It’s never easy to say goodbye to something we’ve owned or worn for years, to something that’s comfortable and familiar, to something that holds so many memories, and has become a part of our identity.
Centro, our company name, is one of those things to me. The name holds the memories of highs and lows, challenges and struggles, collective successes, and personal failures.
Centro began on this day, October 15, twenty years ago. I didn’t have experience in building a company; just a dream and vision on how the right software could have a huge and positive impact on the global media industry. Seamless processes, better organization, increased intelligence, enhanced collaborations, etc. -- we had an opportunity to improve the overall health and well-being of our industry.
It also began with a parallel vision for a better corporate culture – with a leadership framework that understood that success is always predicated on the quality, character, intelligence, and ethics of the people it could convince to join its mission. “Lasting success can only be achieved through dedication to growth and well-being of the individual, not the corporation,” I wrote in late 2001.
Life, at times, invites us to let go of the comfortable and familiar. It sends signals, in the form of opportunities, to shed our conches and try a new and oversized shell that gives us more space to grow on our life journey.
After twenty years, we (Centro) are officially changing the name of our corporation to Basis Global Technologies.
This change signifies our longstanding commitment and mission to develop a leading cloud-based workflow automation and business intelligence software platform for marketing and advertising. We are committed to providing our customers software and services that:
Over the past twenty years, our industry has become more complex and disconnected. This has created undue strains and burdens on marketing organizations and teams leading to higher labor costs, increased workforce turnover, deteriorating unit economics, decreasing levels of customer service, lower efficacy of paid advertisements, reduced gross margins, and declining profitability. As new channels and formats are introduced, new supplemental and peripheral technologies and solutions are brought forth, creating a need for new skillsets, guidelines, rules, and standards for marketers to consider and implement.
Additionally, post-pandemic, we’ve been hearing about media companies experiencing massive shortages of workers and talent, leading to a cascading amount of work, stress and exhaustion for those in our industry. It is enormously difficult to run an efficient, happy, healthy, and fast-growth business when dealing with this amount of complexity, disconnection, and operational chaos spread over an insufficient supply of talent.
I believe this is our industry’s No. 1 problem. Until we solve the issue of compounding complexity, increasing disconnection (people, processes, and platforms), and a shortage of skilled professionals,
our industry will continue to degrade and the greatest asset we have, people, will continue to leave.
Industry Talent Crunch
A common solution is to add more talent. However, talent is becoming harder to find and increasingly more expensive. This leads to a spike in personnel costs and a corresponding reduction in profitability. Among advertising agencies, given current trends and the downward pressure on agency fees, there are numerous drawbacks to this strategy. The tangential talent solution is outsourcing or offshoring. In this industry, it’s referred to as finding bodies who can “handle your mess for less.” However, offshoring comes with its own challenges including reduced transparency, higher error rates, geographic and cultural disconnection (on top of general disconnection), and international financial and legal complications. Additionally, the cost of labor is increasing in developing countries, offsetting the benefits.
Transformation Through Automation
Spending more time, energy, and money trying to recruit talent from competitors, investing in professional training of thousands of new workers, or establishing an offshoring and outsourcing practice does not address compounding complexity.
Instead, our industry can invest time, resources, and energy fixing the root of the problem so, as more digital elements develop (AR/VR/MR, service bots, holographic content, voice search, etc.), we can integrate them easily, seamlessly, and cost-efficiently into common processes while not adding stress and undue burden on the people we care about most: our employees.
Almost thirty years ago, professor, scholar, and author, Dr. Shoshana Zuboff, published the phrase, “Everything that can be automated will be automated,” which was later labeled as Zuboff’s First Law. She was ahead of her time.
The digital transformation of industries, focused mainly on the automation of work, is predicted to be one of the fastest-growing global sectors over the next two decades.
Our market needs automation. Professionals need a comprehensive suite of applications that automate manual operations, standardize business processes, and improve marketing and advertising performance. I believe that reducing the stress, workloads, anxiety, and burnout among talent should be our sector’s top priority. Solving these problems creates a better, more enjoyable, more nourishing, and healthier industry.
This is the next chapter for Basis Technologies.
This is the second in an 11-part series of blog posts that focus on Basis Technologies' corporate guiding principles, and how those values show up in the workplace and in the lives of our people.
I founded Basis Technologies on 11 ideals—or guiding principles—to keep the company and the people in it on the right track as we achieve our business goals. One of the most overarching principles is our commitment to continuous self-improvement and personal growth.
Basis is committed to investing in the growth of our team members, while cultivating a culture of responsibility and accountability for everyone’s own self-development. As I think about my commitment to personal accountability and self-improvement, my DEI (Diversity, Equity & Inclusion) journey comes to mind.
Over the last few years, we increased our efforts to be a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplace. We have worked to strengthen the communities we work and live in, broaden our recruitment methods, and cultivate an inclusive workforce.
Sadly, our DEI outcomes have not been good enough to net the results we want. We must do more and get better at holding ourselves accountable. This isn’t to say that there has been no improvement. We’ve set goals around recruiting and hiring initiatives, have made investments in furthering opportunities for students from underrepresented groups, and have increased DEI education and resources for our employees.
But these efforts are only a start. Real DEI work requires long term effort and a deep commitment to continuous learning and improvement. As CEO, I’m determined to do what it takes to improve our representation and our eternal commitment to DEI. This begins with my own personal commitment, responsibility and need for self-development. Here are three lessons I’ve learned so far in my DEI journey.
As a CEO, I’m constantly working to educate myself. I’ve committed myself and my executive team to at least 15 hours of education focused around DEI per quarter. Recently we’ve read Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People and How to Be an Inclusive Leader: Your Role in Creating Cultures of Belonging Where Everyone Can Thrive.
Education on why and how diverse representation matters is important. Identify and communicate why diverse teams are important to your company. For example, diverse teams are important for Basis because we’re building an industry-changing product, we’re servicing diverse clients, and we’re building a responsible corporate culture that encourages and values creativity, innovation, and fresh ideas from everyone. We can’t be successful when we think small or with a narrow perspective.
We have work to do on representation. Currently, BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) employees make up 16% of Basis team members living in the U.S. Our goal is to almost double this percentage in the next few years.
While BIPOC talent represented 27% of our U.S. new hires in 2020, we need to ensure that these numbers stay high throughout interview stages, hiring, and retention. We’re focusing on broadening where we search for talent as well as improving interviewing training and practices (e.g. blind resume reviewing) that help to address and minimize unconscious biases.
While it’s imperative to set goals, focus on metrics, and track data around representation, it’s important to remember that behind employee demographics and representation metrics are real people. Not only does representation matter to our intellectual, business, and innovation efforts, it also affects the mental and emotional load of what our employees are carrying into the workplace and how they are able to show up for work.
We’ve created a space for authentic conversations from a myriad of voices in a series called Basis Conversations. We're also proud of our employee-created and led Community Groups (Employee Resource Groups) that serve as safe spaces for support, education, and resources. Recently, our Parents Community Group and Black Excellence Community Group hosted a conversation about how to talk to kids about race.
We have more work to do in centering our support and listening to our employees’ experiences and needs. With the increase of violence against the AAPI (Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders) community, it became clear we need to do better at pausing, listening to, and supporting our AAPI employees. Many of us will never fully understand the daily lived experiences of our employees. We have work to do in educating ourselves about what our teammates are bringing to work and how to best support them.
DEI is in everyone’s best interest and is everyone’s responsibility at Basis Technologies. Studies from McKinsey & Company, Deloitte and Gartner consistently show that diverse teams across many vectors are more successful in meeting their goals and coming up with unique, innovative solutions.
But DEI work doesn’t start and end with recruiting and hiring. We certainly need to recruit diverse candidates, but far from being HR or Recruiting’s responsibility, it's critical managers and colleagues who take on the work of creating inclusive and equitable spaces through hiring and onboarding practices and on their teams every day.
Ensuring we have a diverse workforce is only a first step. The more important step is ensuring everyone has a positive experience and chooses to stay and grow with us. If BIPOC talent, LGBTQ+ community members, or other people within an underrepresented group don’t see, meet and connect with people similar to them within the organization, its difficult to feel included and part of the team.
Ensuring that we’re always showing and proving we care about each team member's growth, happiness and career progression is paramount to our success. This is everyone’s job at Basis.
In this spirit, we are now including an assessment around embracing diversity in every employee’s performance evaluation this year. We’ll be tracking participation in DEI focused trainings and educational opportunities. From here, we will begin linking our leaders’ performance outcomes to meaningful contributions to our DEI strategy and goals.
I look at DEI the same way I look at building an innovative product and platform: approach the issue with a challenger mindset, don’t buy into the way things have always been, and commit to consistent improvement at the macro and micro-level every day.
There’s never a point where we stop after reaching a certain goal—there is only progress. Our DEI work will never be over, even when we reach the initial goals we set for ourselves. It’s vital that we create and maintain a culture where everyone feels comfortable giving candid feedback, sharing experiences openly, and coming up with new and innovative ideas that we can continuously act on.
In addition to working towards progress in our own company microcosm, we need to be cognizant of how Basis can help create paths for underrepresented groups people to break into industries that have struggled to build diverse workforces. Our partnerships with organizations like CodeNation and The Boyd Initiative are small steps in the right direction.
We also must hold ourselves accountable to ensure that we have equality in both compensation and career paths. We have removed historical salary considerations from our interview process and have instituted an annual pay audit to assess parity among different demographics. In previous internal studies, we have done well relative to these metrics, but there are always ways to improve.
We will keep learning, striving for progress, and over-indexing on the amount of support and career investment we provide for our underrepresented groups in the technology and advertising industry. Our mission is to be both leaders and eternal learners in our respective industries to counter historical inequities and ensure we are a colorful and diverse team where everyone feels warmly embraced, included, and equal.
I want to thank the Basis team members whose passion has driven our DEI progress to date, including members of underrepresented groups and our Community Group members.
- Download Basis Technologies' Identity Crisis POV + Guide
- Register for Basis Technologies' Identity Crisis Webinar
- View Basis Technologies' Ad Tech Fitness Infographic
To my industry friends, colleagues, and competitors,
This is not the end. It’s not doomsday. I believe this is an opportunity. We are an industry filled with innovators, optimists, and consumer-centric problem-solvers. Advertising was around long before the cookie and it will be here long after.
There’s no need to panic. Instead, let’s focus on the two sides of the equation, our industry’s main stakeholders: marketers and consumers.
For marketers and advertisers, the deprecation of third-party cookies brings questions, mostly surrounding targeting and performance. How will I reach my target? How will I know my media is working and measure conversions? I address these questions below, and our Embracing the Identity Crisis guide goes even further in depth into your options.
Consumers, on the other hand, are sending a message—they are telling us that privacy matters and they need to be in control. Many solutions being proposed and developed by organizations in the advertising industry are not respecting this—these solutions are just exploiting loopholes and replacing one problem with another. We need to honor the spirit of privacy and find a real solution.
It’s important to note that this challenge is not unique to Basis Technologies. We are a proud active participant in groups working toward a solution, specifically Project Rearc, the IAB’s working group addressing privacy changes (check out our blog post with IAB Tech Lab lead Alex Cone for more!)
I understand that the impending changes to cookies will probably arrive before a true identity solution can be built.
So, what now? What can we do in the near term? We have options for reliable targeting and alternative reporting options:
With improved efforts by brands and publishers to collect customer first-party data in order to create more customized user experiences, the question becomes how can each use that data to make smarter decisions outside the walls of their owned and operated properties. As a partner to both marketers and publishers, Basis Technologies is actively working on solutions that allow for anonymized overlap analysis between both parties. This will provide greater direction and more insight around composition and coverage based on the audience cohort actively being planned against.
Targeting has become synonymous with audiences over the years of programmatic buying, and much of the audience-buying world is cookie-based and deprecating. This doesn’t mean your targeting needs to suffer—you have many other compliant targeting options. Contextual targeting has come a long way over the last decade and now uses Natural Language Processing to understand semantics and tone. We've chosen to partner with semantic data providers such as, comScore, DoubleVerify, Grapeshot, and Peer39. And guess what? Semantic data is more affordable than third-party audience data.
Expanding ingestion of anonymized data sources for improved fidelity of local data in aggregate is key to continuing to drive smarter decisioning in a post-cookie world. Utilizing sources of data such as US Census, American Community Survey and North American Industry Classification System provide a robustness to local insights, and allow for smarter decisioning (both machine learning and manual) to improve performance and eliminate wasted impressions.
Individually and as an industry, we are working on revamping our solution for performance tracking, particularly for actions taken on advertisers’ websites. In the short term, we will be updating conversion tracking to use cookieless conversions for click-through-conversions only. However, in the long term, the only reliable way will be through CDP (customer data platform) data, site analytics data, and brand lift studies. This is a shift from conversion tracking but can more fully and thoughtfully illustrate media performance.
And for that long-term vision mentioned earlier, this is an opportunity—an opportunity to address the real problem, an opportunity to tell stories, an opportunity to be better as an industry. Some companies are trying to find loopholes and circumvent the legislation.
Even if they find success, it will be short-lived. They are ignoring what consumers are saying. These players need to address the problem and create solutions that are good for our ecosystem and respect the rising concern for data privacy
With optimism and excitement,
Founder & CEO | Basis Technologies
I am sad and heartbroken at what is happening in our society, cities, and communities right now.
I watched the brutal and unjustified killing of George Floyd this past week by a few corrupt police officers in Minneapolis, MN, in a state of anguish and anger.
I felt the same way as I watched and read about other similar events over the past few years: Trayvon Martin (Sanford, FL), Michael Brown (Ferguson, MO), Laquan McDonald (Chicago, IL), Eric Garner (Staten Island, NY), Freddie Gray (Baltimore, MD), Samuel Dubose (Cincinnati, OH), William Chapman (Portsmouth, VA), Walter Scott (North Charleston, SC), Philando Castile (St. Paul, MN), Alton Sterling (Baton Rouge, LA), Ahmaud Arbery (Glynn County, GA), and Breonna Taylor (Louisville, KY).
These are the names and incidents I remember—and yet, they leave out the hundreds, maybe thousands, of unjustified killings of (mostly) Black men and women that don’t have videos or media coverage accompanying their deaths.
I watched this weekend, as citizens took to the streets of Chicago and across the country, to protest the unnecessary use of deadly force and violence by police and vigilantes in our society. I also witnessed firsthand, the looting and destruction of stores, businesses, buildings, and city landmarks.
To that say my heart is broken for my city and country right now, would be an understatement.
I have heard many friends, pundits, leaders, and politicians quickly jump to comment on the horror of the destruction and looting taking place. And I call bullshit.
The physical destruction of stores and businesses, the out-of-control looting and robbing, and the defacing of historical landmarks are unjust, immoral, wrong, and intolerable. Let there be no question, those who have engaged in these unlawful acts should be arrested and prosecuted under the law.
However, to focus on the looting and robbing as one’s primary and immediate point of view is missing the point and lesson inside this tragic moment.
First, and most importantly, we have a serious and sick problem in our society that is not being addressed. It starts with Black men (primarily) being indeterminately killed for petty offenses, and in some cases no offenses at all, by corrupt and/or poorly trained police officers. Don’t get me wrong, bad cops are bad cops that unjustly kill whites, Hispanics and Asians, too—but Black men are killed at more than twice the per capita rate than white men.
Second, American society is structured around systemic oppression and discrimination of minorities, with Black citizens bearing the heaviest load.
As hard as it is for me to witness looting and destruction in my city, it would be immoral and irresponsible of me to direct my focus, anger, and judgment toward these perpetrators, while ignoring the decades of abuse, incarceration, and injustice that have led us to the current civil unrest and disobedience.
I’m troubled when I see social media posts or talk to people, and the first thing they focus on is the horror of the looting and destruction. My response is, “Where were your Instagram and Facebook posts, and outrage over racial injustice the last few decades? Now that the long simmer of anger over oppression and abuse has reached a boiling point, and is spilling out into your neighborhood and directly affecting your neighborhood, business, or businesses you frequent—you’ve finally decided to become civically engaged, enraged, and publicize your opinion?”
I feel horrible for the businesses and the store owners that have been affected deeply. I know how hard it is to run any kind of business and this weekend has been devastating. It’s even more so when we factor in the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic and how catastrophic that impact has been to businesses of all shapes and sizes.
The violence, looting, and larceny is sickening and makes me physically ill. On Sunday morning, I walked around my neighborhood documenting the destruction. I’m not an emotional person but I cried on my walk, thinking about the historical events that led up to this moment—the pain and suffering of the business owners, the amount of work required to rebuild my city, and the extremely difficult jobs the good policemen and women of Chicago have right now.
Physical destruction is temporary. Buildings will get rebuilt. Windows will be restored. Merchandise will be replaced. Graffiti will be removed. The pain of systemic Black oppression, however, lasts generations.
I believe the vast majority of policemen and women are good people. They take their duty to serve and protect seriously. They care about you, your family, and doing all they can to protect our neighborhoods and communities. I find deep truth in the phrase, “No one hates bad cops more than good cops.” As with anything in life, it’s the small percentage of bad apples that ruin the image and reputation of the vast majority.
Just as it would be immoral and unjust to label, or define, all cops by the reprehensible actions of a few bad cops, it is also immoral and unjust to define the entire Black community and protestors by the heinous actions of the looters and criminals terrorizing our cities.
Now is a time where all good people must come together and stand on the side of justice, equality, and fairness in our society. It’s not okay to not pay attention or care about the plight of others, as long as an issue doesn’t directly affect you and or you pretend it doesn’t exist. It’s not okay to wait until your life, or community is personally impacted by the damaging and ruinous effects of police brutality and oppression and then, when it does, focus on the rioters and looters while choosing to ignore the compounding effects of what has led society to the moment we’re in.
Good cops need to call out bad cops. Good cops need to eradicate and eliminate bad cops from their ranks. Good protestors need to call out the criminals in their midst. Peaceful protestors need to stand on the side of law enforcement and call out, prevent, and thwart unlawful acts of violence and looting. The good outnumber the bad by multitudes, and the good should never allow themselves, their causes, or missions, to be defined by the bad with respect to cops and protestors.
So, what can we do?
A complete answer to the question would require a short novel as the list is endless and exhaustive of how we can make a difference individually and collectively. The following are a few thoughts on what we can do in our small circles and corners of society.
On an individual level, we need to take time and seek out where we are prejudiced, or in the case of the white majority, where we are racist. Everyone is prejudiced. I am prejudiced and racist. It’s impossible for all of us not to be prejudiced or racist in some way, shape or form.
Our individual work is not about eradicating and eliminating our prejudices or racism, but rather identifying where we are, so they move to our conscious state, versus them, living in our unconscious psyche. If anyone says, “I’m not prejudiced” or “I’m not racist,” it shows the prejudice and racism deeply rooted in one’s unconscious state. It’s not until we identify where we are prejudiced, are we then open and able to begin the work to understand, evaluate and determine how, and where, those prejudices show up in our thoughts, actions, and daily lives.
Once they are known and consciously identified, we can then objectively observe them, and catch them when they show up on a daily basis. Once they’re caught, it opens the door for us to counteract the prejudice thoughts, and we can begin to reprogram our thoughts and minds. Change doesn’t happen overnight, and it’s not realistic that we will ever fully eradicate all prejudices in our heads—but, the goal is to ensure we control our prejudices and not let our prejudices control us.
The most frustrating and disheartening part to me, relative to the protests and riots this week is that we are experiencing a failure in societal and political leadership. In a time when millions are suffering financially, mentally, or physically due to the coronavirus pandemic and/or the feeling of systemic abuse and oppression, it is a time for leaders to listen first, and then take action.
Unfortunately, I’m not seeing much of either. The first step to deescalating conflict and tension is to listen empathetically, with the intent to understand. When someone is hurting, before we can discuss ways to relieve their pain and suffering, we need to listen, and they need to know we not only heard them but also understand where they are coming from and we honor their right to feel the way they are feeling. At this moment, I’m seeing a lot of threats, condemnation, and blaming of the protestors and rioters, versus empathic listening with the intent to understand.
The next step is to take action and put forth a plan to improve the situation. In this case, what is our plan to reduce the number of unwarranted and unjust killings of innocent civilians or civilians who have committed petty crimes?
The only statement a leader needs to make is that they find these actions morally and lawfully reprehensible, unacceptable, and they are not going to continue under their watch. There needs to be a strict, well-organized, clearly defined, and well-publicized plan on how our elected officials, cabinet, and council members as well as law enforcement leaders are going to address this swiftly, judiciously, and with great force and momentum.
These merciless killings have been going on far too long in this country and the time for hollow words and empty promises are over. We need leaders with the authority to enact substantive changes to step up, put forth a plan, and then execute the plan.
Without a plan, this pattern of unjust killing followed by protests will continue to repeat itself with each instance becoming more and more violent, dangerous, and destructive.
Although corporations and businesses aren’t in as powerful a position as government leaders, there are many things we can do to improve the systemic oppression that exists in our country.
The first is to take Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) seriously in our companies. Each CEO needs to directly engage in understanding where their company is falling short, or where they can continue to improve and refine, their DEI initiatives.
DEI isn’t just about percentages of women, minorities, and LGBTQ team members inside of an organization, although that’s a great place to start. It’s about understanding the current culture and how open, welcoming, accepting, and integrative the culture is to minorities or people who don’t resemble the mean population.
It’s about setting high expectations with management and recruiting teams; to put in extra efforts and be proactive about hiring minority candidates. It’s about educating everyone in the company relative to their unconscious biases when interviewing candidates, so the best candidate doesn’t get passed by because they look different than the norm.
The more businesses can improve their hiring practices by creating an increased level of diversity, the better off the businesses will be, and, additionally, the better off society will be. No person of minority ever wants a handout or to feel they got a job because they are in a minority category. Rather, all they want is to know that they have as equal an opportunity as anyone else applying for the job, and then, may the best man or woman, win.
The events of this past weekend are sad, painful, and disheartening. I feel for the Black, and other minority groups, who have felt the pain of oppression for generations; I feel for the protestors who shouldn’t have to take to the streets to have their voices heard; I feel for the businesses who were disrupted and financially struggling before the riots and are now suffering crippling blows because of the riots, and I feel for the good policemen and women who uphold the oath to serve and protect as they are being defined by the crooked and corrupt officers in their ranks.
Mostly, I feel for society right now. We are hurting and divided more so than at any point in recent history. We are sick and unhealthy right now. There is no lack of big and important problems for us to work together on, to improve the lives of all Americans. Yet we spend our time demonizing, insulting, and ridiculing each other.
If there ever was a time to turn our swords into plowshares, it is now.
The faster we lay down our weapons, real or virtual, and start listening, understanding, empathizing, and working together to improve the lives of all of our friends and neighbors, near and far, the faster we will build a country and society we will feel proud of and safe in. Only then, will we know that each person, regardless of the color of their skin, the zip code they grew up in, the school they went to, the gender they identify as or romantically prefer, or the religion they choose to worship—America is the land of the free, the home of the brave, and the country where dreams can, and do, come true—for everyone.
Today, Centro announced the acquisition of SiteScout, a leading self-serve, RTB platform based in Toronto, Canada.
Centro's mission is to provide the industry with a unified software platform that helps marketers buy media across all guaranteed and biddable inventory, on all channels, with all ad formats, to achieve any campaign objective.
I started the company 12 years ago with the goal of automating site-direct media buys, and streamlining the tedious and manual processes that plague both agencies and ad sellers. For Centro to realize its vision – which is to address the entire spectrum of digital – we knew that adding RTB capabilities was necessary. Early this year, we began searching for a technology company with strong engineering talent, a proven track record of success and similarity to Centro's mindset and culture. After a thorough evaluation of players in the market, our choice was clear. I’m thrilled to welcome SiteScout to the Centro family.
SiteScout has built one of the most impressive RTB, self-serve platforms in the industry. Before SiteScout’s inception in 2009, many demand side platforms (DSP) in the market were inaccessible to mid-sized marketers and agencies – none had a self-serve interface and many required budget minimums that were out of reach.
SiteScout’s mission was to make programmatic ad buying accessible to marketers of all sizes. Its platform has been used by more than 4,000 customers, including small, independent digital shops and marketers. SiteScout has been used for more than 85,000 individual campaigns. It reaches 370 million unique users per month and has access to 21 billion daily impressions. SiteScout has quickly attained traction through integrations with the top industry supply sources.
SiteScout offers pure, self-serve software. Customers go to the SiteScout website, sign up and start buying advertising. Clients just need a credit card and a minimum budget of $500 to get started.
Paul Mokbel, SiteScout’s founder and CEO, will assume the position of Managing Director, VP, Engineering, Centro Canada.
Centro's first order of business is to continue to support what SiteScout is currently doing. We are exploring the various ways we can supply more resources to help grow the adoption of its RTB platform even faster. Simultaneously, we are already working on incorporating SiteScout’s technology into our software platform.
Becoming part of Centro will help SiteScout in two ways. First, Centro will bring all of our size, strength and scale to bear on behalf of SiteScout. Our sales team, client relationships and marketing strength will help SiteScout scale much faster than before now that it has access to Centro’s 370 professionals in 33 offices throughout the U.S. Second, there is also the bigger play in the industry – to be the first company that creates one platform for media buyers across all media, including all guaranteed and biddable inventory.
We are now in position to be the first company to bring a single, unified solution to the market quickly.
Hats off to the SiteScout team for cultivating such a great company. We have enormous appreciation and respect for Paul and his executive team, who have built not only a thriving business, but also an organization with amazing people and a wonderful culture they can be proud of. The mindset and culture match between SiteScout and Centro made this an ideal fit.
We’re excited about having SiteScout join Centro in our collective journey and are looking forward to working together to fulfill our unified vision for digital media and advertising. We have a long road ahead, and we’re mindful that this industry is full of challenges and competition. Nevertheless, I’m confident in our team and, as long as we stay focused on our path, we have a great opportunity to change and improve the digital media industry forever.
Welcome to the anniversary of my favorite red letter date in history, October 15th, 2001. The day “Centro” was incorporated and officially become a company.
I called it “Intégrent” back then. And what a dumb name that was. No one could pronounce it correctly. I chose it though because I was looking for a “tech” sounding name. I typed the word “integrity” into a French translation dictionary and the word “intégrent” came up. It sounded techie and I could get the URL. Never mind that I’m not French, had never been to France and, from everything I’d heard, probably wouldn’t like French people if I ever visited there.
But that’s how it started. And it’s been 12 years. So, first, HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Centro! If you had told me 12 years ago that I’d still have a company, that we’d have achieved the size and success that we’ve achieved, that I’d still be CEO and that I’d still be enjoying going into work each day and have the amount of passion that I do for our future, I’d have considered you crazy. And you would’ve been crazy because no one in late 2001 was saying that to me. I had a lot more people telling me why my idea and business wasn’t going to work or, inferring that I wasn’t the person to pull it off. Which is a great lesson: there will always be more people around you telling you that you can’t do something than those telling you that you can. I guess statistically, those people around you are usually right. After all, most companies don’t succeed and those who do never amount to all that much. But just because it feels like everyone around you is telling you that you can’t do something doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try.
So, rather than a cute “happy birthday” message to everyone, I thought I’d take a moment and offer 12 lessons about business, entrepreneurship and life I’ve learned in the past 12 years. I’m not saying these are the biggest lessons… just the ones that come to my mind on this special day. I realize these may come across as hard lessons and some may even feel negative but, candidly, it’s the hardest times in life you go through that teach you the greatest lessons.
#1: There are more people around you that will tell you that you can’t do something than will tell you that you can. If you’re willing to give up everything, put it all on the line and work your butt off to achieve your goals, don’t listen to them. If you’re not willing to do that, you should probably listen to them.
Success isn’t easy. And the bigger the goals you have, the more you’re going to have to give up in life to accomplish them. As the old saying goes, “If starting a business was easy, more people would do it.” Trust me, I would’ve much preferred to go out with my friends on many weekends versus staying in and reading books on leadership, management, programming, biographies, etc. And I can’t count the number of “Sunday Fundays” I didn’t get to participate in. But I recognized there were many times when learning, work and focus took priority over having fun.
#2: Happiness and joy in life begins with your values and principles.
It’s been 12 years. And 12 years is a long time. Almost a 1/3 of my life on this planet has been spent building Centro. And I’m having the time of my life. And the reason I think I’m having the time of my life is I established the values and principles I would choose to live my life, and lead my company by, upfront. The Centro Manifesto established an ethos for us. We knew who we were. We knew what was expected of us. We knew the types of people we wanted to join our team. And we never wavered no matter how much $$ was waved in our face. We’ve built a company we can be proud of. Are we the biggest and most successful? Nope. Have we accomplished a lot? Yes. Am I proud to say I work at Centro? Heck yes I am! I’m deeply and incredibly proud of the type of company we’ve built and who we are, collectively, as a company. Oh, and someday, we probably will also be considered one of the biggest and most successful.
#3: Zip codes, pedigrees, GPAs and the school you graduated from don’t matter. Never ending intellectual curiosity, an insatiable desire to keep learning and hard work does.
I was born on a farm. Raised in Ridgeville Corners, OH (a village with population around 200). Graduated in the bottom 50% of my high school class. Graduated with a 2.49 GPA from that mental powerhouse of a university: Bowling Green State University. And was the first generation in my family to attend college. And it doesn’t matter. What mattered is that I didn’t think learning stopped once I got my degree. I knew I didn’t have the opportunities and exposure to successful people or mentors like other kids may have had. I also knew I wasn’t as naturally gifted as other kids were. But what I did know was that I was willing to commit to being a “student of the game” forever and that I was willing to work 3x as long and as hard as anyone else to achieve my goals.
#4: Life isn’t fair. Get over it.
Too many people walk around lamenting what their childhood was like. Or that they didn’t have the same opportunities as other kids. Or that they aren’t as naturally talented and gifted as other people. And my message is to get over it. The sooner you get over it, the sooner you’re on your way to a better life. You can’t change it so why let it define the rest of your life? Per Lesson #3, I wasn’t cool, didn’t have money, wasn’t smart, wasn’t athletic, wasn’t tough, wasn’t attractive and got picked on and bullied a lot. So what. Life isn’t fair. And I wouldn’t go back and change my childhood for the life of me because, although it was hard, I learned a lot and it made me who I am today (I need to add here that I was adopted into the most amazing family…I can’t express my love and admiration for my parents enough).
All I knew was that I was going to have to work 3x as long and as hard as others if I wanted to succeed. And never once did I feel sorry for myself that I was going to have to spend my life working 3x longer and harder as other people would. My choice was to either be angry and depressed that life wasn’t fair or get over it and get to work. I chose to get to work.
#5: There is no replacement for reading non-fiction books. Everything you need to know sits in a book (or available on the Kindle).
You’ve heard me say this before: if you want to be considered successful, interesting, mentally attractive and smart, you have to read – and fiction books don’t count (okay, maybe a few fiction books but only a few). Everything we need to know is sitting in a book somewhere.
A personal anecdote on reading: I spend countless days each year reading books. Some are great, many are okay, and there are some that suck. But even those that suck, I probably learned something valuable from the 10% of the book that didn’t suck. And my belief is that even if I learned one important lesson from the time I spent reading the book, it was worth it.
#6: Adversity doesn’t build character. Adversity reveals character.
We’ve often heard the quote that “adversity builds character.” My experience, however, suggests that “adversity reveals character.” I’ve been around a lot of people that are the most amazing, fantastic, nice, gracious and caring people when things are going great. But it’s when the doo-doo hits the fan and the world is crumbling around you that you will see the true character of those around you. And, unfortunately, far too often you’re not going to like what you see.
You see, I believe character is something that runs deep. And it’s almost impossible to change the character of someone. Look for signs of the person’s character in how they handle the small things and see if you like it. Because if their attitude turns sour in the small things, get ready for a tsunami of darkness when it gets real bad.
#7: Always trust your gut.
It’s weird how God built us with this sixth sense…this instinct that we can’t explain. Your gut is never wrong. Trust it. The biggest regrets I have in my life come from times that I didn’t trust and listen to my gut.
#8: Don’t put off hard and difficult conversations or decisions.
My goal is to build the strongest and most powerful organization I can. This means I need to build the strongest and most powerful teams. I define strong and powerful teams as the ability to give, and accept, critical feedback, in real-time and in front of others on the team.
But this is one of the hardest things we’ll ever do. I’ve learned most people have the inability to tell others how they truly feel because they “don’t want to hurt his or her feelings.” And God forbid if they had to say how they truly feel in front of everyone else.
Anytime I spot this, I know the team is weak and inefficient. Say what you feel. And say it in a way that lets the other person know you care about them and you care about the success of your team. Not giving someone critical feedback is robbing that person of an opportunity to grow in their life.
And when it comes to having difficult conversations, or making a difficult decision, prolonging the conversation and the decision only makes the situation worse. At the executive level at Centro, although we’re not perfect at this, I feel we’re doing well at saying exactly how we feel, exactly when we feel it and we can do it in front of others on the team.
#9: “Who” you hire is more important than “what” they’ve accomplished.
This is pretty cut and dry. Find people with great character, a desire to grow and learn, someone with humility, passion and a selfless spirit combined with great care and concern for the well-being of others and you’re going to build a great team. When you’re interviewing someone, put down the resume and focus on “who” they are, what makes them tick and what drives them in life. You’ll make much better hiring decisions.
#10: Work hard. Play hard. Just remember to always work a lot harder than you play.
Are you sensing a theme here? I’ve always believed in the work hard/play hard philosophy but I think some people use it as an excuse to show up to work 40 hours a week and then party their butt off when they’re not working. Hard work and hard play sit on either side of a scale. Just make sure the “hard work” side is a lot more weighted than the “hard play” side and you’ll most likely be successful.
#11: Money is a great amplifier.
An old man told me many years ago that money is a great amplifier. I’ve come to learn how incredibly wise this is. I’ve had many friends and acquaintances who have made fortunes in the last few years. And what is most surprising to me is how money shows up in their life. To those who are well-grounded, caring, charitable, love life and love those around them, money only enhances all of these things. But to the person who is mean-spirited, vain, angry, mean and greedy, money only makes them more so.
To my good-natured friends, they realize money doesn’t buy happiness and wealth is only a tool to help them serve the world, their families and their loved ones in greater ways. Unfortunately, it’s the opposite with my not-so-good natured colleagues.
#12: Appreciate God and your Family in the good times, because they’ll be the ones who get you through the bad times.
In building a business, no matter what level of success you achieve, you are going to go through some dark times. I believe starting, growing and running a business, especially over a long period, is one of the hardest things you’ll ever do in life. It’s not easy and you will be forced to make unpopular decisions that will affect people you love and care about. Or things like dot com crashes or Great Recessions come along, almost wipe you out and test your character, resolve and determination in every way possible.
It’s easy when times are good to take my relationship with God, or my family and me for granted. I hope I’ve learned not to. In fact, the more success I have, the more I realize how little the success has had to do with me and what a major role God has had in leading me, equipping me and helping me (honestly, there are some things that have happened through the life of Centro that defy logic…those are the times I know I’m not in charge and something greater than me is present).
At the same time, when the world is crumbling around you, and your life feels like a living hell and you’re staring into the abyss wondering what it’s going to feel like when you hit the bottom, that’s when you starkly realize that when you do, the people who will love and adore you at the bottom, as much as they love and adore you at the top, are your family. I can’t express my appreciation enough for both God and my family and I hope they know how much I appreciate them and that I don’t take my relationship with them for granted.
In conclusion, the last 12 years of life have been an absolutely insane, mad, crazy and beautiful experience. We’ve accomplished many amazing things. And we’ve always done it “our way.” We’ve stayed true to our values and principles and we’ve built a company we can all be proud of.
However, and most important, our mission is far from over. What we’ve accomplished in the past 12 years needs to pale in comparison to what we achieve in our next three years. It’s not until a supermajority of the global advertising industry is using our media management platform to manage their work lives, data and business relationships will we have achieved the mission we set out to accomplish.
I also expect there will be more rough times ahead. But I have faith that the character, resolve and determination of our people will help us greet the tough times head on, address them swiftly, conquer them and move on much better, faster and healthier than other companies. We’ve overcome a lot and we’ll continue to overcome more so in our future.
Happy Birthday Centro.
(The-MakeGood.com)- Shawn Riegsecker is the CEO of Centro, a media technology and services company. The Makegood spoke with Shawn about his 16-year career in digital media as well as recent Centro milestones, as the company marked its 11th anniversary.
The Makegood: Shawn, Centro recently announced Kelly Wenzel as Chief Marketing Officer and Scott Neslund as Executive Vice President of media services. How will they impact Centro’s business?
Both are incredible people with the highest level of character, integrity and commitment to being great that has defined our culture. Scott is our first senior executive hire from an advertising agency. That insider’s perspective will help us better – and more quickly – develop solutions that really make a difference for our agency partners. Kelly is a software product marketing expert and brings best practices from the tech industry to Centro. We really needed someone with a strong product and technology marketing background on the team as we prepare to launch Planner and Kelly fit that profile perfectly.
The Makegood: Centro announced that it surpassed 5,000 successful advertising campaigns managed for 2012, marking 46 percent growth over the last year. What are your criteria for a successful advertising campaign and what do you credit for this growth?
It’s been a big year for us. When an agency places its trust in us to manage a campaign for one of its clients, success means it’s flawlessly executed. There are really two prongs to that: First, we take on the entire logistical nightmare of buying digital media; it’s executed through our technology. We make our agency clients’ lives easier – get them out of email and Excel and spending more time on client value-add. Second, we make their advertisers successful: The campaign runs smoothly, delivers in full and meets the brands’ KPIs.
Our staff is the single biggest driver behind our growth. They bring a level of quality, character, and dedication I really believe is unparalleled in this high-turnover industry. But with that said, the secret to our rapid scale is really our technology. That’s what’s fueling such strong year-over-year growth. We operate the most efficient digital buying platform in the industry for premium contractual buying. It’s helping our agency partners scale beautiful advertising on thousands of sites in the mid-tail which is what many of their advertisers are looking for: “Help me take advantage of the rich, relevant, amazing content that’s available in the mid-tail.” It’s also a great complement to programmatic reach they can get on the exchanges.
If you haven’t yet seen Centro board member Andrew Swinand’s recent guest column in Advertising Age “Want to Win the Race to the Bottom? Don’t Invest in Tech” you’re missing out on one of the most prescient analyses of why agencies need to find new ways to raise their efficiencies and, in turn, their profitability.
Andrew compares agencies’ challenges – media fragmentation, unprofitable new fee structures and digital media complexity – to how newspapers found themselves struggling when they realized that diminishing their product’s quality in response to years of not investing in technology was not a sustainable long-term strategy.
His answer to the triple-threat flies in the face of the usual solutions of staffing up and working harder – Andrew suggested agencies move toward working smarter.
“For savvy agencies, investing in technology is a start. This means using technology to increase efficiencies in workflow and media buying, so that agencies can be free to focus on strategy and ideas,” he wrote. “But technology requires capital, and with persistent pressure on profit margins, agencies are reluctant or limited in their ability to invest capital in innovation.”
Increasing efficiencies and profitability for agencies is Centro’s core mission (by the way, thanks for the mention, Andrew!).
Centro believes prosperous ad agencies are critical to a strong and prosperous industry ecosystem. Yet, as Andrew points out, the many challenges are hurting advertising agencies’ health.
We’ve all witnessed the explosion in media choices; today there are thousands of websites and vendors, making digital media buying complex and difficult to execute. Advertising agencies are tasked with finding the manpower, expertise and/or budgets required to deal properly with this level of operational complexity. But there is another way.
Centro takes all the complexity out of buying digital media, giving agencies cost savings that they can then invest in their future. We provide the breathing room and profit increases that can empower agencies to invest in staffing up their data and analytics departments, upgrading their content creation and community management offerings, and increasing their employees’ ability to create happier clients.
To Centro, simplifying digital media’s complexity is the key to improving not only agencies’ bottom lines but the industry as a whole. Are you ready to invest in technology and win the race to the top?
Eleven years ago today Centro came to life.
I had no idea if it would be successful or a colossal failure but I felt passionately about trying to build a better type of company while also changing the advertising industry for the better. Eleven years later, not only have we built a company we can be proud of, we’re also on our way to having a significant and lasting positive impact on the industry forever.
I have endless appreciation for our many partners and clients. It is they who have inspired us to work hard, strive for perfection, and be our best. They have enabled Centro to mature into the successful company we are today.
But the overwhelming share of my gratitude goes to all the people who have worked so hard for 11 years to make Centro great.
Building a company represents powerful extremes in one’s life. There are great benefits to starting, building and running a company but there are also many powerful and difficult hardships. It’s not easy to build any company, and it’s even harder to build a company going strong, and increasing its strength, 11 years into it. Yet through the efforts of so many passionate and dedicated Centrons, here we are on our eleventh birthday, getting better, growing and still gaining strength.
My deepest thanks and best wishes for a successful 11th year!!!