Synopsis: In this AI Leadership Insights video interview, Amanda Razani speaks with Yang Han, CTO and co-founder of StackAdapt about AI adoption in the AdTech industry.

Amanda Razani: Hello, I’m Amanda Razani with and I’m excited to be here today with Yang Han. He is the CTO and co-founder of StackAdapt. How are you doing today?

Yang Han: I’m good, thank you, Amanda. Thank you for having me today.

Amanda Razani: Happy to have you on our show. Can you share with our audience what is StackAdapt and what services do you provide?

Yang Han: Yeah, so StackAdapt is an advertising platform founded 10 years ago. We’re a platform used by marketers, so these include brands, direct and also agencies. And they would use our platform to plan, execute, and analyze advertising campaigns across multiple different channels online. These include traditional banner display advertising, the native advertising, video, audio and digital out of home and other channels as well. And overall, our goal is to be able to reach goals for customers all the way from lower funnel to top of funnel strategies and being able to do that as efficiently as possible.

Amanda Razani: Wonderful. So that’s a great segue into our topic today, which is the adoption of AI in the AdTech industry. So from your experience, what are you seeing as far as how is AI disrupting this industry?

Yang Han: That’s a good question. I think it’s good to first talk a little bit about the history of how AI entered more and more into the digital advertising landscape. So us as a company, StackAdapt, we started a bit later compared to some of the incumbents in programmatic advertising, which started around 2008, 2009. Back then advertising was heavily traded manually, which meant campaign were optimizers were manually slicing and dicing data, looking at reporting to do daily optimizations for campaigns in order to reach their goals. When we came onto the market in 2014, we wanted to do things differently because there was a lot of complexity and a lot of data in this industry now. And so we wanted to build solutions to heavily automate a lot of manual effort needed for these campaigns to be able to reach their goals and their objectives. And so automation and AI started entering the spectrum around that time as well.
And that’s what we offered in our products. And it spans all the different areas from pricing ads at the right price in an auction, having optimizations to reach performance goals. And these goals could have a range in terms of the spectrum of what they may entail from lower funnel to top of funnel for marketers being able to do fraud detection very well. So to make sure your budget isn’t spent to non-human traffic and being able to generate audience insights, being able to do unique targeting strategies from look like modeling contextual, which is popular now, forecasting, creative optimization and so forth. And AI automation, because there’s a lot of data being generated, there’s a lot of areas in which automation AI can do things a lot more better than a human manually trying to stitch together all the different pieces essentially.
And as advertising got more complex, these types of solutions became more attractive and it took out a lot of unnecessary complexity in people’s workflows. And this results in less areas for customers to worry about and then they can just focus on their customer needs and achieving results. Going forward, AI, there’s still a lot of room for evolution and improvement when it comes to generative AI has started to play a major role now. I think we’re still scratching the surface on what AI can do in general for the industry.

Amanda Razani: So for business leaders looking to implement AI in the industry, what advice do you have for them? Where do they get started?

Yang Han: That’s a good question. You definitely want to use a platform that can scale your marketing and also be able to achieve results. And this is especially important with the privacy landscape that is constantly shifting over the years with cookie deprecation and so forth. So that really depends on how these solutions are architected behind the scenes. And in general, ideally you don’t have to use a tool in which you have to put all these things together yourself, in which you have to understand which partners to work with, for example, to be able to measure or be able to target the right people or the right third party data to use.
So you want to have a solution that can take away a lot of that complexity for you and then do a lot of these behind the scenes so you don’t have to worry about a lot of this technical stuff that’s happening behind the scenes because it gets more complex every year and it’s not something like an average marketer should have to worry about. And the reality is for a platform, it is a constant evolution and a balance between the amount of control you can get and the amount of automation that needs to occur to achieve those objectives.

Amanda Razani: So what are some of the short or the long-term gains that business leaders can expect to achieve by implementing that technology?

Yang Han: Yeah. Well, in the short term, you obviously need to, it really depends on your goals for your campaign. And there isn’t just one thing. It really depends on the brand’s vertical, the brand’s KP objectives. But in general, you want to be able to have some sort of way to measure, read or not your media is working or not. And it does get more difficult with the landscape changing in terms of accuracy. So a lot of different measurements now are more probabilistic in terms of estimating the success of the results. So you definitely need to be aware of how and keeping an eye on a business to making sure that it does tie directly to business success essentially. So on the short term, you want to utilize. A lot of successful strategies come down to first party data. So ideally you want to use a platform that can onboard the data that you have being able to integrate with your CRM system, for example.
And once you onboard that data, ideally they have systems in which you can use it to do a lot more automated and dynamic, let’s say, targeting or automated messages to your customers depending on what they did before. So you no longer want to do anything that is static in terms of the messages you show people or manual in terms of the optimizations you need to do. A lot of that should be deeply tied with the data that you have and should be automated based also on the specific actions that the user has done essentially. And so if those are set up well intelligently and fits into your marketing strategy and your funnel, you should be able to achieve results a lot more successfully compared to a very simple strategy in which you’re just trying to blast people and hope that you can target and see results for your business.

Amanda Razani: So as this technology advances very quickly, what do you foresee in the future of ad tech with as it regards to AI?

Yang Han: It’s a good question. So with generative AI, I guess I’ll start there first. I really see two main benefits. One is informational and the other is augmentation. So in information that relates to everything that you see chatbots doing, being able to take a lot of information in different places and being able to make sense of it for you, that plays a huge role in educating you and guiding you. So for example, these technologies will be able to guide you and tell you what you need to do essentially based on the general problem that you have. And that makes a lot of sense in advertising because setting up a lot of these campaigns that just get more complex every year with more channels being introduced and a lot more data and a lot more options for customers. The second area that generative AI can really help with apart from guiding users is the augmentation of let’s say your creatives and the messaging to customers directly.
I think general AI is still very early when it comes to being able to create a creative message from scratch, but the augmentation, there’s a lot of tools now that can help with enhancing your message or enhancing your image. And that is progressing every year. And I think it’s still a bit early in terms of the full potential of that, but we’re going to see more and more of that. And over time, when it comes to AI evolution, it’s a constant push and pull between control that people want versus automation that needs to occur. And I think it’s a healthy balance because technology in truth isn’t always where it needs to be to do a good job, and there’s always human intervention needed. And the progress for technology to do a better job takes time. And sometimes platforms will overestimate what they can do, but at the same time, there’s always a habit to be able to control every little thing.
And over time, I think people are just going to find out a lot of stuff that gets done. People are used to be used to do manually is this doesn’t make sense anymore. It’s very inefficient. So progress overall is always incremental and there’s never an immediate silver bullet to anything, but I think over time you’re going to be able to have solutions where you can reach your goals easier and you’ll just make more customers time more efficient to focus on more the strategic areas.

Amanda Razani: Absolutely. So if there’s one key takeaway that you can leave our audience with today, what would that be?

Yang Han: Yeah, that’s a very good question. So I think over time when it comes to businesses in general, there’s going to be a change of focus into outcomes rather than how complex the tool can be itself. Because AI is a black box, you typically don’t know how it’s done or a lot of the stuff that happens in the middle, essentially, right? So AI transparency is a big thing that I think is a separate topic that needs a lot of innovation, but for the most part, as more solutions become automation, AI focus, all you get is the result. And so in the end, a lot of products now have to pivot to focus on the better end solution and to reach goals more directly rather than having these large complexities of options and levers for customers to figure things out on their own. I think that’s the general trend of where we see software going.

Amanda Razani: Wonderful. Well, I want to thank you for coming on our show today and sharing your insights with us.

Yang Han: Thank you, Amanda. It’s my pleasure.