Understanding tech with Paul Coggins, CEO, Adludio
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We spoke with Paul Coggins, CEO of Adludio, about the future of the advertising space, maintaining company culture across country lines and his advice for surviving in the tech sector…
Global technology company Adludio has grown exponentially since its launch on the market in 2015. Its mobile advertising platform puts creative first, and this approach has led to its expansion to several countries around the globe at a rapid pace.
Given his unique insight on the future of advertising and programmatic, we consulted Paul on expanding internationally, what we can expect from the sector in the coming years and his personal learnings from the business…
Tell us about Adludio.
Adludio is a mobile advertising creative platform. We went to market in 2015, very much with the belief that creative advertising on mobile wasn't really fitting the way we used our phones. A mobile phone is all about touch, engagement, swiping, interacting with it hundreds of times a day, and yet the ads back in those days were all static, or 30 second videos or banners that have been transposed straight from TV or from the web. We felt there was a better way to do it.
Five years later, we've run thousands of campaigns all over the world, and we've got lots of data around not just how people interact with ads, but where they're interacting with them outside of social channels. We now use that data to inform decisions around what creative best works for which particular audience. We now have offices in Taiwan, Singapore, Hong Kong, Paris, New York, and LA, though we remain headquartered in London.
Industry: Marketing & Advertising
Company Size: 51-200 employees
Type: Privately Held
Subsector: Marketing, Advertising & PR
What challenges did you find when Adludio expanded into these new areas? How did you overcome them?
In 2016, given events in the UK, we decided that we should push on very early and go overseas to try and expand beyond the UK market. The first place we expanded into was Singapore. We wanted to have a base in APAC, and Singapore appealed because of its excellent legal system, which is similar to the UK. It was also a hub in many ways for APAC advertising and branding.
Since then, we've extended into six or seven territories. We've also started operations in Dubai, and we're now looking at Sao Paolo as well. We're pretty well versed in how to go about launching into these new territories, now and the number one thing we’ve learnt is that you need a good accountant. Every one of those territories has a very different kind of legal structure, and you absolutely have to have somebody in that location that you can trust to steer you through how to set up a business.
If you look at Hong Kong for instance – and that was probably the easiest country we've expanded into - you only need one director. The only issue is opening up a bank account, because you have to be interviewed in person to do so. If you're looking at Taipei or even Brazil, it is very different there, because the most important thing to get right is the tax setup of your company right from the outset. In those locations, all tax invoicing goes through a centralised government control process, so you need to get everything lined up right from the start. That’s key to know upfront.
Every country has very different challenges that you need to be aware of, and the best and easiest way to overcome those challenges is to have a good accountant, in our experience.
What is it like trying to maintain the company culture across so many different locations?
That’s a good question! We've put a lot of effort recently into maintaining a really good culture. The best way to do that is through good communication. With all these disparate offices and people working not just in those offices, but working with clients all over the world, excellent communication becomes absolutely vital. We've implemented Slack channels, Zoom calls and more, and having all of those things actually in place and having a working from home remit, made the whole COVID issue a lot more manageable.
"We've implemented Slack channels, Zoom calls and more, and having all of those things actually in place and having a working from home remit, made the whole COVID issue a lot more manageable."
At the end of April, we decided as a business that we were going to become a 100% working-from-home company. We made that choice for the long term. All of our regional offices have actually become hubs now, and we're just going to turn them longer-term into entertainment spaces and places where people can go and hotdesk, meet and entertain, and work together if they choose to.
Though the culture of the business remains one in which we expect the work to get done, we no longer expect people to come in at 9:00am and leave at 5:00pm. It's very much a performance-orientated business, where we expect people to get the work completed, but not necessarily have to get on public transport for an hour and spent the equivalent of days travelling into work.
This whole approach does have its potential downsides, because younger people want to go into work in order to meet people.
You make a lot of your best friends at work; there is a danger, I think, that that will be lost if there aren’t still those kinds of opportunities for people to meet up. Culturally, we still want people to embrace meeting and interacting, but the world's different now. For us, it's been a natural progression to form an integrated approach with communication at its core.
Adludio has pushed the boundaries of how we think about the traditional advertising space. What does the future of the industry look like and what new functionalities or technology might we see?
Obviously over the past few years, advertising has focused on two things: firstly, who the consumer is, and secondly, the programmatic space.
There's been lots of progress on how we are able to identify who our consumer is, what they do, where they're from, what their behaviours are, and more. For companies targeting consumers, privacy implications make that process a lot more challenging now. For example, GDPR and all the other corporate compliance seen in the States has come out of a feeling – a correct one - that your data is your own. Finding ways to operate within that movement is the new challenge.
For us, it's a great opportunity because we've always felt that creative is the number one aspect that brings consumers into the purchasing funnel and that's been missing. With a lot more focus away from the consumer, we think advertising will come back onto the creative element.
Think about what your favourite ad of all time is - it's almost certainly going to be something from TV. In future, we’re hoping this favourite ad will be something you’ve seen on your mobile device, that has been designed for your mobile device specifically. I think that hasn't happened yet, so I think there'll be an increased focus on that.
The programmatic space, which is essentially the automation of advertising, usually operates very much like the stock market, with the idea being that you can trade advertising and advertising space. Now this area will be one in which the most evolution will happen in the coming years.
"Now this area will be one in which the most evolution will happen in the coming years."
One area which we're working on now is actually automating the programmatic. Though programmatic is already seen as automation, you actually need lots of traders looking at these screens and working out what the best prices are and where the best ads are to make it work. To evolve this, we're developing algorithms that will essentially automate that process. You'll take a client's KPIs, they will be traded programmatically, but machine learning will optimise that process.
The two main takeaways for the future are increased automation, far better creative on new devices and a move away I think from the targeting of consumers on a privacy basis.
How are you planning to develop this new technology in-house?
We now have a data science team. This is increasingly where the focus of businesses is - looking at the data of creative and the data of media.
In terms of potential acquisitions, we'll always be on the lookout, but it's not that we have a fully-fledged acquisition strategy for developing new technology. If we do it, it won't be geographical - it will always be technology-based, where can we add value to the creative stack that we're developing.
If you could give some advice to founders thinking about going on a similar journey or thinking about moving into the tech space, what advice would you give?
Don't be afraid to fail and don't be afraid to evolve the proposition as the market changes. We've been here five years and we're a very different business now to how we started out five years ago. Don't be afraid to adapt.
In the tech space, change is a good thing, because technology moves at a fast pace and if you stay doing exactly what you thought you were going to do, you probably won't be around for very long! So change and evolve would be my biggest piece of advice.
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