AiThority Interview with Lisa Utzschneider, CEO at IAS
Hi Lisa, please tell us about your current role and how you arrived at IAS?
I joined Integral Ad Science (IAS) as CEO in 2019, where I lead an incredibly talented, global team that’s focused on building the latest ad verification products to drive our industry forward. What energizes me is the opportunity for true disruption in the digital advertising space. That’s what brought me to IAS and why we continue to invest in product innovation that matters for our customers, especially when it comes to contextual targeting, connected TV (CTV), and programmatic capabilities.
I built my career in the digital advertising and technology industries at companies including Microsoft, Amazon, and Yahoo. Over more than 20 years, I’ve been fortunate to be part of driving the dramatic growth and transformation in digital advertising, and loved every minute of it. Early in my career, I spent 10 years at Microsoft and ultimately took on the role of General Manager based in NYC, managing the national sales and service teams. Then I joined Amazon as Vice President of Global Advertising Sales, where I was hired to build and develop the company’s global advertising business through product, marketing, sales, and operations strategies. It was an exciting journey. Prior to IAS, I was Chief Revenue Officer at Yahoo where I led the global sales organization and worked closely with many of the world’s top advertisers.
Tell us about the various milestones you gathered in your professional career and how it supports you in your current role?
While I spend more time thinking about the growth of our industry than my own professional milestones, I built most of my career by taking on big challenges that others overlooked or no one else wanted, and I committed to turning them into successes. When I joined Microsoft, I was in an entry-level account manager role in the MSN Advertising business, but I’ve always been goal-oriented and I worked my way up from there. Over 10 years, I had the chance to work on many facets of the business and ultimately made Partner. While still at Microsoft, a former colleague reached out to me about a leadership opportunity at Amazon. Many people originally questioned my decision to leave Microsoft, but I knew that building a global ecommerce advertising business from the ground up was a rare opportunity that I couldn’t miss. Throughout my career, I’ve learned to focus on the opportunity ahead and set aside the skeptics. It’s far more important to get out of your comfort zone and not wait your turn when it comes to taking on new challenges. Learning to build a digital advertising business from scratch, lead a global team, and set ambitious goals for business growth during my career continue to be important in my role today at IAS. I’m incredibly proud of the extraordinary work our team at IAS is doing and the big opportunities ahead of us.
Can you share an update on IAS and its solutions?
At IAS, we have a bold mission to be the global benchmark for trust and transparency in digital media quality for our partners. As a global leader in digital ad verification, we help ensure that ads are viewable by real people in environments that are safe and suitable for brands. We know how important it is to provide our partners with the trusted tools to control and protect their ad investments. In fact, we recently completed a global recertification from TAG. Looking ahead, IAS will play a pivotal role as our industry continues to transform in 2021, especially when it comes to developments in connected TV (CTV) and social environments. CTV is one area that has grown tremendously during stay-at-home orders over the last year. We have a lot of experience in CTV, because IAS was the first to work with major video publishers to validate CTV ads for viewability and invalid traffic. We’re continuing to innovate on these products and plan to introduce a brand safety and suitability solution for CTV advertisers and publishers later this year. Additionally, social is another major opportunity, and we’re working with Twitter to pioneer in-feed brand safety and suitability solutions. It’s an important and fun challenge to solve for the industry.
How have ad tech solutions evolved in the last 2-3 years? What impact will Google’s latest announcements on cookies affect advertising budgets?
COVID-19 and rising concerns around context adjacencies had a significant impact on the ad industry over the last year. With our contextual offerings, we’ve helped advertisers and publishers alike navigate this new world order. For brands and their agencies, that means using contextual signals to better understand how their campaigns remain live and align with their brand values. We also helped publishers find new ways to classify their content and better monetize during challenging media news cycles.
As the industry prepares for a cookieless future, we’re seeing marketers continue to shift attention to contextual targeting in 2021. More brands are looking to run their campaigns in contextually relevant environments that align with their ad messaging instead of targeting consumers individually. Recent news including IDFA and FloC will only accelerate this ongoing trend as advertisers continue to shift towards solutions that balance privacy with insights that help brands discover key audiences. In a post-cookie world that heavily values consumer privacy, contextual targeting will become an even bigger part of ad budgets for companies everywhere.
Could you tell us more about your partnership with Xandr and how it will help improve contextual targeting?
Last year, we launched our Context Control offering to give advertisers the tools they need for effective contextual targeting and avoidance strategies. Now, advertisers using Xandr’s Invest DSP can access more than 300 contextual segments from IAS to target suitable content and optimize their programmatic campaigns on a pre-bid basis. That means more control and precision for buyers to target content that’s contextually relevant to their campaigns and avoid content that’s unsuitable for their brands on a global scale.
What are your predictions on the future of DSPs and how is IAS playing a part in the growth of programmatic?
Programmatic continues to gain and shows unprecedented growth opportunities this year, but marketers still see a potential for risk and the need for more verification. We recently found that 56% of industry experts said programmatic is most likely to experience brand risk incidents. With enhanced technology and industry partnerships, we’re increasing transparency in programmatic. Earlier this year, we acquired Amino Payments because our goal is to deliver the most comprehensive set of programmatic transparency solutions for advertisers with our Total Visibility product. Total Visibility helps marketers gain insight into digital media quality and the corresponding supply path costs, which can save them up to 15% of their programmatic media spend. That’s significant when you consider that US advertisers are expected to invest $79.61 billion in programmatic buying this year.
Tell us more about your remote workplace. How would you describe your company’s culture today?
I’ve always been based in New York and, until joining IAS, I worked for several West Coast-headquartered tech companies. In some ways, this experience of working remotely or outside of the company headquarters helped prepare me for the dramatic shift we’ve seen in the past year. It requires a different skill set, determination, and a new kind of resilience. I encourage employees at IAS and others that I coach throughout the industry to be a strong voice, stay present, and take advantage of how our technology including Zoom and Slack can level the playing field in our virtual work world.
We’ve also responded to some of the specific challenges of remote work at IAS by hosting weekly all-staff meetings and giving the team opportunities to share questions with our executive team directly via Slack. It’s also been important to focus even more on our team’s physical and mental health. Last year, we launched a global Fitbit Challenge for IAS employees, setting a step goal across the entire company and raising funds for charity. Last but not least, I introduced a “Hats On” philosophy, encouraging our team to wear their favorite hats during the workday to help them get into work mode at a time when there’s little, if any, physical separation between work and home life.
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Tracy-Ann Lim, Chief Media Officer, JP Morgan Chase
Thank you, Lisa! That was fun and we hope to see you back on AiThority.com soon.
Lisa Utzschneider is a CEO at IAS
Integral Ad Science (IAS) is a global leader in digital ad verification, ensuring that ads are viewable by real people in safe and suitable environments. IAS’s mission is to be the global benchmark for trust and transparency in digital media quality for the world’s leading brands, publishers and platforms. We do this through data-driven technologies with actionable real-time signals and insight. Founded in 2009 and headquartered in New York, IAS works with thousands of top advertisers and premium publishers worldwide. IAS is part of the Vista Equity Partners portfolio of companies.