Redmill Solutions Appoints AdTech Industry Leader Jay Stevens as New CEO

Press release in Adweek. 10th May 2022

Redmill Solutions, the provider of media planning and data management solutions, has announced that Jay Stevens has been appointed to the position of Chief Executive Officer (CEO) replacing Hasan Arik, who will assume the role of company Chairman and Chief Product Officer.

Throughout his 25-year career in the marketing and advertising technology industry, Stevens has earned a reputation as a leader who transforms businesses of all sizes for growth. He joined Redmill Solutions after serving as President of the media management platform, Hudson MX. Prior to Hudson MX, Stevens served as Chief Revenue Officer at Adform, where he was responsible for worldwide revenue and managed a globally diverse team with commercial operations in 18 countries around the world. Previously, Stevens served as General Manager, International at Rubicon Project, where he built and led a team of 120 staff in 10 offices on 5 continents, taking revenue from zero to $125M during his tenure.  Stevens also worked at MySpace as VP, Operations EMEA, where he was the company’s first international hire and led 100 employees across a dozen EMEA markets.

“I am incredibly proud of what we have built at Redmill Solutions for the past 12 years and I am excited for our next phase of growth. ”, said Hasan Arik, Founder and Chairman at Redmill Solutions. “We will continue to be completely focused as a trusted partner to the world’s largest advertisers, and Jay will strengthen the team as we grow. I’ve known Jay for more than a decade and am excited about the opportunity to work together with him as we move to scale and expand our offering in the next phase of Redmill’s evolution, enhancing our full funnel planning tools and  digital activation.”

Globally, approximately $560 billion is spent on advertising per year. However, most advertisers are unable to fully understand whether their ad spend is being distributed and invested efficiently. This is especially relevant in a volatile economy, with the pressures of rising inflation, cost of living, and supply chain issues all impacting brand advertising spend.

“Hasan has built a great company and his strategic vision for the product has positioned the company’s unique offering for tremendous future growth,” said Jay Stevens, newly appointed CEO at Redmill Solutions. “As a company, the problems we are addressing for global marketers are not being solved by anyone else. We offer a unique solution, providing a suite of applications and services which give brands visibility, clarity and planning into where their marketing investment is going.”

Media Pools

A Deeper Dive into Media Audit Pools

Media audits based on pooled buying data are one of the marketing industry’s oldest tools for media and procurement teams to justify their agency’s value. Even with the world firmly placed in the digital age, this nearly 50-year old method of measuring media buying performance continues to stand firm.

For the uninitiated in this concept, pool media auditing allows advertisers to compare their media buying performance against a ‘pool’ of anonymous and aggregated data, supplied by other advertisers to an independent media auditor. The theory is, by comparing against the rest of the industry, these pools can give an independent assessment as to how well, or badly, a media agency has bought campaigns, usually with a focus on prices paid and reach achieved.

But times change. While their staying power is a testament to their continued, perceived, usefulness, in this era of big data, it may be time to stop and ask: are pooled audits still fit for purpose?

Let’s dive in…

 

Muddying the Waters

One of the most glaring downsides to pooled audits is their lack of transparency. Anonymity is inherent to how they operate, and so by default, advertisers can’t easily assess the quality of the pool – how large it is, what companies are in it and how big it is in terms of genuinely comparable spend.

Some of the world’s largest advertisers have also traditionally avoided submitting their data to pools in order to protect the confidentiality of their own rates. With the least to gain from comparison against pooled data this is understandable – inclusion could fairly be seen as helping competitors to improve buying performance. Questions also have to be raised about whether these pricing pools reflect real prices, given that rebates and over-riders are rarely included in pool calculations. Another area of concern is the difficulty in understanding whether the pool an advertiser is comparing against is buying to a similar brief.

But these are issues that have long troubled media pool audits – what are the new issues that are challenging their usefulness today?

The first is the increasing percentage of media spend migrating to digital activity.  We are all familiar with the difficulty in comparing formats, platforms, viewability percentages, targeting in the highly customised world of digital advertising.

Also, the boom of programmatic buying for offline activity (as well as online). The ‘auction’ nature of this buying method and impossibility of replicating exactly the same buying scenario across multiple advertisers makes pooled auditing largely irrelevant. This takes a significant portion of spend out of the scope of pooled auditing.

The second is the increased adoption of Performance Related Incentive Plans (PRIPs). These give agencies extra impetus to align themselves more fully with the real marketing goals of brands, but can be based only on what the agency can actually control. With the unpredictability and uncontrollability of audit pools, agencies will quite rightly want to reject the addition of these to their PRIP criteria.

But ultimately, the average paid by the pool is simply rarely a meaningful KPI. ‘Average’ is not something to aspire to, and most advertisers are looking well beyond costs when evaluating their campaign performance.

 

Staying poolside – the next steps

So you’re out of the pool. Where do you go now? The need for evaluating campaign media performance hasn’t disappeared, so what are the alternatives?

The best measures often come from within. Comparing your brand’s own year-on-year performance data will provide a spotlight on productivity in relation to market inflation. If advertisers can point to year-on-year improvements in their own performance, they will be heading in the right direction.

But to have this level of insight, companies ideally need to take control of their own media data. In-housing media data adds an extra level of transparency, allowing for faster analysis of results and a better overview of post campaign data.

All this is not to say that pooled audits are now a complete no-go, but advertisers need to think hard before diving in. Find out the pool size and composition, including target audiences and qualitative buying factors. A pool audit can only return value if you can understand whether the comparison being made is genuinely like-for-like.

Ultimately, brands should take a more holistic look at measurement and evaluation. While price will always be important, defining what outcomes really help drive business, and not what is simply easy to measure, should be at the core of all analysis. With the wealth of information available, including media mix modelling to test different strategies within and across markets, companies no longer have to drown in the opacity of media audit pools.

WTF is a Data Spaghetti

Untangling data spaghetti

Data is the backbone of global brands in the modern age. From figures on finance to counting customers, this wealth of information is central to the decision-making process of companies. And for those brands looking at optimising advertising returns, this is no different.

Pulling together these many threads of information – data held on different software, in different countries – can be a mammoth task, but when the amount of data in a company increases, the quality of the decision making improves. That is, however, until it reaches a certain point of saturation, and something very strange happens.

We’ve observed that after this tipping point, the quality of decision making starts to decrease and data gets tangled, clouded and overwhelming. This is what we like to call data spaghetti.

 

The base ingredients

How do you make data spaghetti?

First, add a handful of spreadsheets, a dash of data sets from around the globe and then a cupful of differing naming taxonomies. Mix until well and truly disparate. The end result should be near impossible to untangle or make sense of.

The inseparable mess of spreadsheets that global brands are often left with is not the fault of one single piece of software, one single process, or one single taxonomy. Instead, it is the amalgamation of all issues, and without a clear overview, brands cannot confidently make decisions.

 

Pasta la vista!

So how can these strands be untangled into something more digestible? Let’s look at some solutions:

Getting Global and local teams closer

Operational differences between global and local teams in large brands are nothing new, but the result of miscommunications and misunderstandings can lead to inconsistent data. Whether a centralised or hands-off approach is used when managing these local teams, good communication is a must.

Being aware of localised differences – whether they be around distinctions in customs, vernacular or culture – can help to better integrate local data into the global entity. Less friction across global teams leads to a better global brand identity, which in turn can lead to more consistent data. This does not mean forcing local teams to work in a generic ‘global’ format, but instead the global team has to appreciate and adapt to understand and use the local ways of working.

Singing from the same datasheets

Gathering all your disparate datasets together can seem an immense task, but luckily there are solutions that can help you to harmonise your data on local, global and combined levels. True understanding can be gained from the granular detail that platforms, like our TukTuk Platform, can offer.

But be warned – this software is not the be-all and end-all. Rigorous and constantly updated data management methods are needed to get the full potential and analysis from these management platforms. Data integration that is fluid, flexible and effective can help brands identify and predict consumer journeys and trends on different levels, both micro and macro.

Bringing it all together

Though separating these strands of data is useful, the true power comes from when they are reassembled. This newly integrated and standardised collection of up-to-date data, therefore, becomes a single source of data truth – an easily analysed comprehensive overview of a global operation that can assist with making the best business decisions. A data lasagne if you like; different data types perfectly combined and precisely layered to create one dish.

The challenges that global brands face can seem insurmountable at times – the remote teams, disparate data silos and local differences can add up to cloud the vision of any company. The solution to this is to put local teams first, listen to their needs and adjust systems to accommodate them. A specialist media management platform can then help with the heavy data lifting, freeing teams up to focus on what really matters.

Meet the CEO: Questions with... Hasan Arik

Tell us about the journey that led you to start Redmill Solutions.

I started my journey as a software engineer working at an advertising agency in London. As their first developer — indeed, the first developer for any London ad agency — I was in a unique position because we were all learning by doing. This meant I worked with planners, buyers, researchers, and financial teams: basically, all the key stakeholders in the media ecosystem.

I then took this knowledge and expanded it over 19 years, working for large global media agencies such as MediaCom and GroupM, steadily moving into more senior roles such as IT Director, Global Head of Technology, and Chief Information Officer.

My path gave me a holistic view of the media environment and a detailed understanding of the whole planning and buying process. It’s thanks to all of these different roles from bottom to top that equipped me with the insight to truly understand what advertisers need, which is a global intelligence platform that provides better visibility over their media and advertising investment data.

For almost two decades, during my tenure in agencyland, we worked tirelessly to try to solve this problem. Like most engineers, what gets me motivated each day is working to solve complex problems like this. Ultimately, the idea for the solution became the genesis of Redmill.

How does Redmill Solutions differ from other companies?

First off, we are an entirely independent software provider.  We aren’t affiliated with any agency or media owner, so our interests are 100% aligned with our clients, the advertisers.  Additionally, Redmill uniquely understands that the media trading behaviours, traditions, and workflows vary widely by market, and that all media planning is local. These local processes are both valuable and deeply ingrained. A key to our success is not requiring any process or workflow changes for our clients or their agency. Our priority is to serve advertisers, and our progress — from its beginning as just me, my dog, and my computer, to managing billions of dollars of media investment annually 11 years later — proves that we are succeeding in this.

My background as a software engineer and my experience within the sector means I understand the technology and the tools as much as the media ecosystem itself. Efficient data management is vital for brands, which is why our aim is to relay all the information and insights back to the businesses in a way that is comprehensive, usable, and portable.

What are the main challenges that brands face today?

With myriad data sets flying in from across the globe, achieving a single source of data truth is not easy. Brands now have access to so much data information that it’s incredibly challenging to manually distill into actionable intelligence  — in some cases we are ingesting from more than 3,000 sources across 120+ countries. Collecting, organising, structuring, and surfacing that information is a monumental task.

This is why we developed Tuk-Tuk, a platform with a highly customisable interface and intuitive UI for even the most tech-shy users that does all the ‘heavy lifting’ of data collection, cleaning and harmonisation. This leaves our clients’ teams with the time, transparency, and clarity to analyse the data and translate it into meaningful actions and strategies.

What’s one piece of advice you would give to marketers today?

In these days of increasing availability of data to help with insights, don’t forget the humans.  Hire people and agencies that you like, that you trust, and that are smart, and treat them as partners. By having the right partners and the right insights you can achieve anything.  Agency strength’s vary by market, so picking the best partner by market is very important.

2022: What to expect next

It is that time of the year where leaders and experts use their insights and knowledge to make predictions for the year ahead. After a long period of uncertainty mixed with key industry developments in data technology and privacy regulations, as well as transformations in consumer needs and behaviours, here are the changes we expect in key areas of the media ecosystem.

Open-season for ad agencies

During the pandemic, conflicts between agencies and brand clients over control and flexibility of assets revealed underlying tensions that are likely to endure over the next year. This turmoil has prompted Board-level executives to pay more attention to advertising investments and ROI, as they now recognise the need for greater agility in their media investment decisions and thus, more flexible deal arrangements.

This indicates that 2022 will be a year of increased media pitch activity, something of an open season for agencies. Especially after the uncertainty of 2020 and 2021, and the consequent rolling over of deals, we expect to see a lot of global brand advertisers looking for better deals and going out to pitch.

Shifting to a single source of media data truth

When it comes to data and technology, we expect to see more global advertisers taking greater control of their own media investment data. The value of data ownership is really coming to the fore, as are the efficiencies that arise from fingertip access to a single source of trusted data. This means that while in-housing media planning and buying will still be up for discussion, in-housing media data is the approach that smart brand owners will increasingly take more seriously.

On an industry level, this indicates a shift away from dependency on ad-hoc data supply from external agencies, and a shift towards brands owning and accessing their full data picture. Why? Data ownership enables companies to combine data points and to create a single source of media truth for their entire business to use, a level of insight that outside solutions do not always provide.

Ecommerce: Understanding your customer and brand equity

Brand advertisers will be looking to gain a better understanding of their customer and brand equity, and joining up their investment dots to deliver this. By developing a unified data view, brands will not only have a more complete picture of the entire marketing funnel, it will also allow them to align their ecommerce activation and shopper marketing data with their advertising media investment data, to provide a full picture of attribution and ROI.

By bringing together all digital performance data, including ecommerce activation, brands will be in a stronger position to make quicker and better investment decisions. What’s more, this level of data overview will enable brands to better understand their customers, and therefore better serve them.

The advertising technology landscape is continuously shifting and evolving, be it in terms of methodology, systems, or attitudes. Staying on top of these developments may be a challenge, but it is a worthy one, and one that will help you and your company stay ahead of the game over the next twelve months.

Navigating this year’s Retail Golden Quarter

For the second year running, the Retail Golden Quarter may not be quite the bumper event that had been hoped for.

Encompassing Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Singles Day and Christmas, this period is one of the most profitable for retailers, with 35% of annual profit coming in the period leading up to Christmas.

But what sets this year apart are the continuing global supply chain issues that have caused shortages of food, fuel and everything in between over the last few months. Global brands have been especially hard hit, as the crisis constantly evolves and problems vary in each territory.

Despite this, advertising spend is set to soar – with UK brands alone increasing above the line ad spend by £1 billion over the period.

The trend continues for brands to value e-commerce and they are increasing investment to own the end consumer relationship. All brands have the different level of maturity in the e-commerce space, but generally understanding and owning the relationship with the consumer is key.  All direct opportunities for selling, should not undermine the need for investment in brand equity.

 

Supply chain uncertainty

The issues affecting the global supply chains are myriad, and often distinct to specific regions. The global pandemic is obviously one of the key causes, with Covid outbreaks still causing port closures and staff shortages.

Compounding this are record-high ocean freight prices, with shipping costs on Asia to US and Asia to Europe routes increasing tenfold since 2019. Regional issues, such as energy crises in both China and Europe, along with Brexit in the UK, have made stretched supply chains even harder to navigate for global companies.

Retailers themselves have not helped matters. Over ordering or placing orders too early is causing a ‘bullwhip effect’ – a term that describes how small changes in demand at the retail level can have a large impact on wholesalers, manufacturers, and distributors.

 

Accounting for the unexpected

The Golden Quarter is usually a dependable period for retailers, but the supply chain issues could leave many consumers empty-handed. With ad spend continuing to see healthy gains, advertisers will have to show the same levels of flexibility and creativity that were on display during the pandemic. It’s important that brands continue to be front of mind with the consumers, but the message may be altered to account for supply chain issues.

Customers are well aware of the supply chain issues, but marketers will need to be adaptable to keep them engaged. According to Forrester, brands are likely to lose half of their sales on back-ordered items unless they are able to compensate with customer support. Marketers will also have to quickly pivot from performance-driven campaigns to awareness-driven campaigns as supply diminishes.

With this need for agility, it has never been more important for marketers to have a single source of truth for their media data, including e-commerce activity. A global overview with granular local details and clean, harmonised data they can view in real-time will be vital this Golden Quarter.

Having a clear view of competitors is also key to helping marketers effectively reach their customers during this crucial period. Being able to easily compare insights such as global competitor media strategy or analysis of competitive spend strategies can give brands the upper hand.

To navigate around the global supply chain issues, marketers will need to be light on their feet. This is only possible if they have both global and local data in a single source. By being less siloed, media spending can be adjusted faster and, ultimately, lead to maximised global profits.

How are you tackling the Golden Quarter this year? Get in touch if you need help to get a clear view of your media data.