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Meet the Former Google Exec Responsible for Building Up PHD’s Technology Marketing

Ben Samuel is working to make the shop tech savvy

Ben Samuel says it’s a misconception that you barely need people to manage technology. Photo: Jude Edginton


Specs
Current gig Marketing technology director at PHD
Previous gig Head of platform for agencies at Google
Age 38
Twitter @ben_samuel77

Adweek: This is a new role for PHD. Can you tell us a bit about what you're responsible for and what you're doing? 
Ben Samuel: My role is to help PHD clients navigate the marketing technology and ad technology space more effectively. At the end of the day it's about PHD being as skilled consulting on clients' technology requirements as we have been at planning and making media recommendations. That's the evolution I'm trying to bring about. How I'm doing it—it's going to be a case of working with all the PHD offices around the world and helping them upskill teams. That will vary market to market, but that's part of what's exciting and challenging about the role.

Are there specific technologies that you're focused on right now?
The initial phases will be about working with the PHD network to understand what their requirements are on a market-by-market basis. I suspect that a lot of it will come back that it's about programmatic or it's about demand-side platforms, or it's about data-management platforms or how clients can better leverage those bits of technology because that seems to be what most of the buzz is about at the moment. Until I have a clearer picture of what the requirements are that will define how I approach things.

Speaking of programmatic, what are you focused on in that space?
It's about the next evolution of programmatic. We've already seen it on display ads, mobile, video, we're starting to see it on TV, we're starting to see it outdoor, so it's about what's the next thing. Our position is very much looking to a world of artificial intelligence where you have a personal digital assistant. At that point, the role of media really changes from one of trying to get in front of a user to one of trying to influence a personal digital assistant to deliver that message to an end user. Programmatic is 100 percent going to play in that space. This isn't today, but our focus is on thinking about how programmatic will evolve.

What's one of the biggest misconceptions about advertising technologies that advertisers have?
One of the biggest misconceptions is that once you plug in your bit of marketing technology that it's going to work and you barely need people there to run it. That's something that [technology companies] in their sales process—they talk about the tech, they talk about automation—there's a little bit of economy of truth with how much investment in people is required to run technology. I've probably been guilty of it myself on the Google side, but that is a conversation that needs to be had with marketers when you're talking about technology adoption. It's not just what this technology will do for them, but also what resources they need, or the agency needs, to manage the technology.

Is there a buzzword out there that annoys you?
I think it's more that I'm tired of talking to people who use lots of buzzwords and lots of acronyms and seem to overcomplicate things massively so that this whole [industry] starts to [seem more complex than it is]. It is a complex space but it's not as complex as people seem to make it. So conversations that involve a whole lot of acronyms, DSP, DMP, lots of things like "holistic" and "360" and "integration" or a lot of semi-meaningless buzzwords, that annoys me and I think that's part of my role as well—how I can simplify things and cut down on the acronyms and make technology more accessible to clients by pre-simplifying it.

This story first appeared in the Jan. 18 issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.

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