In this exclusive “Masters of Media” series, Integral Ad Science (IAS) speaks to the Movers and Shakers of the Southeast Asia advertising industry, on all matters digital.
We spoke with Colleen Ngo, Vice President, Partnerships & Investment, APAC at Xaxis is a digital advertising veteran with over 10 years of international experience spanning across the US and Asia-Pacific. She’s an expert in campaign optimisation, media planning, lead generation, data segmentation and audience targeting, partner management, research and analytics.
Integral Ad Science (IAS): Thank you for speaking with us today Colleen. Would you be able to share with us about your digital advertising journey?
Colleen Ngo, Xaxis (Colleen): Thank you for having me on this series. I’m currently the Vice President of Partnerships & Investment for Xaxis APAC.
I started my digital advertising career in San Francisco in 2007 as a Campaign Manager at BlueLithium, one of the first remarketing/ behavioural targeting ad networks at the time. BlueLithium then got acquired by Yahoo, opening new opportunities for me to project-manage, test and launch various out-of-the-box solutions for Yahoo!’s Performance Display team in the US, Hong Kong and Singapore. I worked in the Yahoo Hong Kong and Singapore offices and during the time helped drive Performance Display/Direct Response adoption, revenue growth, and supply management across the APAC region.
After my stint at Yahoo, I remained in Singapore and joined Brightcove as Senior Marketing Manager to develop and oversee the marketing strategy for the APAC region. After Brightcove, I moved to Rubicon Project as Account Director to advocate for publisher adoption of programmatic technologies. In 2015, I joined Xaxis (part of GroupM) as Head of Supply for APAC.
IAS: Are there any key industry developments that you’re excited about?
Colleen: I’m excited about our journey towards “Personalisation”. We’re a part of a generation that is seeing a gradual but definitive move towards the personalisation of experiences. For example, you can imagine as a member of Marriott’s loyalty program, I can simply check in and get the room key delivered to my phone. When I walk in, it’ll be my room of choice with the temperature set to my comfort level, the curtains are drawn the way I like it, the TV tuned to my channels, and the ambience set at my preference. Technology continues to fuel personalisation and convenience. Over a decade ago when I first entered the industry, I remember talking to my colleagues about smart refrigerators. We dreamt about a refrigerator that could automatically detect and replenish the groceries when supply is low or can offer nutritional menus based on what’s in your fridge. All this is very possible now! We’re increasingly witnessing the use of technology, the application of AI and machine learning, and the intersection of IoT to help personalise and enhance user experiences. Digital advertising will simply be an extension of that.
IAS: What is your opinion regarding the industry’s move from brand safety to brand suitability?
Colleen: It’s about time! Brand safety is different for each brand and customisation is key. It’s obvious that what’s tolerable for one brand will not be suitable for another.
An alcohol brand would have a higher tolerance to appear around bold content as opposed to say a baby milk powder brand, which would be much more risk-averse and find such association unacceptable. It’s very important to educate the clients by defining their brand’s tolerance levels. We constantly reinforce to clients that digital advertising comes with a certain level of risk, which we can never bring down to zero. As such, it is crucial for brands to define their risk tolerance levels and to understand and utilize the tools we offer to help mitigate those risks.
IAS: How does the Brand safety approach differ for Global clients vs local clients?
Colleen: I’m making some generalizations here that are a pretty good reflection of what we see in the region. Global clients and regional clients understand the value of brand safety, prioritise brand safety and are willing to pay for it. Local clients, on the other hand, view brand safety as an additional cost, meaning they then expect a proportional increase in ROI. What should be hygiene is seen as an additional investment. As such, we are constantly educating from a media quality point of view – that quality matters and has a direct correlation to inventory performance. Drawing that correlation is imperative in cleaning up the ecosystem and in promoting trust and transparency.
IAS: What are the key initiatives pertaining to digital media quality your company is prioritizing right now?
Colleen: At GroupM globally, we’ve invested heavily in media quality. We have an official brand safety team and key dedicated executives who act as brand safety advocates for each region. We have board-level representation across all major industry bodies to help shape and define the evolving standards for brand safety. Partners that we work with are contractually accountable to deliver against GroupM standards on brand safety, viewability, and ad fraud. From there, we address all aspects of the advertising spectrum to identify where we can tighten up our BAV governance efforts. Examples include a mandatory implementation of our global exclusion list of sites and utilization of supply path optimization tactics to ensure we find the most efficient path to an impression. Xaxis holds direct relationships with our publishers who we ensure are enabled with ads.txt and sellers.json as the next aspiration. We partner very closely with IAS and other verification partners to safeguard media quality and uphold certain levels of viewability. In the last two years, we’ve begun using custom AI tools to auto optimise towards desired outcomes, such as certain viewability thresholds, specific cost per lead, etc. and we’ve built a lot of AI to scale the outcomes.
At Xaxis, we’re committed to creating education and awareness around the importance of media quality and we’re heartened to see our partners such as IAS take this education mandate forward in the industry.
IAS: What are the top key trends you foresee in 2020?
Colleen: Ownership of data at an individual level will be an interesting game-changer. It’ll mean putting the power back in the hands of the consumer, allowing them to understand their data, and giving them the opportunity to monetise it. I’d be keen to see what kind of uptake the monetisation of data on an individual level will have.
IAS: What do you do in your free time?
Colleen: I have two children. My daughter is almost three years old and my son is seven months old. When I have free time, I would just love to sleep.
IAS: What is your advice to the fresh talents in the industry?
Colleen: Embrace ambiguity as an opportunity. Take advantage of every change as an opportunity to learn. Make mistakes but don’t make them again. Commit to your work. Socialise and learn from others.