Greg Coleman Discusses His New Role As President Of Criteo

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CriteoLast Thursday, personalized ad technology company Criteo announced that it had hired former Huffington Post CRO, Aol and Yahoo! exec, Greg Coleman, to be its president. Read the release (PDF).

Coleman spoke about the opportunity ahead with Criteo and his own recent experience in the online ad space.

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AdExchanger.com: In your new role, is your primary purpose - at least in the near term -driving sales in the US? Is that appropriate?

GC: So, my primary role for the first six months is to help take the US team to the next level. And it means, heavy‑duty on the sales side, but it also means extreme coordination with the technology teams, with the account management teams, with every part of this company, to make that happen.

I thought long and hard about this - and by the way, it's kind of an interesting market out there as here were lots of opportunities - but the Criteo opportunity became much clearer as I left the Huffington Post really just a little more than a month ago and two of my very closest friends from Yahoo, Toby Coppel and Dominique Vidal - Toby ran Corporate Development and Dominique ran Europe - they're on the Criteo board. Very rarely do you have an opportunity where two of the key players - in this case the board members - wanted me to come, but they knew that I would be really disappointed in them if they got me to come and the technology wasn't what it was.

So, without that kind of a hook, with people in the inside, [and without] being on the Board of Advisors [myself], I probably wouldn't be here. I probably wouldn't have understood what they've uncovered. So I kind of feel very lucky right now.

Are there one or two key learnings from your Huffington Post experience that you can see will be of particular use to you at Criteo?

Sure. At Huffington Post, I had the chance to take a brand that was very visible to the user, but it was really invisible to the marketing community. My knowledge of the market, my ability to hire, to attract and retain the best and the brightest, that's going to line up exactly with what I do need to do here.

But most importantly, because I'm assuming I can do that, at the Huffington Post we really had to nail our sustainable, competitive advantage. And in that case, it was all about social marketing.

So my soapbox in the corner offices at the Fortune 500 companies across America, the client and agencies, were all about showing marketers how they could engage in the conversation, how they could use all of the social marketing tools with the Huffington Post to create a program that was beyond just running advertising on our site.

And what I'm seeing here at Criteo is very much the same thing. From a competitive advantage standpoint, I think I know what it is.

But I also know that over the next month, I will be focusing on the whiteboard, listening to the team, listening to clients, to extract what I would consider is our stomping speech, our competitive advantage, what really sets us apart from everybody else.

In a nutshell, that's how I see the comparisons between the Huffington Post and Criteo, with the heightened sense that I have to do this very, very fast.

Because I want to, because the genie is in the bottle, and I've just got to get the genie out of the bottle everywhere.

Finally, you’ve had several personal and I think it's safe to say financial successes in recent years. And so, I’m talking about Yahoo, and AOL and Huff Po. What is it that keeps driving you - and into the start‑up world no less?

The first thing is two years ago when I had the chance to leave AOL, when I was there for my full 10 weeks on the job and Tim Armstrong, who's still a good friend of mine, he needs to bring his Google team in. I took five months off, so... let me tell you the months, May, June, July, August, September, five months off. I worked 30 years, never took anything longer than a week's vacation. So I had my...

How did that feel?

Well, if you go on the Huffington Post and do a search for me, I wrote a blog called, "Sharpening the Saw”. So, it felt great. If I didn't have that chance then, what I would have done is I probably would have taken my time off now. But my engine, my brain is really amped up wonderfully.

At The Huffington Post, we worked very, very hard, it was joy, and it was a mission. We were creating, we were growing, and it was a start‑up there.

Here, Criteo is not a start‑up. It has been a very successful company in Europe, it's still on the new side here in the United States, being a year old. I have something that's emerging out of a start‑up, with real legs, and real technology, and real people.

The company, I think, is about 300 people, we have about 100 here in the United States. So, different than most of the landscapes that you'd call a start‑up.

For me, having the chance to surf on this wave, I'm really excited. It's going to create something new for me - the whole world of living in pure performance‑ville. I'm looking forward to it.

And look, there's no question about it, there's compression going on with CPMs, with all of your display publishers today. I see this as a wonderful time - as this compression is starting. I think we can add to solutions for publishers and for advertisers, as well.

By John Ebbert


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