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Predictions Series 2022: AiThority Interview with Gruia Pitigoi-Aron, SVP of Product at The Trade Desk

Gruia Pitigoi-Aron, SVP of Product at The Trade Desk

Hi Gruia. Please tell us about your role at The Trade Desk and how you arrived here.

I’m the senior vice president of product at The Trade Desk, so I oversee teams that are responsible for all product management, user experience, and enterprise solutions. I closely align with all internal business teams, engineering, clients, and partners as we aim to ship solutions that are revolutionizing the global ad-tech industry. I’ve been at the company since 2015. Prior to joining The Trade Desk, I spent 10 years at Microsoft as a product manager in various capacities.

What is the most exciting part about working with CTV and digital AdTech industry?

Television advertising is going through a once-in-a-lifetime transformation. We’ve seen a fundamental shift in how people watch TV, from the explosive growth of connected TV (CTV) viewership to the launch of new streaming platforms. According to Insider Intelligence, by 2026, CTV ad spend will more than double to nearly $39 billion, from $19 billion in 2022. Companies like Netflix, Disney and HBO Max have responded by rolling out ad-supported tiers to reach consumers who want to stream with lower subscription costs. Advertisers are as excited as we are about this shift, particularly because they’re now able to reach more households with CTV than cable subscribers, gain access to premium content across major networks, and benefit from the ability to measure the effectiveness of their ads across the entire customer journey. As linear TV loses its lock on live sports and viewers seek new ways to watch their favorite sports teams, shows, and live events, the shift from linear to CTV will continue to accelerate at a faster pace. As a result, brands will invest more in digital advertising – particularly CTV – driven by the growing availability of shopper data from retailers, helping advertisers leverage data in a way that helps them connect real business outcomes to their campaigns.

The Trade Desk is the leading demand-side platform for CTV buying. Having prioritized CTV early on, we have the tools, data, scale, and experience to help brands confidently reach and engage their audiences and drive measurable results. And because we don’t own any media, we’ve been able to build lasting relationships with premium publishers. This has enabled us to offer the largest scaled connected TV inventory marketplace in the industry, giving advertisers unmatched access to premium content across major networks and ad-supported streaming services around the world.

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What kind of technology capabilities do you currently work with?

If the last year has shown us anything, it is the power of marketing to differentiate and drive growth. With that comes new pressure to prove the business ROI of marketing. And that means prioritizing programmatic where you can apply advanced decisioning across your omnichannel strategy. As business leaders demand more from marketing in terms of driving growth, and as they demand increased visibility into how marketing can drive that growth, we have launched the biggest ever overhaul of our media buying platform, Solimar, with those marketing objectives front and center.

Solimar takes all the benefits and advantages of data-driven advertising, and pulls them together in one interface, for the first time, at your fingertips, in an elegant, intuitive UX. The user experience is as simple as it is sophisticated, streamlining tasks and anticipating a marketer’s needs – while at the same time providing them the sophisticated features they need to dial-in performance.

One of the most important capabilities of Solimar is the reinvention of goal-based buying. Why is that so important? The power of programmatic is in the ability to apply as much smart decisioning as possible to every ad impression. The clearer and more granular the goals, the more precise that decisioning will be. We’ve introduced multi-level goal setting, where marketers can input a range of marketing and business-oriented goals. That enables Solimar’s AI capabilities to be as effective as possible in optimizing their campaign for maximum performance. It also allows the marketer to be more strategic. Instead of having to manage thousands of campaign variables, Solimar can surface the priority decisions that can help increase the performance of their campaigns.

Perhaps just as important, with Solimar, marketers can onboard their valuable CRM data onto our platform – easily and securely – all powered by innovations such as Unified ID 2.0 (UID2). They can integrate that data with the world’s largest identity graph. So now they can take what they know about their 1 million most valuable customers, and find their next million loyal customers in a privacy-safe way. Identity is a fast-moving issue and it’s hard to keep up. With Solimar, we provide the advanced decisioning platform marketers have come to love, with a new, trusted identity environment where they can activate their valuable data securely.

With the combination of these innovations in goal setting, data management, and identity, Solimar also provides closed-loop measurement and optimization, so marketers’ campaigns are always performing at their best. That includes a vast measurement marketplace so marketers can understand the impact of their campaign across all aspects of your business.

How much have programmatic advertising technologies changed in the last 5 years? What has been a key moment in this evolution?

In the last five years, programmatic advertising technologies have undergone significant changes and developments. The two major changes have been the push towards secure, cross-platform, and interoperable identity solutions, and the sustained use of data, particularly shopper data, in programmatic advertising.

The shift within the identity landscape has been driven by new regulations from GDPR as well as the planned deprecation of Google’s third-party cookie, which has prompted the industry to come together and deliver a better identity framework. For instance, UID2 provides a more secure, transparent, and efficient way for users to opt-in to online platforms and services. Built from hashed and encrypted email addresses, this ID will remain open and ubiquitous while introducing significant upgrades to consumer privacy and transparency.

Another key shift we’ve seen has been the increasing role of retail data in the digital advertising industry, empowering advertisers with valuable insights into consumer behavior and preferences. Retail data can be used to inform advertising strategies and engage consumers more effectively through advertising, which can help improve the overall performance of advertising campaigns. For example, retailers have data on consumer purchases and browsing habits, which can be leveraged to reach consumers through relevant advertising based on interests and preferences. Additionally, retail data can be used to optimize the placement and delivery of ads, ensuring that they are shown to the right audiences at the right times. Overall, retail data is a crucial component of the digital advertising industry, providing advertisers with the information they need to better understand and engage with their target audiences.

Over the last five years, there’s been an evolution of programmatic advertising technologies, with a focus on improving targeting, personalization, and the overall user experience.

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Your take on the role of AI and machine learning in programmatic adtech?

As we look toward 2023, the advertising industry is poised for significant changes driven by the continued development of AI and ML technologies. Here are some of my key predictions for how AI and ML will impact the advertising industry in the coming year:

  • AI-powered consumer targeting: Advances in AI will allow advertisers to more effectively target their campaigns to specific consumer groups, leading to increased ad effectiveness and improved ROI.
  • Increased automation: The use of AI in the advertising industry will lead to increased automation of ad creation, placement, and optimization, allowing advertisers to do more with less.
  • Improved ad personalization: AI will enable advertisers to create more personalized ad experiences for consumers, increasing engagement and conversion rates.
  • Enhanced measurement and analytics: AI-powered tools will provide advertisers with more detailed and accurate insights into the effectiveness of their campaigns, allowing for more data-driven decision making.
  • Greater integration of AI and ML into the broader advertising ecosystem: This includes the development of new tools and technologies to support the use of AI and ML in programmatic advertising.

What are your predictions for the future of open internet for adtech industry?

The internet has been based on an opt-out system, using third-party cookies that were never built to serve as the mechanism for targeted advertising. What’s now happening is the internet is quickly moving — partly because of well-intended privacy regulations — from an opt-out internet to an opt-in internet. The uncertainty of Google’s decision-making on retiring cookies should create a sense of urgency amongst marketers to develop a new approach to their identity workflows. Looking to the future, we will see a world where consumers will first consent and opt-in to the value exchange of the free content in return for some level of relevant advertising. In the next year, we should see an increased adoption of identifier solutions, at scale, that are distributed, encrypted, cross-platform, and interoperable. Additionally, next year is going to be the best year for data ever – because of UID2 proliferation and data partnership adoption, match rates that have plagued our ecosystem for years will go away – so 1st-party data will be king. All this, in turn, should create a better experience for both consumers and advertisers who adopt new identity solutions.

CTV and news sites especially have a unique opportunity — particularly CTV, as it’s really the epicenter of open internet identity. For CTV to create the content that’s behind the new golden age of television, relevant ads are key, meaning participation in the open internet is a must.

More industry leaders are recognizing the open internet opportunity, especially compared to the dangers and limitations of walled gardens. Nearly every single major advertiser wants a world where the open internet thrives. And while CTV may be the biggest force of change for the open internet, we’ll see retail media and its accompanying data become a close second.

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Your advice for CIOs and CTOs looking to expand programmatic capabilities in 2023?

The way consumers shop is evolving. Their path to purchase is no longer linear. Today’s shoppers discover and research products across multiple touchpoints — from apps and websites to CTV and in-store experiences. In 2017, 73% of consumers indicated they prefer to shop through multiple channels, giving brands the opportunity to engage consumers using these touchpoints. But this also creates complexity as brands try to connect the dots across the consumer journey. Looking ahead, the focus will be less on walled gardens and more on quality, brand safety, measurability, and addressability of professionally produced, premium content. In 2023, CIOs and CMOs will focus on allocating their first dollars to areas where they can see a real impact and get transparent measurement.

Thank you, Gruia! That was fun and we hope to see you back on soon.

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Gruia Pitigoi-Aron is the Senior Vice President of Product for The Trade Desk. In his role, Gruia oversees teams that are responsible for all product management, user experience, and enterprise solutions at TTD. Closely working with all internal Trade Desk business teams, engineering, clients, and partners is a common theme as they aim to ship the right product at the right time with global impact and scale.

Prior to joining the Trade Desk, Gruia spent 10 years at Microsoft as a Product Manager in various capacities, while working on, Windows Live Agents, and BizTalk Server. The general focus was always on core parts of the systems, with the largest amount of time spent scaling and managing Hotmail’s ever increasing storage infrastructure.

Gruia received his M.S. in Computer Science from the University of California: Los Angeles, and his bachelor’s degree in Computer Science for the University of California: Berkeley. He is based in the Trade Desk’s offices in San Jose, CA.

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The Trade Desk is a technology company that empowers buyers of advertising. Through its self-service, cloud-based platform, ad buyers can create, manage, and optimize digital advertising campaigns across ad formats and devices. Integrations with major data, inventory, and publisher partners ensure maximum reach and decisioning capabilities, and enterprise APIs enable custom development on top of the platform. Headquartered in Ventura, CA, The Trade Desk has offices across North America, Europe, and Asia Pacific.

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