Podcast: Adform Follows Function

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Adform is a proud member of the tiny club of huge independent ad platforms.

With 900 people working in 26 countries, the Denmark-based company takes an engineering-driven approach to data-driven ad buying. Profitable since the early days, its top-line revenue has doubled year on year for each of the last 16 years.

Close to half of its employees have engineering roles, nearly matching the code-writing horsepower of AppNexus before it was acquired by AT&T’s Xandr.

“That’s why we’ve been able to compete with the Googles and Adobes of the world,” Julian Baring, Adform’s general manager of North America, says in this week’s episode of AdExchanger Talks. “We’re a very mature platform with significant commitment toward tech.”

Yet if you’re based in the United States, it’s entirely possible you’re only dimly aware of Adform.

“We’re not well known in the US market,” Baring says. “Where there has been available budget we always invested it in technology … The founders have had the challenge of bootstrapping the business but the luxury of not having to jump through certain hoops in terms of the expectations of investors.”

A seasoned ad tech and startup guy, Baring also shares his observations of the industry at large and Brexit. (He has dual UK-US citizenship.)

On agencies: “Agencies are amorphous organizations. They have to evolve. They’ve evolved at every stage of the evolution of media – cable to digital to programmatic to new channels now. My view is that the agency will always play a meaningful role in the execution … We’re very focused on how we make the agencies win as well as how we make the clients win.”

Consolidation: “We see consolidation obviously … and that shrinks the number of competitors, but we’ve always viewed our competitors to be the scaled walled gardens that we perhaps can provide an alternative to. Independence is critically important.”

Data and privacy: “Consumers being more concerned about privacy, I think that’s a good thing … Where we as an industry have been going a little bit long is trying to get all the information.”

Brexit: “Brexit is just a sign of our times, where it seems that uncertainty is the rule of the day. I’m a firm Remainer, and I’m an optimist in my worldview as well. Politicians are trying to work their way out of a very dark corner that they’ve painted themselves into.”

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