Scope2016 - page 33

f you shop at a store’s website, you’re
likely to see an ad for that store on your
Facebook feed the next day. But did you
know that many targeted online ads were
bid-winners in near-instantaneous auctions? Based
on your browsing, searches, and other information,
customized ads can be vied for and posted within
milliseconds of your clicking on a webpage.
A leader in this growing industry is entrepreneur
Alan Osetek ’91, who was recently named global CEO
of Digilant, a Boston-based digital ad firm. Working
with ad agencies and brands (clients include Estee
Lauder, Prudential, and Uber), Digilant uses real-
time bidding technology to win placement of ads on
websites, in videos, on mobile apps, and on social
media like Facebook, Google, Pinterest, Instagram,
Snapchat, and WhatsApp.
Osetek explains, “The auction format for buy-
ing advertising inventory is very similar to the way
Wall Street traders go online to buy stocks, bidding
to purchase at a particular market price.” To get rel-
evant marketing messages placed on a user’s device
screen, “there’s often someone behind the scenes at
a company like mine bidding to serve those ads to
that user.” When staff at Digilant use the Facebook ad
platform, for instance, they can set up ad campaigns
targeted to a user’s interests, age, income, sex, and
location. Such geotargeting and other data may be
bought from third-party providers. According to one
report, digital ad revenues in the US totaled $60 bil-
lion in 2015, up more than 20% from 2014.
A natural entrepreneur, Osetek ran his own
house-painting company as a Skidmore econom-
ics student. After graduating he spent a summer
teaching English and coaching an expat high school
baseball team in Taipei, Taiwan. With his MBA from
Babson University, he has worked for database and
marketing startups. In the 1990s he raised $1 million
and founded Vizium, one of the first email marketing
companies, which he later sold to the Aegis group,
for which he then launched a digital advertising
program. He was also global president of Resolu-
tion Media, guiding the growth of Omnicom Media
Group’s search, social, and digital unit. He still serves
on advisory boards for several ad-tech startups.
As Digilant CEO, Osetek says the industry’s speed
of change can be daunting. With Google, Facebook,
and other channels revising their platforms fre-
quently, “you have to quickly figure out what they’ve
changed and how you can better utilize these tech-
Alan Osetek ’91
is a leader in the
instant-tailored-ad industry.
Mark Morelli
nologies to reach people,” he says. Another challenge
is finding and retaining key talent such as data scien-
tists, who must analyze and glean insights from vast
seas of marketing information across many platforms.
Often, Osetek says, he tries to hire people much
like himself: “It’s people who have right-brain and
left-brain skills, who can think creatively but also
have a technical mindset.”
—Pamela Babcock
Marketing when
milliseconds matter
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