Former Microsoft And aQuantive Exec Scott Howe Joins Turn Board, Hints At New Startup

TurnDemand-side platform Turn announced that Scott Howe has joined its board of directors. A former aQuantive/Atlas/DrivePM exec who joined Microsoft as part of the multi-billion dollar aQuantive acquisition in 2007, Howe should provide Turn with deeper relationships with both agencies and marketers among other benefits. Read the release.

Howe discussed his new board duties as well as his own plans and views about the digital ad ecosystem. Where does the demand-side platform fit in the digital ad ecosystem over the next 1-3 years? Will it become commodotized as a business model?

Every online advertising forecast that’s been released suggests that digital advertising is expected to post continued strong growth, and new formats (e.g. video, mobile, social) are going to grow at an even faster rate.  Within that growth, the one common denominator among all advertisers is the need to purchase and evaluate their media effectively.  In a world of increasing choice and complexity, the role of the DSP becomes critical. And while most agencies are carefully evaluating options and the competitive space may seem crowded, this isn’t an industry that I would expect to quickly commoditize given the size of the prize for companies who can unlock better advertising performance. In other words, the driving purchase criteria won’t be the cost of the DSP technology, but rather the value the DSP can provide to the overall media plan.

What are your plans – joining a board or two? how about getting into venture capital? Or will the entrepreneurial bug bite?

I’m pretty selective about board opportunities, as I want to ensure that I’m passionate about the industry, management team and my ability to accelerate the company’s progress.  Turn is a company I’ve known for awhile and I look forward to being part of their exciting journey ahead.  I’m also in process of launching what I think will be an intriguing startup — social gaming with a twist.  It’s still under wraps but my co-founders include Rich Barton (Expedia, Zillow) and Nick Hanauer (former chairman of aQuantive).

With respect to other things, I promised my family I would take the summer off before spending too much time contemplating my next move.  That said, it probably doesn’t involve venture capital – as I really enjoy building a team, charting a strategy and competing.  I hope that there’s an intriguing CEO opportunity in my near future.

Is there still room for ad networks like DrivePM?  What does ad network model of tomorrow look like?

Just as there are mutual funds and exchanges in the securities markets, so too will there likely be ad networks and exchanges in the advertising world.  But the day of the unsophisticated ad network, that simply exists to take advantage of pricing asymmetry between supply and demand, is coming to an end.  In future, ad networks need to create real value – either through ease of purchase, targeting tools or unique packages.

Why do you think a display ad exchange strategy has been so slow to evolve at Microsoft?

Strategy and execution sometime occur at a different pace.  Microsoft has made incredible progress over the past year in search, and I suspect that momentum will next start to accelerate the ad exchange efforts.

Any big trends you’re expecting to gain momentum in the next 12 months in online ads?

Continued fragmentation, experimentation and an explosion in media choices will make it increasingly difficult for advertisers to navigate through their available choices and plan a single, cohesive campaign.  For those that can, often by using more sophisticated tools like the Turn Media Platform, advertising effectiveness will enter a renaissance period – marked by heightened creativity, ad effectiveness and ROI.

By John Ebbert

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