Rising tides lift all boats: Tapad VP Henry Schenker on the importance of always striving to educate

Tapad's Henry Schenker on transparency and clarity in programmatic

“Education, education, education”, is key to the continued growth of digital investment in Asia Pacific, says Tapad vice president and Asia Pacific lead Henry Schenker.

Speaking ahead of The Drum Digital Trading Awards, of which Tapad is a partner, he voiced hopes that data wouldn’t be seen as an expensive investment and that attribution would start to be taken as seriously as it is in the US and Europe.

The theme of the awards in the Asia Pacific inaugural year is clarity and transparency and for Tapad, Schenker says the industry has a “responsibility to make sure we are policing ourselves, and doing everything we can to let user’s know how they can control their data online”.

Additionally, on the theme of the awards, IAB Singapore’s Miranda Dimopoulos said clarity and transparency mean everything, while Integral Ad Science’s APAC MD, Stephen Dolan, said conversations around clarity and transparency were, at times, emotional for clients.

Additionally, IPONWEB general manager for Asia Pacific, Ryan Pestano, said for the digital and programmatic ecosystem to have a virtuous cycle of growth in Asia Pacific, more local tech, data and media need to be fostered. While Unruly’s chief commercial officer for APAC, Phil Townend, called for the industry to have a more varied approach to video strategy.

Digital spend varies across markets in Asia Pacific but what level is the investment in the market(s) you look after and how has that changed?

Tapad’s priority markets have remained fairly consistent since we opened our APAC headquarters in Singapore roughly 14 months ago. Markets with more programmatic adoption like Australia, Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Taiwan are vital, but equally important to Tapad are emerging markets like Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Vietnam. Investment has been consistently growing in all APAC markets, with larger growth rates in emerging regions, and Tapad is monitoring this all very closely. For example, as a result of seeing more and more investment into digital in Vietnam, we shifted our strategy to focus more on that country.

How has that changed Tapad’s investment into the region?

As we learn, we shift strategies when deemed appropriate. For example, when deciding where to grow our team outside of Singapore, we decided to place our first hire in Tokyo instead of Sydney due to the market opportunity as well as sheer number of local ad tech companies in Japan. You can never predict the future of course, so we try to stay on top of broader industry trends and align ourselves with where they are heading.

How mature is the understanding and adoption of automated trading and data-driven advertising?

There’s still a ways to go here, I think. While programmatic and data are still being adopted across APAC, we need to keep proving the value, and get buy-in from more and more advertisers, agencies, etc. There’s also a big variance across different markets. For example, ANZ has really embraced these concepts, while Vietnam and Indonesia are still fairly green.

What can the industry do to help increase these investments?

Education, education, education. There’s a lot of noise in adtech, and APAC is no exception. I think the industry needs to remain consistent and keep clients finding and testing innovative solutions. The old adage really rings true here - rising tides lift all boats. As automation and data strategies become the norm in APAC, the thought leaders in our industry will reap the benefits.

Where do you think the main gaps in knowledge are? And how can these be addressed?

I think the broader perception in APAC is that data is too expensive, or that it can’t help achieve real business goals. But, a major issue here is that the common alternatives (e.g. walled gardens) have serious downsides that have been skirted around for years. When you consider the cost of using a solution without transparency, using third party data does become a cost-effective way of driving desired results - whatever those may be. From a technical perspective, I think simply understanding how some of the more complex solutions work is a challenge, and one we’re really trying to solve for our clients at Tapad -- both in APAC and beyond.

The theme for the awards programme this year is clarity and transparency - what do these words mean to Tapad?

“Clarity” and “transparency” mean a lot to us. Tapad’s underlying goal is to help the entire industry gain a more accurate understanding of consumer’s behavior online -- no matter what channel or screen they use. Thus, clarity and transparency are inherently a part of what we do. User privacy is perhaps the most important aspect of what we do at Tapad. We feel strongly that privacy will increasingly become a “currency” that users understand and actively manage. It’s our industry’s responsibility to make sure we are policing ourselves, and doing everything we can to let user’s know how they can control their data online.

What positive moves are you seeing in Asia Pacific around clarity and transparency?

I’ve seen a lot of challenging of norms recently, which I think is great. It makes for a fairer and more equitable market. Gone are the days where advertisers / agencies settle for cutting a check with little to no oversight. Also, the strong adoption of viewability standards I think is a great sign for APAC’s digital coming of age, so to speak.

In a year's time, when looking back at this theme, how do you hope the industry will have evolved or progressed?

Personally, I of course hope that cross-device becomes the next focal point for the industry in APAC. Attribution is also an area that I think has been somewhat neglected in APAC, with too much reliance on vendors who are not independent, and might even be incentivized not to reveal users’ true path to conversion. It would be great to see more attribution-focused companies enter into the APAC region, following their strong success in North America and Europe.

In a tenuous link to transparency, if you were invisible for a day, what would you do?

This is a great question! I’d probably try and sneak into some top secret place and just be a fly on the wall for a day.

Charlotte McEleny

Charlotte McEleny is The Drum's Asia Editor, charged with finding all the interesting industry news and insights from the Asia Pacific region. During her year in Asia, she's covered topics as wide ranging as industry overwork to artificial intelligence, and interviewed top CMOs such as Alibaba's Chris Tung, and world famous creatives such as Rankin.

Based in Singapore, she travels the region regularly, attending and presenting at many top events, such as Spikes, Ad Week Asia and Innovfest.

Prior to her role as Asia Editor, she spent 10 years working across the London marketing trade magazines, even picking up an award for Best Digital Team at the PPA Digital Awards during her spell as digital editor at Marketing.

All by Charlotte