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Get To Know Lisa Utzschneider, Chief Executive Officer, Integral Ad Science (IAS)

Advertisers won’t see true ROI if they aren’t accounting for fraud, viewability, or unsafe placements in their digital campaigns

Lisa, when I first looked at your profile, I was blown-away. You are the recipient of many titles and awards – you are Adweek 50, Business Insider’s “Most Powerful Women in Mobile Advertising”, New York Business Journal’s “Women of Influence” and also the one that truly caught my eye, Working Mother’s “50 Most Powerful Mums”, which is incredible. Afterall, it is not everyday I meet someone with this accolade. I am so excited to know; what does it entail to be one of 50 most powerful Mums?

Thank you for your kind words Anjalika! Truly humbled and honoured by this recognition several years ago. I genuinely cherish being a mum, with or without any external recognition. Mums (and dads) are powerful. Ask any working mum, or dad, about how they manage their careers and home lives, and you will hear stories of unbelievable stresses and amazing ingenuity, especially now during this global pandemic.

In that regard, I consider myself no different than any other working parent. I have also been blessed with an incredibly supportive ecosystem: my spouse, family and close friends, my bosses and colleagues, and really our entire social network as a family, which includes babysitters, teachers, coaches, my children’s friends, their families and our neighbours.

You are at the helm of Integral Ad Science (IAS), a technology company that analyses the value of digital advertising placements and definitely one that is known for addressing issues around fraud, viewability and brand risk. Tell us all we need to know about IAS.

IAS was founded in 2009 and is the global market leader in digital ad verification. Our vision is to be the global standard for trust, transparency, and predictive science in media. Simply put, we validate the quality of digital advertising. We do this in three ways across all channels:

Viewability. We ensure that the ads are actually viewable on the screen, so they have an opportunity to make an impact.

Fraud detection. Our tech verifies that ads are delivered to real people and not fake traffic like bots.

Brand safety and Brand suitability. We protect our client’s brands from appearing next to unsafe content and guide those ads to run adjacent to content that is more suitable for their brands.  

Advertisers won’t see true ROI if they aren’t accounting for fraud, viewability, or unsafe placements in their digital campaigns. IAS equips advertisers and publishers with both the insight and technology to protect their advertising investments from fraud and unsafe environments, as well as help them capture consumer attention, and drive business outcomes. We have the best tech talent, and cutting edge technology powered by AI and machine learning — enabling us to bring radical transparency in the ever-complex digital advertising ecosystem. 

What can we expect to see in the digital advertising space in three to five years?

Digital advertising is an extremely dynamic industry and so it’s hard to be certain of the future. However, I’ve worked in the industry through times of great change and transformation, so I can make some educated guesses, such as:

Transparent, accountable, and measurable. Advertising will become less intrusive, more relevant, and of course, more measurable. Lots of advertisers have focused on lower-tier metrics, like views, impressions, and clicks. But in the coming years, the industry will focus more on real-time outcomes or on how far down the funnel these things are taking consumers. We will see a shift from vanity metrics to emotional connections with the consumer and that’s how brands will differentiate. We are working actively on raising the media quality mandate globally and in the coming years, I foresee digital media will become more transparent and accountable for results.

Cookies crumbling and contextual targeting.  Increasing data privacy legislation, coupled with Chrome’s promise to dissolve cookies by 2022, has sparked new conversations between publishers, advertisers, and tech providers. These changes will undoubtedly have a lasting impact on the ways in which digital media is transacted. Once publishers are able to get ahead of these changes, they will be poised to take back control of their content and first-party data. 

Contextual-based advertising can help extend audience reach for publishers with rich, first-party data assets and provide an effective proxy for audiences. An increased focus on brand suitability from advertisers requires technology that does more than just protecting brands from risky content. It requires technology that enables a clear understanding of the nature of webpage content with detailed granularity and a greater scale than ever before. 

CTV/OTT- The CTT/OTT landscape will continue to grow and CTV environments will play a key role in reaching younger audiences at scale. We are already seeing direct-to-consumer brands investing heavily in CTV advertising. CTV is also becoming more of a programmatically transacted channel, bringing the risk of brand-unsafe or ad-fraud scenarios. IAS will continue to expand its CTV solutions to ensure advertisers and publishers can advertise in the new environment with confidence. We are also likely to see paid subscriptions to ad-free CTV services begin to stagnate as consumers reach their limit on paying for yet another streaming service.  

Social- Brands and people live between selfies, likes, tweets, and stories, so measuring the impact of social campaigns on actual users is more important than ever. Ad spend on social media platforms – Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, Snapchat, TikTok, and YouTube – will continue to increase and advertisers will need confidence that their social buys are reaching real humans and are viewable. Advertisers will need to work with verification companies like IAS that have the tech integrations with a wide selection of social media platforms to increase transparency and improve safety within the ecosystem. IAS is committed to helping brands have a consistent experience across platforms and ensuring they know the quality of their media buys.

Prior to IAS, you were with Yahoo, Amazon and Microsoft; big names in the industry. Walk us through the career path you have taken, which brings you to where you are now, Lisa.

I joined Integral Ad Science (IAS) as the CEO in January of 2019. Prior to that I was the Chief Revenue Officer at Yahoo!. Overall, I’ve spent 20 years in the digital advertising business working for large technology companies; first with Microsoft, then with Amazon and Yahoo. I have always been based in New York City (NYC), and I consider myself a lifelong New Yorker, even though I now commute from Connecticut.    

I was fortunate to start my career at Microsoft, where I learned a tremendous deal about the business of digital advertising. I joined Microsoft at the most junior level of the organisation, and I am proud of the fact that ten years later I left as the General Manager/Partner. Following Microsoft, I joined Amazon to build the global advertising business from scratch, starting with a team of eight people in NYC, and left Amazon with a large thriving global organisation in place. My experience at Amazon instilled the importance of data and experimentation in me.

After Amazon, I joined Yahoo! to lead the global sales organisation during a very critical period of the company prior to its purchase by Verizon. As the CRO and a public officer of the company, I had the opportunity to interact with Yahoo! board on a regular basis and that experience helped me develop an understanding of the financial management of a company.

A big reason that I joined IAS is that IAS is composed of highly intelligent people who are passionate about making digital advertising safer for advertisers. Marketers spent $273 billion globally in 2018 on digital advertising and they need to have confidence in the perceived integrity of their brands in the age of bots and fraud. IAS provides this needed trust and transparency. This is a very relevant and complex area, which also makes it very appealing to me.

You have broken the glass ceiling. What are your biggest pushes and motivations to be where you are now?

I’ve been fortunate to have received guidance throughout my career by phenomenal leaders. Three pieces of useful advice come to mind. The first piece of advice that I received early in my career from a senior female executive was to be clear on your personal and professional priorities. What is negotiable and non-negotiable? What do you consider as a “sacred time” that you prioritise? For example, I have always made an effort whenever possible to get home at night to tuck our girls into bed and read them bedtime stories. I’d consider this as my “sacred time” and it’s a non-negotiable.

The second piece of advice was from one of my mentors, who challenged me to do one thing personal or professional, each day, that terrified me. It has since inspired me to be bold and push myself outside of my comfort zone. She also encouraged me to raise my hand for the job that no one else wants, and to never become complacent in my role. I’ve learned to be open to opportunities that don’t follow the natural career path and that has enabled me to develop valuable skills. 

Many companies have not much of a choice but to operate virtually, following the global Covid-19 pandemic. Do you think this will be the way the world rolls, post Covid-19?

It is more important than ever to empower employees, prioritise their well-being, and provide them with the tools they need to thrive in their roles. During these times of disruption, what many companies have learned is that staying agile, connected, and equipped are some of the best ways to navigate the current situation and remain productive. Remote working has become a reality for companies globally. I can’t predict the future, but I’d expect that the lessons learned and the challenges met through this situation will have a positive impact on how people think about leadership, collaboration, and having an agile approach to navigating changes. 

How has the global pandemic affected the digital advertising space?

Our customers are telling us that the advertising industry continues to seek guidance on how to best meet these unprecedented challenges as we all acclimate to the “new normal” together. Brand safety and suitability remain top of mind for our clients, as well as maintaining scale for both audience reach and inventory monetisation. 

IAS has been doing our part to ensure marketers and publishers are equipped with accurate data and tools to navigate this “new normal”. This includes sharing educational content and releasing our Media Quality Report, which shows, for example, that programmatic viewability rates are improving worldwide. Additionally, we recently developed our own bot technology to pressure-test our machine learning algorithms vs. competitors, showing how marketers could be at risk for bot fraud. Our partners trust us to provide them with relevant information and learnings about the industry and we will continue to update them with research and further insights as the situation unfolds. 

With the world constantly changing and people evolving, what is the most effective way to lead and inspire the workforce of today and tomorrow? 

As the leader of a diverse global team, I lead with empathy, transparency, and accountability. Each employee at IAS can reach out to me at any time whether it’s through my #ask-lisau Slack channel or during our weekly global town hall. Having multiple touchpoints with the team ensures that I am accountable to our team and helps me keep a finger on the pulse of the organisation. At IAS we have a company value that We Are One Team. This means wherever we are located, whether virtual or in the office, we are in this together and will come out of this unusual experience even stronger. 

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Zu Anjalika Kamis Gunnulfsen

Zu Anjalika Kamis Gunnulfsen is the Marketing In Asia's Editor for News & UGC. She is also a certified Image Branding & Lifestyle Consultant. Born in Singapore and blessed to have lived in a couple of other amazing cities in the world, Anjalika is currently expatriating in Kuala Lumpur. Follow her on LinkedIn and Instagram. You may also reach her by email at anjalika@marketinginasia.com.

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