The Trade Desk CEO ‘Not Convinced’ Google Will Get Rid of Third-Party Cookies

Jeff Green discusses what's necessary for ad tech to survive and thrive

Trade Desk CEO Jeff Green
The Trade Desk CEO Jeff Green spoke with Adweek about the $20 billion company ahead of his NexTech 2020 appearance. The Trade Desk
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In 2018, almost two years after ad-tech firm The Trade Desk began trading on the Nasdaq, the demand-side platform was valued at close to $5 billion, but respected industry commentators said it was overvalued. Fast-forward almost two years, and The Trade Desk’s valuation hovered above $20 billion at the close of trading Tuesday.

Ahead of his July 29 appearance at NexTech 2020, The Trade Desk CEO Jeff Green spoke with Adweek about managing Wall Street’s expectations, leadership in a time of crisis and the next phase of the firm’s Unified ID solution.

The following has been edited and condensed for clarity:

What approach have you taken to leadership, particularly during these unprecedented times?
I have a maybe slightly contrary view on the role of leadership. For a long time, people were trying to figure out how to create a work-life balance, but people are looking for a lot more from companies today. We see this as it relates to social justice as work becomes a bigger part of our lives. And so, it’s more about how do we integrate work with life, and anything, so that’s been our style and my approach.

It’s meant that there’s a greater emotional burden to leading The Trade Desk than it is at most other companies. And because we care about our people and their well-being to an exceptional degree, it’s been the toughest leadership challenge that I’ve ever faced. It’s largely because people in general just need a level of certainty that this environment can’t get them.

We’re in a really fortunate position at The Trade Desk that we’re financially sound so that we haven’t had to do any layoffs, and we’ve been able to reassure people to a degree that most haven’t.

How do you go about communicating with other stakeholders such as Wall Street?
We’re also really fortunate that advertising is on the very front end of what I call the recovery curve, where we can sort of climb out of the troughs that is this economic correction. So, being on the front end makes it really easy to point the team to making a difference and seeing recovery. That said, it takes a lot of effort to reset expectations, and whether that’s with Wall Street or on a call or from a [sales] target standpoint, it’s been super difficult to navigate at a point when everyone’s been super isolated.

Earlier this year, you asked SSPs for greater transparency assurances. Can you explain more? Some sources think this was about cutting costs as Covid-19 hit?
The way that we’ve done supply-side optimization, as well as just making certain that there’s an adequate level of transparency from the sell side on auction dynamics—none of those moves were driven by cost. Some of them might have benefited [us]. But, honestly, if we could decision better by spending more money, I’d do it in a heartbeat. We’ll never forget that we are in the business of making the best decision for advertisers and agencies.

The Trade Desk’s Unified ID rollout has been a big part of your success since 2018. Can you offer some insight into what’s on the horizon now that time has been called on the third-party cookie?
The first phase of Unified ID was to make certain that particularly Google didn’t have an unfair advantage over cookie coverage over the rest of the internet, and particularly the open internet [such as premium content producers]. The open internet is synonymous with people who participate in a competitive marketplace and enable measurement that allows you to compare one media property to another instead of all the walled gardens that don’t enable that level of comparison.

We’ve been working really hard to make certain that the next phase of Unified ID will help empower the open internet beyond just cookies, that there’s more to come on that front.

The thing that should be really clear among marketers is that I’m still not convinced that Google, in the end, will get rid of third-party cookies. They will be replaced with something else that enables targeted advertising. I do not believe that Google will have the ability to turn off targeted advertising for everyone but them.

Jeff Green will participate in a conversation about changes in the TV landscape at NexTech 2020, a four-day summit beginning July 27. Register now for this complimentary virtual event.

@ronan_shields Ronan Shields is a programmatic reporter at Adweek, focusing on ad-tech.