My Digital Hero: Gavin Stirrat, OpenX VP Europe, Partner Services

We’re asking some of our industry’s leading figures to nominate their digital hero and to explain what’s so special about them.

Gavin Stirrat has been one of leading lights of digital advertising for almost two decades. From setting up Millennial Media’s first international office in 2010 to stints at StrikeAd as COO to his current position at OpenX, he’s always been in the forefront of innovation in advertising technology. He’s also played an important role in helping industry regulation both with trade bodies like the IAB and currently with government initiatives.

Who is my digital hero?

Will Becker, Chairman and co-founder of TotallyMoney and my old boss at Advertising.com.

What has he done to win hero status in your eyes?

Firstly, Advertising.com entered the market in Europe at a time when there was a lot of competitors (late 2000), not to mention the challenge of the dotcom bubble bursting, making life very challenging for everyone in the digital advertising space. We managed not only to survive through this but grew dramatically in the years leading up to our acquisition by AOL.

These challenges were further accentuated by the fact that it really was the wild west back then, and we were essentially making the rules up as we went along.

Will built up a super smart team in Europe who were laser focussed on delivering performance for our advertisers, and competitive payouts for our publishers, and I believe we managed to do this whilst also respecting rules that many did not in terms of data usage at that time.

What are the biggest challenges in digital we need to solve?

There are a number of challenges right now facing the industry. Concerns from both consumers and regulators as to usage of consumer data is very much in the spotlight today.

Ensuring that consumers are able to make informed decisions on how their data is used, something that GDPR has focussed on, is a good start, but there’s more work to do.

We also need to focus on how we deliver a better experience for both brands and consumers on the open web. A lot of the growth in digital has been within the walled gardens to the point where adspend in the walled gardens takes up a far larger share than the time spent there, And that’s because they provide powerful tools that enable marketers to target relevant prospective customers that results in solid ROI.

As platforms, such as OpenX, rollout people based marketing tools on the open web, we expect to see this asymmetry correct.

What is your most heroic personal achievement so far in digital?

Although I’d probably not go as far as describing these efforts as “heroic”, I’m certainly proud of some of the initiatives I’ve taken part in to try to help clean up the industry.

Back in October 2005, a group of adtech execs left the very first IAB Engage, to sit in a hotel room and hammer out the first iteration of the IASH agreement – I was part of that group.

It’s been really interesting to see how that initiative has developed over the years to now being the DTSG certification.

And over the last 6 months, it’s been equally rewarding to be working on a number of government initiatives with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, the Intellectual Property Office, and the Home Office, all with the goals of making the internet advertising sector one which is transparent, sustainable, and not one that funds the darker parts of the internet.

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