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Meet the Team: InMobi reinvents itself – AdNews

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This first appeared in the July/August edition of AdNews. Subscribe here to make sure you get your copy.

InMobi went through a transformation just before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Now the challenge, says vice president and general manager for Australia and New Zealand Richard O’Sullivan, is to let the market know what the reinvented marketing cloud business has to offer.

InMobi launched globally in 2007 out of India and set up in Australia five years later. Originally an ad mobile network, the business has invested in a full end-to-end platform for marketers, covering research, data, media and ROI while retaining a focus on mobile advertising.

“If you reinvent yourself and you change, you have to educate the market,” says O’Sullivan.

“We worked very effectively with our clients to make that insight a reality. But the bigger obstacle for me was that people didn’t know as much about what our capabilities were, and once we addressed those capabilities with the advertisers in market, the reaction was very strong.

“So the big thing for me is we were not speaking to enough, or all of, the market. The communication now has become much more expansive. I don’t mind losing business where people have looked at our core capabilities and said it’s not for them, but for any business, it’s disheartening to find that a client doesn’t know who you are, but if they did they would absolutely work with you.”

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Melbourne Team – Richard OSullivan, Crisna Hai, Vasudev Kittur

The business organises itself into four pillars: InMobi Pulse, which helps brands gather consumer intelligence with access to more than 1.6 billion unique mobile users worldwide; InMobi Audiences, which gives customers access to unique audiences using constantly updated data; and InMobi Exchange, which helps brands reach consumers programmatically through Private Marketplace or Open Exchange. Its fourth pillar, InMobi DSP, is its in-app programmatic platform that helps brands drive branding and performance objectives.

“InMobi’s core purpose is to help brands understand, identify, engage and acquire customers,” says O’Sullivan. “That’s the same regardless of whether we were previously an ad network, or now a full mobile programmatic stack.”

“The difference is how we do that. So as an ad network it would’ve predominantly been we have a set amount of publishers that we had single-handedly brought into our network, and then on the demand side, the demand would be driven by our sales people going to market and speaking to the likes of clients or directly to the agencies. So effectively, it was a closed system. All of our demand went onto all of our supply, and all of our supply was effectively only available to our demand. So in that capacity, everything was operating against insertion order, which a salesperson would speak to a planner buyer at the agency to transact.

“With the growth of programmatic, it de-links the supply and demand. So effectively, the InMobi Exchange, which is our supply tech platform, is now connected to more than 300 DSPs globally, and with that comes 20,000+ advertisers that can buy from our Exchange via technical means. So they’re effectively buying from their DSP into our SSP, and as a consequence the amount of revenue generated per employee is significantly higher because they have direct access to our systems.”

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Sydney Team – Valentina Lizzi, Aimee Jenkins, Matthew Mcingley

As part of this reinvention, InMobi has been growing its presence in Australia. The business now has nine people based across Sydney and Melbourne with an average retention rate of three-years.

O’Sullivan himself rejoined the business in April 2019 and previously spent four years with InMobi in its New York, Dubai and Singapore offices.

In addition to educating the market on its updated technology, the team has been more focused on education around general changes happening in the adtech space. A particular focus has been the privacy updates sweeping the market, with O’Sullivan agreeing that while they will be significant, their true impact will take time to understand and respond to.

“Not a lot of people across the whole market would’ve been fully aware of the capabilities of being able to leverage the IDFA for targeting,” he says.

“And consequently, when it’s taken away it’s also going to cause a lot of customers in the market to understand, ‘Well, how does it affect me?’ There are a lot of questions we’re getting asked by our agencies, our clients and our publishers, and that puts us in a thought leader capacity to work through and answer them.”

But O’Sullivan is aware the evolving landscape can be difficult for clients to understand.

“Right now the media market fragmented to a silly level, and as a consequence of that, if you’re a new planner buyer in the market, the reality is it’s the responsibility of someone in our position, not just to make sure the market is educated, but to do it in such a way that reflects they don’t have the resources or the time to understand everything from everyone,” he says.

“We also have to be mindful of the fact that it’s not like the agencies have 50% to do their job and 50% to listen to partners. So if we are going to a meeting we try to respect that fact, and if we can do a conference call instead of an in-person meeting, which takes half the time, we have to be reflective of how much work the agencies have, and in what way we want them to receive the communications we’re giving.”

InMobi itself has launched UnifID to help simplify and streamline identity resolution for mobile app publishers and developers. It’s also invested in other areas, such as in-game advertising and the launch of InMobi Audience Bidding, to allow it to tap into header bidding.

Looking ahead to the next 12 months, O’Sullivan says the 14-year old business will continue to adopt an entrepreneurial mentality and take risks on new ideas.

“From day one of their launch, at inMobi it’s always been about very strong culture,” says O’Sullivan.

“It’s on the walls of most of the offices — it’s around being entrepreneurial, passionate and trying to effectively take ownership and be accountable.

“We do push a lot of autonomy into our teams. It’s a non-corporate environment, they get the chance to make mistakes, they get the chance to reach for the stars. That’s something that since coming back in 2019 we’ve really focused on making the team very aware of.”

 

Vasudev Kittur

Vasudev Kittur, AUNZ sales manager

What’s the biggest challenge in your role?
My biggest challenge is also my biggest opportunity – namely how to stay top of mind with brands and agencies. As most of us know, the walled gardens dominate market share in digital advertising and there is tremendous competition for the rest of the pie. Going above and beyond, however, is a challenge I relish. Another major challenge with the adtech industry is that the technology is evolving at a very rapid pace. I have to be constantly on top of developments or risk missing opportunities; it certainly keeps me on my toes.

What’s your favourite part of your role?
It is generally said that a doctor can have a stronger impact on the patient than any drug and I like to think that I have a similar impact. My job is to educate clients and provide them with the right solutions on mobile programmatic and these conversations can often lead to marketers rethinking strategy – pretty rewarding. Additionally, I love the fact that my role in advertising means I get a birds-eye view across various verticals (telco, CPG, ecommerce, retail, etc.) which means I’m continuously learning how each vertical is evolving with the changing times.

Have you learnt anything surprising since joining InMobi about the industry?
As a digital-savvy and connected consumer myself, I have always been interested in data privacy and making informed choices. I’ve been pleasantly surprised that, on the whole, the industry is making great strides. I’ve seen that it (or at least the adtech world that touches me) is focused on building technology to avoid privacy infringement whilst ensuring that advertisers’ and consumers’ common goal of personalised engagement can be met.

 

Valentina Lizzi

Valentina Lizzi, AUNZ lead account strategist

What does a typical day look like for you?
As a strategist, my role is primarily focused on the InMobi Exchange platform as I curate and grow the…

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