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The Trade Desk founder Jeff Green on supercharging Asia investment and adtech’s responsibility to support quality journalism


By Charlotte McEleny | Asia Editor

August 3, 2017 | 7 min read

The Trade Desk, having started publicly trading almost a year ago, is using its investment to offset reliance on the US digital advertising market and make sure it is part of an ecosystem that supports quality content, according to founder Jeff Green.

JEff Green

The Trade Desk founder and CEO JEff Green

The Trade Desk is arguably the high school prom king/queen of the adtech world, having successfully secured its popularity on the open market last year. With a set of public results under its belt, things aren’t looking bad for the business and it is unchanged on its key investment areas for growth; programmatic TV, mobile and Asia.

Speaking to The Drum, founder and CEO Jeff Green said its investment in Asia comes because its revenues skew to North America but, more philosophically, the business is excited to boost investment in emerging markets, such as Indonesia.

“One of the things we were asked as we were going public, and people often forget that an IPO is effectively a fund raise, is ‘what will you do?’ The answer to that is invest in our TV product, invest in mobile and invest in Asia,” he explained.

“Our argument has been that the global advertising market is a $650bn pie and two thirds is outside North America, yet at The Trade Desk almost 90% of our revenue is from North America,” he said. “So with all the GDP growth in Asia and the fact that two thirds of the world lives in Asia, it’s not a surprise that our growth rate in places like Asia is almost triple the US. I don’t think data could be more clear where we should be investing. It is also a mobile-first market, so it’s a no brainer.”

This year The Trade Desk launched in Indonesia, alongside partnerships with Unruly, Grapeshot, Spotify, Tapad and Mobilewalla.

“To be a little philosophical, when you can be so targeted and have data-driven choices in marketing, you can make the argument that new tech in advertising is fueling economic growth. So when you take a country like Indonesia, with 300m people and it being close to the fastest growing middle class, if we can make products and services that can accelerate economic growth it’s super exciting,” he added.

In terms of connected TV, it’s an area that’s already starting to bear fruit, with around a 10 times increase in inventory and a 40 times growth for The Trade Desk in recent quarters. The reason for this, according to Green, is that consumer choice has expanded and monetisation models for digital premium video services are changing.

“I think two years ago people thought connected TV was synonymous with Netflix and Amazon and a little bit of Hulu and that every other app irrelevant,” he said, “but what many people don’t know is that changed.”

With increased competition in the digital content services, the pressure to create high quality content and, inevitably the costs of producing such content, has increased. “As content costs go up, it’s forced the platforms to think of a way to monetise and ad-funded models are way easier than subscriptions. It is that reality of reaching a ceiling for new subscriptions and it is why we are seeing that exponential growth in ad-funded models,” he explained.

His views are supported by others in the industry that have been watching Netflix’s numbers and warning that it’ll need to look to ad-funded models to support its content-making machine.

Another passion for Green is evangelising how adtech can and should support quality content, for the long term future of the ecosystem, and driving positivity generally. The past year has seen much being written negatively about how adtech business, and even mainstream tech names like Google and Facebook, have been placing ads on content that is not brand safe or supporting the dissemination of fake news.

For Green, many adtech companies (bad actors not included) can provide the revenue to power better content and journalism, and that is a positive story to tell.

"With the risk of standing on a soap box, I think the world needs real journalism more than it ever has before. As an American who supports the principles of free press, as well as being a founder obsessed with the role of the press, it means I think we need to be protecting the press as a business. We need journalism more than ever before, whether it is because of the state of politics in US, the Brexit circus or the elections in France, we need real journalism,” he enthused.

“Programmatic advertising plays a significant role in preserving that; we fund media, including journalism. It is important to understand that it is only when executed well that it will fund more journalism. It is an imperative for companies like mine and Facebook to declare a war on fake news; you can’t say a tech business or marketplace doesn’t have a say. The position that Facebook took reflects that ‘we will stay out of it’ point of view and it had a substantial impact on the US election.

"What we have to do, and what I have done, is declare war and do as much work as we possibly can to find articles that aren’t true. We can’t fact check everything that happens; you couldn’t even keep up with the president’s Twitter account. We can do this, however; using data and lookalike modelling from things we know are not true and been disproven. We can find other things like it and, when in doubt, don’t buy it. We have the opportunity to look at 7 million ads a second and only buy thousands to do the job of most advertisers. It means we have the opportunity to discriminate and we have to do a better job of that. Everybody apart from bad actors win. The biggest brands don’t want to be on fake news, they don’t want to be on anything untrue or politically polarising, they just want to sell more things. We don’t want to, publishers don’t and SSPs don’t; everyone but bad actors want to solve it and why not be a little bit more proactive?"

Green’s opinion is a strong one to take but with almost year under its belt as a successfully publicly traded company, The Trade Desk seems to be cutting an early positive path for others in the programmatic industry.

Green’s opinion also ties with the topic for The Drum Digital Trading Awards Asia Pacific and the surrounding content programme of ‘clarity and transparency’. To follow the content over the coming months, or to get involved, stay tuned to The Drum website.

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