Today we continue a series of Q&As with mobile advertising leaders leading up to Rubicon Project’s conference on Wednesday, February 26, 2014 from 9am to 1pm at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain. The packed agenda includes two panels: “Ad Agencies, Mobile and the Automation Opportunity” featuring leading mobile first agencies and “Mobile First DSPs -- Why? And Why Now?”

If you plan to be at Mobile World Congress and would like to attend the Wednesday conference, please sendan indication of your interest here or contact

Today we continue our mobile leader series with Gavin Stirrat, COO of StrikeAd, a mobile demand side platform.

Your Name: Gavin Stirrat

Your Company: StrikeAd

Your Title: Chief Operating Officer

What flavor ice cream best describes your management style?

Vanilla – classic style and not overly complicated!

SEARS: In mobile today, how much of each $1.00 spent on mobile media by one of your advertisers is spent on automated or programmatic channels?

STIRRAT: We don’t have insight into exactly how much of the total spend we or programmatic are seeing but I believe the range is likely to be somewhere between 0% and 35% with most advertisers averaging between 5% and 10% although there are aggressive goals across a number of agencies to increase this in 2014.

SEARS: For mobile, what was this number in 2011?

STIRRAT: The range in 2011 was likely to have been between 0% and 10%.

SEARS: For mobile, what will this number be in 2015?

STIRRAT: I would expect that the range will be somewhere between 25% and 50% by 2015.

SEARS: App vs. mobile web. The app world is fueled by cost-per-install advertising dollars from the most popular apps such as’s Candy Crush, yes or no?

STIRRAT: Yes. The most aggressive companies in the mobile space are companies whose businesses have revenue streams that are heavily reliant on mobile. It’s not unusual for new mediums to see a greater prominence of performance and with the immense scale of supply, even when we get to the point where mobile is on every brand plan, I still expect that there will be large amounts of impressions being filled by performance advertisers.

SEARS: The mobile web world suffers from an inability to track users and is waiting for better targeting and more brand dollars to arrive in mobile, yes or no?

STIRRAT: Yes. There is a perception out there that mobile tracking is difficult and that does hold back spend. But there are great solutions out there covering the metrics that matter to performance and brand advertisers, and solid app and site analytics solutions. Plus there are solutions that enable us to track real world behaviours, even detecting when a consumer is at a store till after being exposed or interacting with an ad – that’s something that digital has been unable to do until now.

SEARS: It seems like many of the leading agency trading desks have been slow to embrace mobile. After they solidified their work in display, most trading desks focused on building their video capabilities. What will be the catalysts for trading desks – and their operating agencies at the biggest holding companies – to place more focus on mobile?


1. Continued aggressive adoption of smartphones and usage by consumers – already happening

2. More display budgets going to mobile with the agencies – already happening

3. More data (mobile location and traditional offline data) becoming addressable on mobile

SEARS: Are the big carriers still relevant in mobile? Everything now happens “off deck,” SMS and call revenue is declining, yet carriers sit on a treasure trove of data. What are the biggest threats and opportunities for carriers and which ones around the globe are the most progressive?

STIRRAT: The carriers seem yet to have properly capitalized on their data, which is understandable as there are obvious challenges in monetizing consumer data. The broadband providers faced a similar challenge years ago and none of them seemed to be able to take advantage of the data they collected. My feeling is that there needs to be an honest dialogue between them and their customers on the value of customer data and perhaps a value exchange – perhaps discounted or free data usage in return for the right to use browsing and demographic data to enable targeted advertising.

SEARS: The future of user ID and cross device targeting. What do your advertisers use today for user targeting? Which companies (or types of companies) are in the best position to facilitate user ID and cross device targeting?

STIRRAT: Most advertisers today make use of the solutions offered by their advertising platform partners – most ad networks and platforms have their own proprietary targeting and tracking. Layered on top of that, typically from a tracking perspective, are companies such as Adx and Hasoffers, who de-duplicate conversions across multiple platforms. In terms of the companies out there well positioned to enable cross device targeting, AdTruth and Drawbridge stand out as having strong solutions.

SEARS: What are the top three “data points” either missing or of dubious quality in mobile media?


1. Location from latitude/longitude is present in around 30% of all bid requests we see – that is driven by the fact that many apps do not need location and so don’t have permission to access it, and some users do not allow location for the apps that do. This is not really a problem as there is still very big scale there.

2. Device ids, particularly from iOS, are increasingly less common. Again this is not a huge issue as there are other identifiers that enable appropriate targeting and tracking.

3. Consistency of information around apps / verticals varies from one supply source to another.

SEARS: Tell us about StrikeAd.

STIRRAT: StrikeAd is the first mobile DSP, and the only one with a global presence across US, EMEA and APAC. We deliver programmatic mobile campaigns for five of the top six global trading desks. The combination of our proprietary technology coupled with the capabilities of our key partners within the mobile supply, data and tech space enables us to deliver great performing solutions for both brand and performance advertisers.

SEARS: Please tell us:

· Percentage increase, managed budget (media spend) 2013 vs. expected 2014 [Global only #]:

o STIRRAT: Our managed budget is expected to grow around 100% year on year with much greater growth expected from self-serve as more trading desks manage mobile DSPs themselves.

· How many employees globally [headcount number]?


§ Worldwide 67

§ Europe 46 (includes 30 at Kiev development)

§ The United States 17

§ Asia 4

SEARS: What are StrikeAd’s three biggest initiatives for 2014?


1. Data

2. Upgraded bidder

3. New GUI release

SEARS: By 2015, what percentage of total media spend in across your holding company (or your agency, or your agency/trading desk clients) will be programmatic?

STIRRAT: [Not part of a holding company / agency.] Industry estimates around 25% of display will be programmatic by 2015.


Apple vs. Google.

iOS vs. Android.

Closed vs. Open.

“The 1%”[Apple] vs. the “Middle Market” [Google].

How do you and your clients think about this dichotomy and how does it impact your advertisers? And how do global markets with a preponderance of feature phones even fit into this mix?

STIRRAT: I think most advertisers understand that, in order to succeed in mobile, it is essential to have a presence on both iOS and Android. Very few advertisers address only one of these, and typically don’t treat either any differently. I think, on the tech side, companies tend to either focus on smartphones or feature phones, and that choice is typically driven by where the company is founded. Cheaper feature phones will penetrate the markets currently dominated by feature phones over the coming years.

SEARS: To drive adoption of direct deal automation (programmatic premium) and use of the programmatic channel, what are the major impediments to overcome? Rank these in numerical order:


_3__ Operational or workforce issues inside the holding companies or operating agencies

_1__ Premium (direct deal) inventory availability via programmatic

_2__ Lack of proper ad technology

_4__ Alignment of agency compensation models

I think one of the key challenges of programmatic premium, within mobile, is that the publisher landscape is very different – mobile is forcing us to redefine premium due to the very different browsing habits of consumers on mobile devices. A title such as Angry Birds is not an uncommon quoted example of a premium site on mobile, and is a very different title to those being traded online in a premium programmatic fashion.

SEARS: How are RFPs used in your business? What does a “Programmatic IO” or a “Programmatic RFP” look like?

STIRRAT: We see very detailed RFPs for DSP technology which are very thorough and delve very deeply into our technology stack, SLAs, etc. and we see standard RFPs for our managed service which have typical target audiences and objectives. More and more trading desk teams are starting to get involved much earlier in the planning process and so we are getting involved in work-shopping possible campaigns before RFPs go out.

SEARS: All of you work for global companies. What global markets are the leaders and laggards in mobile programmatic?

STIRRAT: The US and UK seem to be the markets leading the charge in mobile programmatic, with continental Europe lagging by what feels like around a year. The Asia Pacific market feels like it is around two years behind. I believe the challenges that exist in the most advanced markets are related to trading desks wanting to ensure that they have the right technology partners, while in the less advanced markets are more related to a slower overall shift towards mobile. That could mean that, within a few years, all of these markets could catch up.

Tell us a bit more about you:

SEARS: If you could travel for pleasure anywhere in the world, to a place you have never been, where would you go?

STIRRAT: West Coast of the US – I’ve still never made it further west than Vegas and would love to spend some time seeing the sights and meeting friends in LA and SF, as well as sampling the vineyards!

SEARS: When is the last time you went out for a three martini lunch?

STIRRAT: Quite a while ago – lunchtime boozing is not conducive to a productive afternoon! I had two non-alcoholic Mojitos at a lunch last week – does that count?

Thanks Gavin!

Jay Sears is Senior Vice President, Marketplace Development for the Rubicon Project. Sears worksJay Sears with leadership and business unit heads across the company to expand Rubicon Project’s potential market. Sears has also served as General Manager, REVV Buyer, where he was responsible for global relations with the buy side including ad holding companies, ad agencies, agency trading desks and demand side platforms headquartered in North America. Jay can be reached at

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