Q&A: Ticketmaster’s President, Jared Smith, Talks Ad Tech

Company blocked 10 billion bot purchase attempts last year

Photograph headshot of Ticketmaster president Jared Smith smiling
Ticketmaster president Jared Smith

If there’s one thing that can unite even the most partisan of Americans, it’s the often awful collective experience of trying to buy concert tickets. Fans like you and me have the odds stacked against us when our favorite artist or band goes on tour, as not only are we competing against the thousands of fans also looking for tickets, but also from the legions of bots, ticket brokers and scalpers flooding the systems.

Last year alone, according to Ticketmaster’s president Jared Smith, the company “blocked 10 billion bot purchase attempts.” 

Come listen to Smith talk with me at Adweek’s NexTech event in New York City on July 24 and 25, about how the company is using tech to fight against fraud and how the company is preparing for coming privacy and regulation.

Adweek: What’s your biggest pain point when it comes to ad tech?
Jared Smith: Obviously our top priority is to connect as many fans as we can to the artists and events they love. We’re fortunate that, given our history and scale, one of our greatest assets is a customer base of over 300 million fans globally. But even though we have fairly deep knowledge of our fans and their preferences, just like many other large commerce companies, getting clear visibility into their behavior across the entire consumer journey—from search and discovery to purchase and in our case through to event attendance—is a real challenge

That challenge is magnified by the sheer number of channels and platforms that touch a consumer along that journey which makes marketing a great big jigsaw puzzle of translation. Lucky for us weve built a great team of performance marketers armed with the right investments to help us get a more fulsome picture every day, from targeting offers to clean views of attribution and optimization, all in our quest to create a seamless experience for fans from start to finish.

Where do you see opportunity?
The next horizon for Ticketmaster is around unlocking fan identity. Knowing not just who purchased the tickets, but who are all of the fans that actually end up attending an event. Historically, because paper tickets are easily replicable and freely transferable, our business has dealt with tremendous fraud issues and a lack of understanding of what happens with those tickets between the purchase and the event itself.

The simple fact that our average order size is just shy of three tickets means, at best, we have one name for every three attendees. To solve this, weve built a completely new type of mobile ticket, called Ticketmaster SafeTix, which utilizes secure NFC and dynamic barcodes to create a true one-to-one relationship between a ticket and a fan. Unlocking that relationship means we can now offer our artists, team and venue clients the opportunity to build much more personalized and meaningful relationships starting with event recommendations and continuing to the event experience itself. 

Unlocking fan identity will also help us put an end to fraud in ticketing, as a part of our ongoing battle against bots and fake tickets. We’ve invested millions in technology to help differentiate between real fans and bots. Last year, we blocked 10 billion bot purchase attempts and that number is on a steady rise for 2019.

What’s a trend that marketers need to approach differently?
In our current climate, marketers must be hyperaware of their approach to search and discovery, which is changing rapidly. Our focus is to be where fans are, whether they are on our marketplace or elsewhere, and have shifted our approach and strategy around that concept. It’s imperative to be available on platforms that fans use to see what’s happening or relevant to a marketer’s industry. For us, it’s live entertainment, so platforms like YouTube, Spotify, Pandora and Amazon Alexa are all in our mix for both search and discovery and deeper tech integrations.

What do the next 12 months look like for ad tech?
Over the next 12 months, there will continue to be a push toward the heightened privacy and regulation of data and transparency for consumers. As the global market leader, we are always investing in technology to ensure we are at the forefront of these issues for our fans. For some time, personal data within ad tech has been pretty inconsistently managed, providing limited transparency and accountability to consumers. We believe that both ticketing and ecommerce overall must support the ongoing efforts to protect and enhance consumers’ experiences.

As the president of Ticketmaster, I imagine you’ve been to your fair share of concert venues and sports arenas. Where’s your favorite place to go see live music?
You’re right; I’ve been pretty lucky to see some amazing shows, both music and on Broadway, as well as some of the biggest sporting events on the planet. These days, the best shows for me are the smallest. Anytime you can see an act that you know is ready to break big in a club or a small theater, those are real highlights.

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