Q&A: Grapeshot Builds US Team, Appoints Stark As SVP Of Product Marketing

Grapeshot, a UK-based digital ad tech company, has continued its U.S. expansion with the appointment of Chris Stark as senior vice president of product marketing. Grapeshot’s tech analyzes the content on a page (for keywords) for advertisers buying via real-time bidding (RTB).

Stark will be based in Grapeshot's New York office, which grew earlier this year after the company raised $3.3 million. He previously worked at Infectious Media, Videology, Lotame, AOL Advertising. Since 2007, he has been in the UK, and prior to that he was in the U.S. with AOL Advertising and IBM.

I have had the good fortune of being able to join companies who were earlier pioneers in their fields and so I've grown accustomed to the excitement of new tech and new boundaries,” Stark said to Real-Time Daily. “Grapeshot's proposition is no different as it looks to make it possible for buyers and sellers to objectively trade with one another via keywords.”

Stark’s -- and Grapeshot’s -- long-term goal is to make keywords an ad currency on the Internet. In the short-term, Stark says he will start by educating advertisers on using keywords when buying programmatically.

Stark also shared some thoughts with Real-Time Daily on the programmatic and RTB marketplace as a whole.

Real-Time Daily: What is the most daunting challenge the RTB industry at large faces?

Chris Stark: RTB faces a number of challenges across several fronts but these will get solved because the business needs to remain profitable. What's daunting is the dizzying increase in complexity. Folks like me are eagerly pushing the boundaries of tech but that boundary gets further and further from the understanding of the people who rely on the tech on a day-to-day basis.

Perversely, I think this leaves our real customers feeling increasingly like they haven't any control -- or that they must log into 10 different systems and screens in order to understand. Unlike solving other problems, the industry isn't necessarily incentivized to keep things simple, because ads must be bought and people don't want to be left out of the next big thing. But long term, sustainable growth is possible only if we don't leave our customers behind.

RTD: How does the industry work on dealing with that challenge? More granularly, how does an individual person and/or company within the industry work on dealing with it?

Stark: 'Objectivity, transparency and control' are three core ideas I've heard proselytized from a number of sources. I think the industry needs to keep moving forward and upward, but we have to focus on the ability to show what happened on a given ad campaign and be able to objectively explain why. At the granular level, the end-user should demand objectivity, transparency and control -- and not feel ashamed to push to get to the bottom of the complexity. Whether they are a brand owner or a campaign manager at an agency desk, this should be a basic requirement: 'Do I understand the tech I'm using?' If not, don't spend on that method until you do.

And the suppliers of this tech should similarly ask themselves: 'Have I made this objective, transparent and able to be grasped by the end user?' This doesn't necessarily mean go out and make a self-service tool (which often glosses over the real function), but instead to build and design their products so they can be objective, transparent and able to take input from the client.

RTD: Any other comments on programmatic in general?

Stark: Programmatic and digital marketing has been a great area of innovation and I look forward to seeing other industries (particularly education or public services) benefiting from this innovation.

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