Meet Joe: Freestar’s VP of Business Development, Demand

Freestar is excited to welcome Joe Hotagua as our VP of Business Development, Demand. With over 16+ years of experience and passion for advertising and demand, he’s exactly what Freestar needs to continue to grow our direct sales.

We sat down with Joe so you can get to know more about him!

Note: Responses may have been edited for clarity.


You’ve been working in Ad Tech for years. Tell us about your experience and what’s changed over the years?

I started in advertising in 2007. I was working for an Affiliate Network, helping drive traffic on online offers for degree programs and real estate offers. I was calling on websites to get an ad placed on their white space. I spent a couple years basically doing just that and until the recession.

Programmatic advertising wasn’t even a thing. The majority of companies in Display LUMAscape did not exist. Mostly all you had were Ad Networks, publishers, agencies and advertisers. In fact, Google, the biggest player in the space, wasn’t doing nearly what they’re doing now. They only had one product, AdSense, at the time. They’ve acquired many companies in the ad tech space, and since then, so many companies have come and gone.

When I first started, I was calling up a website and saying “hey you have white space on your page, and you should put ads there” so it’s changed dramatically. Now there are a multitude of different players in the space. We now have the IAB and other governing councils. They’re standards in place for how things should be done. Governments around the world have even stepped in to begin legislating how data can be used with GDPR and CCPA. It’s a completely different industry from when I first started.

What led you to this career?

The funny thing is when I was in college from 2002 to 2006, I wanted to work in the music industry. I was actually interning for an artist signed to the record label, Atlantic Records. When I graduated, I applied for a job at a few Record Labels and due to the state of the industry at the time, entry lever roles didn’t pay well at all. I realized that my internship at Enterprise Rent A Car was paying me more than what the music industry was going to be able to pay me. I wasn’t going to be able to pay my bills on that salary they offer. So I went to Craigslist of all places, and there was a job for a role called an Affiliate Manager.

I had no idea what it meant, but the base salary was higher than what the record label was offering. It involved the internet which was growing and I figured it’d be smarter to work in that industry than music. I knew that the internet drastically changed the music industry, so I figured it would be the best option for me going forward.  I took the Affiliate Manager job and I’ve never looked back since. I’ve been working in some form of digital advertising for the last 16 years now.

What behavior or personality trait do you most attribute your success to, and why?

I would say the willingness to learn and continuing to be curious. I’ve invested over $60,000 worth in post-graduate courses for myself. Everything from building an e-commerce site to how to run ads on Facebook. What it’s done is really help me to be able to have conversations with brands and understand how they think. 

I remember hearing this quote from Jim Rohn and he said, “Learn to work harder on yourself than you do on your job. If you work hard on your job you can make a living, but if you work hard on yourself you’ll make a fortune.” This is a quote that I like to remind myself.

What energizes you at work?

What energizes me are:

  • Learning new things – Ad tech is always evolving so it’s exciting to come into work and learn something new.
  • Having a positive impact – It’s a great feeling to see the direct impact of your work. 
  • Team growth  – As a manager, it’s exciting to see my team grow in their roles and reach new milestones.

What’s one thing you’re learning now, and why is it important?

That’s a good question. One thing I’m learning now is pivoting within an organization. Why it’s important is that, especially an organization like Freestar, changes happen pretty frequently. and if you’re not flexible and able to pivot, then you will struggle to find your way. My role has shifted quite a bit from what it was initially when I first came on board and learning how to pivot has been important in figuring out how I can maximize my impact on the organization. 

In this role, what are you looking forward to the most?

I’m looking forward to being a bigger part of the overall organization and seeing my team shine within the organization as well. I am looking forward to implementing new tools that will help our publishers increase their revenue and Advertisers maximize their ROI.

Lastly, for anyone looking to get into Ad Tech or grow in their career, what tips would you give?

So, going back to being curious and continuing to learn. I think it’s super important to take certifications that are available. There are ad tech related certifications from The Trade Desk, IAB, Google, etc. I think those things are all really helpful in any ad tech role. It can also be reading and listening to podcasts based on your role. If you’re in marketing, listen to marketing podcasts. Immerse yourself in content that covers what you’re looking to excel in. The last thing that I would say is to stay up to date on happenings in our industry. Pay attention to the news – who’s being acquired and why? This will make you better at your job and it can also help you make decisions about your career. 


We’re hiring! If you or someone you know is interested in joining a team of smart, innovative thinkers, check out our Careers page.

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