Q&A: GetIntent’s George Levin on transparency in adtech

George Levin is the CEO and co-founder of GetIntent, a global adtech platform founded on the belief that adtech solutions should be transparent and cost-efficient. 

Levin has more than 10 years’ experience in advertising, and his main areas of interest and expertise revolve around machine learning and programmatic.

ClickZ caught up with him to ask about his work in adtech, the adoption of programmatic in the advertising industry, and his advice for anyone looking to work in digital.

Tell us a bit about GetIntent. What do you do as an organization, and how did you get started?

GetIntent is an AI-driven programmatic platform. It was established four years ago by myself and my co-founder, Vladimir Klimontovich, who is the CTO. We’ve known each other for 14 years (since the age of 16), and became friends in high school where both of us were studying mathematics.

We provide our clients with a “white-label bidder”, which gives them unprecedented transparency and full control of their programmatic advertising. To explain a bit more about how it works, a white-label bidder is a new, upgraded version of a Demand-Side Platform (DSP), which is aimed at combatting the lack of transparency in adtech.

If a brand, agency or even another adtech company wants to buy programmatically without all of the downsides of building their own tech and using an existing DSP, they can use a white-label bidder.

This bidder is connected to all existing supply, while the client can use their own first-party data, their own buying logic and even their own user interface. It’s basically the most flexible, transparent and easy way to buy programmatically.

What is the biggest challenge in your role as CEO?

The CEO of a startup has to wear too many hats, all while resisting ongoing stress and trying to motivate people.

It’s like you’re the captain of a small boat in the middle of a storm. The boat could tip over any second and is surrounded by sharks, but you have to keep a smile on your face and cheer up the crew!

A small, old boat rocking on the waves of a storm, with lightning in the background and seagulls clustering around the deck.

“Everything’s under control…”

What do you see as being the most significant trends in adtech over the coming years?

One, adtech becomes more transparent. Instead of paying media commissions to various adtech partners, clients want to own technology and get full control of media buying. Transparency is key to this taking place.

Two, with the technique of header bidding which is currently gaining a lot of momentum, buyers can get what they call the ‘first look’ at inventory, and buy directly from publishers while cutting out the middleman and his fees.

Three, advertisers will rely more on first-party data, rather than third-party as they have done up to now.

ClickZ recently carried out a report into the advertising industry which found that just 30% of advertisers use programmatic advertising on desktop (and 26% on mobile). Do you think there are some obstacles to the adoption of programmatic in the ad industry?

Unfortunately, adtech companies don’t like to explain hard things in an easy way. Moreover, they have a tendency to try and make ad technology to look too sophisticated.

When I go to adtech conferences and hear presentations, I get a strong impression that the goal of presenters is to puzzle advertisers, rather than to explain how things work. This approach pushes away second and third-tier clients.

Which tools or software do you find most useful in your role?

If you mean software that makes my life more efficient, I would say Boomerang, Evernote and Pipedrive.

Tell us about a typical working day…

I start at 8.30, and make a plan for the day before opening my inbox. I try to come with 3-4 tasks for the day, and each of them should pass the test of one question: “If I do only this task, will I be satisfied at the end of the day?”

Then I usually have a few calls with our R&D office in Russia, due to timezones. Afterwards I’ll check my emails and try to focus on my tasks.

I don’t like to go out of office for meetings or for lunch; I try to have all meetings in the office and bring my food with me. I think it’s too easy to lose focus if you need to go somewhere. I finish between 7 and 7.30.

What kinds of skills are needed to be effective in your role?

Soft skills – that is interpersonal skills, social skills and communication – empathy, and discipline are the most important to me.

The first two help me to deal with people, understand their feelings and intentions and motivate them. The last one is crucial for everyone regardless of what they do.

What would be your key piece of advice for anyone who wants to work in the digital industry?

I would say that it’s not enough to “work smart” – you need to work hard and smart.

There’s also no need to come up with an outstanding disruptive idea. If you have discipline and good execution skills, you can take any idea and just make it better than other people’s.

 

This article is part of our ongoing Q&A series on ClickZ which takes a closer look at the roles, life and work of leaders in the digital marketing and advertising industries. Read previous installments in the series.

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