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Q&A with TTD CMO, Susan Vobejda

This week, The Trade Desk (TTD) was honored with the top prize at The Drum’s annual B2B Awards. TTD won for its "As Explained By" campaign, aimed at highlighting the benefits of data-driven advertising. In particular, it shone a light on the benefits of advertising on the open internet vs “Walled Gardens.”

We sat down with TTD Chief Marketing Officer, Susan Vobejda, to understand the thinking behind the campaign, and why this recognition might be a small but important step in the coming-of-age of programmatic.

How did you react when you heard that your team had won the Grand Prix?

I was excited, humbled, and also somewhat shocked. I was excited for our team and BBH who did so much great work on this campaign and it’s terrific that their work is being recognized at such a high level. But I was also a little shocked because these awards don’t tend to go to advertisers who are, themselves, part of the advertising ecosystem. I think it says a great deal about how far data-driven advertising has advanced in 2020 that the industry has chosen to recognize this campaign.

Help us understand the thinking behind the campaign and what you were trying to accomplish.

The world we live in – data-driven advertising – can be a complicated subject. Our industry is full of complex terminologies and acronyms. But as more brand marketers started to look at the value of what we do, we felt there was a need to try to explain that value in more human terms. In particular, we wanted to make sure that marketers understood the difference between Open Internet and Walled Gardens.

How did the campaign do that?

Developed by advertising agency BBH, these films were inspired by the movie the “Big Short” and feature tutorials from unexpected characters talking about the complex subjects of objectivity and reach in advertising.

When BBH, came up showed us this winning idea during a working session, we loved it instantly. We were then very fortunate that award-winning producer/director/comedian, Neal Brennan, brought his special touch to the campaign. He was able to bring an expert eye that incorporated the right amount of humanity and fun essential to the films.

The idea works because it juxtaposes the most complex parts of digital advertising with everyday scenarios, such as trick-or-treating, or asking for help at a hotel concierge. By shifting the discussion to settings we can all identify with, the spots highlight the advantages of the open internet compared to the limitations of walled gardens.

Tell us more about the idea that this award might represent something a little bigger than just an honor for great creative work?

The Trade Desk is a young and fast-growing company with a mission to support the health and vitality of the open internet. Our work is so innovative that we are all often explaining what it is that we do to our friends and family. With that in mind, it is exciting to be recognized in this way, and it means a lot to our company.

The Drum’s recognition also highlights the growing importance of data-driven digital advertising, and how critical it is to the future of marketing and brands. It suggests that the industry is starting to recognize that digital is becoming the centerpoint of marketing, with the growing focus on data, and expansion across all marketing channels, including audio and TV.

Have the events of 2020 accelerated that thinking at all?

We are living in a new marketing normal. Whether it’s the transformation of TV as more viewers shift to streaming platforms; pressure from CFO’s to prove the ROI of every advertising dollar; or the opportunity for marketers to drive share growth during uncertainty by leveraging data, we have compressed 5 years of innovation and disruption into a few months. Marketers understand this. Go to any industry conference today--virtually of course!-- and you’ll hear a lot about the need for new approaches, new skills, and. new tools. So yes, 2020 will go down as a pivotal moment in the evolution of our industry.

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