foxhole with them, so to speak, and fight those battles together, and  it’s going to go as smooth as possible. All things considered. Right.

[00:41:50.190] 

Totally. I think the enthusiasm too is is an important thing. It’s interesting when you bring up interviews, I always find it interesting to understand and hear what questions candidates have, like how much research have have they done like where, where is their interests?

[00:42:08.150] 

And I think that’s always pretty telling to see the people who have really invested the effort into understanding your business and coming with ideas and stuff like that. And, you know, I was one of the things that when I when I, I learned early on is sort of bringing those thoughts.

[00:42:22.970] 

It could bite you sometimes if those thoughts aren’t necessarily good, but it shows a level of effort behind you, not just for the answer questions, but you’ve come and you’ve tried to do the diligence to at least bring something more to the table. For sure.

[00:42:38.690] 

Sort of the last thing for for us, Chris, you know, obviously this year is is probably showing us more than ever. It’s hard to know what tomorrow is going to bring. But I’d love to hear from from sort of your point of view, your perspective. Do you sort of see any trends in the next few years, three to five years, something like that, where you can, you can kind of see how things are going to evolve and what to sort of expect in our industry.

[00:43:11.550] 

Yeah, I think this I think this, these last few months have really have really made a lot of people, I guess, focus on sort of what really does drive the business, sort of talked about this a little earlier. And what are the core things in the values that you’re offering to your consumers, your clients, your partners, if you’re in tech versus direct to consumer type business, like really making sure you understand those things and excel on those things is what’s ultimately going to keep those relationships with the consumers, your partners, alive?

[00:43:44.370] 

I think, you know, sort of the consumer empowerment as it relates to privacy and the ability to for people to control their own data. I mean, that’s an important thing. I think it’s probably a good thing. I’m not an expert in that field by any means. But those those brands that honor that, obviously, but. But think about product development in a way that service is that and it makes consumers feel like they’re not, they understand what, but they’re getting out of it, I think, right now.

[00:44:19.490] 

Just know. Yeah, totally makes sense.

[00:44:22.550] 

Well, Chris, we we really appreciate your time today. And I had an absolute blast picking your brain. And thank you for for some of those really golden nuggets you shared with us. Oh, thanks for having me.

[00:44:34.310] 

This is  a lot of fun. So I do it again some time. I’d love to. Some sounds good. Thanks a lot, Chris. You too, stay safe.

[00:44:43.790] 

Stay healthy. Well, that was awesome, special thanks again to our guest, Chris Hunter from IBM, it was great speaking with Chris today. Cheers to that. 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. For feedback or suggestions for guests, you can reach us at a podcast at Freestar.com Special.

[00:45:29.180] 

Thanks to Matt Heinlein for our music and to Caroline Romano and Paolo Battista for helping with editing and production and making sure that people know this podcast exists until next time. Don’t forget to add your macros. Later, alligator.


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