SalesTechStar Interview with Todd Wooten, Founder and President of VRTCAL
With increased pressure for lowering costs and increasing revenues, now more than ever, sales / marketing teams will have to find ROI through improved standards, better efficiencies in ad-path and technologies, as well as better data types says Todd Wooten, Founder and President of VRTCAL while sharing his thoughts on how adtech will evolve in the future and in what ways marketing teams will have to optimize their plans to draw the best ROI from programmatic capabilities. Catch the complete story:
Can you tell us a little about yourself Todd? How did the idea of VRTCAL come about, since starting up, what have been some of the biggest milestones / highlights?
I reside in Santa Barbara with my wife and our two high schoolers. Coming from a financial and accounting information system background, I pivoted to digital media entrepreneurship in 1997. My experiences covered content management, distribution networks and advertising mediation and technologies. In early 2016, I saw a big need for a mobile app focused tech-house. There were many SSPs, but none that were innovating with a publisher-first approach. I went on to found VRTCAL to serve as a complete mobile SSP platform. Since inception, we have remained independent, and most recently launched a first-of-its-kind SaaS service.
How according to you will the adtech / SSP space shape up in the near-future? What are current trends in this space in terms of interesting innovations that are increasing in demand and user needs?
Looking towards the future, I see fewer participants in our sector long-term that do not provide a unique or value-added service. In addition, I believe this sector will evolve to become more transparent with less fraud through the adoption of better standards, such as oRTB 3.0. Lastly, I foresee a strategic shift for both advertisers and publishers that will create more valuable supply and opportunity through better device data and context data, and their efficient application will create more opportunities for increased ROI for advertisers. Given the significant push towards the privacy controls for users that we are currently seeing, advertisers will need to find ways to meet their ROI targets in a compliance heavy environment. Right now, I’m anticipating a rise in the shift from personal information towards device and context data. For example, with device data we can know if the user is engaged with the device at the time of the ad call. This can eliminate a simple type of fraud and determine if the ad is really being viewed. Additional uses of device data are that specific marketers can target users based on current temperature, humidity, light or altitude, among others. Context data can determine many attributes such as if a user is happy, sad, frustrated or hungry. These are moments during the content of the application, which specific advertisers will want to know, and none involve any personal information.
As the effects of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic still play out, what are some of the top things you would say to sales and revenue generation teams, to follow during this time; can you share a little about what changes you’ve made at VRTCAL to thrive during these tough business times?
We must continue to forge ahead. If there was ever a time to block-and-tackle, this is it. Remain focused on the customer’s needs and the rest will work itself out. In our case, we knew early on that our sector would be shifting. We did not down-size or furlough. Instead, the sales and operations doubled down on communications and existing accounts management. Our engineering still had deadlines, and we adjusted our service-line to home in more on cost savings and profit margin efficiencies for our clients as we knew those would be priorities.
How can sales and marketing further optimize their salestech and martech stack in your view?
It’s critical to choose platform partners carefully. Today’s programmatic capabilities are well developed, and many are able to perform based on what’s required. I recommend a partner that has “more direct” relationships with the publishers. Removing unnecessary participants between marketers and the publishers is important for marketers’ ROI. The closer a marketer is to the publisher, the higher the ROI for them, and more revenue gets to the publisher. In today’s tech environment, this can be done at scale. The more revenue the publishers receive, the more content produced, which benefits all parties involved and creates a healthier advertising cycle.
What are some of the ways in which you still see marketing and sales teams in tech not utilizing the full capability of their sales and marketing automation to target the right clients at the right time with the right messaging…how would you tell them to fix this?
In today’s prebid and header bidding environment, there are a lot of wasted resources in the sending, receiving, targeting, mediating and delivery of ads. In the end, all that waste reduces advertiser ROI as they are the spenders. If more efficiency could be attained in the sending, receiving, mediating and delivery, then more resources could be utilized for effective targeting. In order to solve this issue, it’s important to choose the right, trusted partner with the most efficient supply path and the best targeting capabilities.
While remote work is still largely in place due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic even though businesses and economies are slowly inching towards reopening, what are some of the thoughts you’d like to share for the global workforce in general?
While our sector has always been more work-from-home friendly than others, the need for better communication and trust can never be replaced. I believe there will be a reduction in office use, but with that, comes a productivity trade-off. This may mean that new hires are located in-office, and then evolve towards partial work-from-home as their communications and productivity are established. This could create a 25% to 35% reduction overall in office utilization, but ultimately, there will definitely be less office time in the future. Offices are expensive to maintain, but productivity is more important.
As a tech entrepreneur, in a challenging environment due to the Covid19 pandemic: how are you enabling a balanced remote work culture while maintaining motivation levels?
At VRTCAL, calls, Slack, and Join.me upped their presence since the pandemic began. I’m thankful that the sales-side of my personality is strong, because the tech-side would have introverted quite easily during this time. I maintain increased communication with my direct reports and have a higher frequency of update inquiries to ensure the work-from-home dynamic doesn’t cause problems or delays.
Catch some of our conversations on the State of Sales, Marketing and Working In Tech from these episodes of The SalesStar Podcast –Featuring leaders from Acoustic, CloudShare, Qumulo and more. Listen Now!
VRTCAL is the only Open SSP and SaaS company focused on demand-path optimization, reducing the vertical distance between mobile publishers and advertisers. The VRTCAL platform is a proprietary architecture that offers SDKs, oRTB, multiple mediation types and a MarketPlace with premium brands and advertisers.
VRTCAL Founder and President Todd Wooten has been in the digital media and advertising sector for 20+ years covering content management, distribution, and advertising mediation and has been a technocrat since his early Peace Corps days as a small business systems advisor in Pakistan and Botswana. Seeing a need for vertical integration, mediation efficiency improvements and transparency in a disorganized mobile application advertising sector, he founded VRTCAL in 2016 as a mobile developer-first technology platform.