Ad Ops All Stars: Mike Richter, Jukin Media
by Kathleen Booth, on Sep 29, 2021 4:17:33 PM
How did Mike Richter overcome adversity to become the Vice President of Global CTV Revenue Operations at Jukin Media? (a role he was just promoted to this week!)
This week on Ad Ops All Stars, Mike shares his incredible career journey, and opens up about the challenges he has faced as a gay, HIV positive man—and why facing those challenges is integral to his success.
This is an honest, raw, and inspiring story that you won't want to miss. And if Mike's personal journey isn't enough to draw you in, he also shares insights into running ad ops for a CTV brand.
Listen to or watch the full episode, or read the transcript below, to hear everything that Mike had to say.
Resources from this episode:
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Kathleen: Welcome back to the Ad Ops All Stars Podcast. I'm your host, Kathleen Booth. And this week, my guest is Mike Richter who is the senior director and global programmatic lead at Jukin Media. Welcome to the podcast, Mike.
Mike: Thank you. Thank you for having me. How's it going?
Kathleen: It's going great. And I'm super excited to talk to you. You guys just got acquired recently, Trusted Media Brands, correct?
Mike: Yeah. It's been quite a fun roller coaster ride. I decided to leave the city for three weeks, part personal, part business trip. And not even a week into it learn, "Hey, you're acquired." And it's been this amazing, amazing time ever since. So, it's really exciting what's going on and I can't wait to definitely dive into some of that as well.
Kathleen: Yeah, we have a lot to talk about because... Well, I'll leave it at that. We have a lot to talk about. But before we get there because once we go into it, this could be the longest podcast I've done. I want to know the answer to the question that I always ask as an icebreaker which is, if you had to describe what you do to a five year old, how would you do it?
Mike: I make the impossible feel possible in situations that somewhat seem impossible to everybody.
Kathleen: I love it. So you're basically a superhero?
Mike: I wish that was the case. No, if I could, that's why I always have trouble. I'm a Gemini so I hate choosing because I always get the question, "What power would you have?" I don't know. I'd want to teleport, read minds. We can go on my nerd side all day long but yeah, so that's always fun. No, but I think the best way for me to explain how I do what I do is... Well, five year old, that's hard. 15 year old, growth hack. But five year old level, we make advertisements appear on TV within some of your favorite programming all across the world.
Kathleen: That is very easy to understand. I think he did a great job with that.
Mike: Thank you.
Kathleen: And in fact, it's TV that really led me to want to talk to you because I was attending at AdMonsters Publishers Forum in Vail and you gave a talk on CTV which is something that I'm personally really interested in. I wanted to learn more about and I thought it was... You packed a ton of really good information into a very short amount of time. And so I was excited to have you come on because I've interviewed close to 20 people now and I don't think anybody's really talked much about CTV. And so I felt like this was a good opportunity to dig into that. But beyond that, I'm almost even more interested in talking to you about your career because everyone I've talked to has had an interesting career because nobody goes to college for ad ops, right?
Kathleen: And so they've all come from some place but you've had such a fascinating background in terms of what led you here, what your experience was and so we're going to get into all of it.
Mike: I cannot wait, it is really fun. It's a rollercoaster ride, it's the best way for me to explain it. But it's definitely quite an impressive journey when I've looked back on it. And that's not an egotistical way of saying that. One of the parts for me is learning self gratitude and learning self actualization and learning that it's okay to be thankful and to be impressed by yourself. Because at times as we grow up and as we become adults from the times of being children, through adolescence into adulthood and even further into adulthood, we tend to lose that spark. I was a Disney child, I guess you could call that. I loved Disney. I still do, very close to my heart.
Mike: And when I think about the whole concept of wishing upon a star, as a child you feel as anything is possible, you don't understand the concept of impossible. And we start to lose that and part of the reason we start to lose that is we start forgetting who we are and we also start to forget to recognize the good that we bring to the world because there's so much bad out there. Just like we hear bad reviews, one bad review trumps 12 good reviews. And the same thing, it's about bad reviewing yourself or good reviewing yourself. And we have to remember to continuously good review yourself in order to believe in yourself so you can continue to wish upon a star.
Kathleen: I love that and it's so appropriate that, if I'm reading the room literally correctly, you're sitting in front of a picture of four kids in superhero costumes, Batman specifically I think?
Kathleen: So I love that. That just ties this all in so perfectly together.
Mike: There's a funny story behind that picture actually.
Kathleen: What's that?
Mike: When I moved into this apartment, I realized that I have this huge wall and I really wanted a big statement piece and couldn't find anything that I liked. Everything was abstract art this or that. And I really liked the concept of Banksy. This is a Banksy re-creation by Technodrome called Baby Batman. And it's three Batmans and a Robin dressed up as kids. And it's funny because as a child and not a lot of people know this, I was obsessed with Batman. And I was on a bowling league and I forced everybody to call me Bruce Wayne. That was my name on the bowling card and that was where I got to live out my superhero dreams bowling down at AMF down in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Kathleen: That's so cool. I love that story. Well, let's talk about your background. Because I think we mentioned we're going to talk about two things CTV and also your career journey, two very different topics. So I want to go in chronological order and I want to talk about how you wound up in ad ops because it is an unusual journey and it's an interesting journey with a lot of challenges but you've overcome a ton. And so, I don't know where the beginning is, you pick where the beginning is and let's start there.
Mike: Definitely, well, we can always go back to the days of me being Bruce Wayne but that's a really long story. But overall, when I look back at my career, we all think about where our career started. And that begins when we're going to college and figuring out what do we want to do. Throughout high school, I thought I wanted to be a nurse. Honestly, I was going to go down and be a nurse anesthetist and was going to go for it. Nobody in my family was a medical, dad was in clothing sales, mom... Well actually I lied, mom was in medical for a little bit but she was an administrative assistant but I was ready to jump into that.
Mike: And then for some reason, I don't remember exactly what it was. I think it was just, I didn't really enjoy the clinicals and I decided to switch into marketing in college. But I made one wrong move. Now, if I had to go back and make decisions about what to change within my life, would I change it? Most likely not because every single step got me to where I am today. But I was afraid to live on campus and this actually does stem a little bit back to high school. I was born and raised in South, Charlotte, North Carolina and I'm gay and graduated in 2006. So, it was around the time when things were starting to open up. Look, I wish I was in high school today.
Kathleen: Yeah, what a difference it is today, right?
Mike: It's cool to be gay in a way or in any case, have no labels. But when I was in high school, I saw there was a need for diversity, there was a need to bring people together. So, I actually ended up attending two different high schools at one point because one was a Tech school and then we moved so I went to another one. But at both schools, I started diversity groups. So the first one that I started Phillip O. Berry was STAND which was Student Teachers Association of something Diversity, that's pretty much what it stood for. And it was really fun getting that started and parallel to that, I was part of other local groups that were helping multiple schools to bring diversity to the region.
Mike: When I transferred to Providence High School, I ended up becoming part of a group called GLSEN which is the Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network. And that's a national group that only about two to three kids of each state get selected each year to go on retreats and learn how to bring activism in a positive way in education to your local environments. And when I came back, I was like, "I'm going to start a GSA, Gay Straight Alliance." That was fun. At one point, I was pulled into the principal's office and told, "Not going to happen." I had the superintendent threaten to stop it. And this kind of goes into my career as well in the sense of I don't take no for an answer.
Mike: So I had a few legal things back me up but we were able to finally get started because I had hundreds and hundreds of signatures. I followed all the rules to start an extracurricular group.
Kathleen: It just blows my mind. I mean, I know this was what? 15 years ago roughly?
Mike: Now, about 18 years? Something like that. Yeah.
Kathleen: It was a while ago but it also doesn't seem like that long ago to me and it just shocks me that there was still that much opposition to it.
Mike: It's crazy. But what's exciting and a few years ago, I was very fortunate when I came back. I was invited to come back to Charlotte to speak at the same GSA that I started and it started this revolution where it's still going today, almost 20 years later. And there are more GSA's across Charlotte, Charlotte has become a huge focus around diversity which is fantastic. Because it wasn't just in high school, I was part of multiple groups, HRC, you name it, all about trying to bring betterness to the city. But during that time, there was still opposition. My car was vandalized, I was bullied all day long so I was scared to go to college.
Mike: So I ended up going to the College of Scholars and everything and trying to make my way working full time living 40 minutes away, we all know that's a recipe for disaster. And decided it's not going to work for me, let me drop out. It was kind of embarrassing but I don't usually admit that to a lot of people and then became a hairstylist after a few odds and ends jobs. So at first, I was doing various things like selling gutter guard or selling some phones services door to door. I did so much little things back in my early 20s for a year or two. I don't know what it was, one day I was helping a friend with her makeup at work and she goes, "You should be a makeup artist."
Mike: And I was like, "Why not? Let's try that out." So I did hair and makeup for four to five years, it was fantastically fun. My goal was to get into entertainment which leads me to where I am today in a way but it was kind of hard unless I was to move. But unfortunately, there was one thing that stopped me from doing that and I know my linear concepts in this story keeps going back and forth. But when I was 20 and this is where this gets a little gloomy but it's something that shouldn't be. I had just turned 20, 2 months after and I got a phone call from the doctor, "You need to come in." And the doctor's answer to me was, "You have HIV." That in 2008, blow straight to your gut, you just don't know how to react to that.
Mike: And I made a decision sitting at that office because when I was crying and I was looking in the mirror, I wasn't crying because I was scared I was going to die, I wasn't crying because I was scared for me. Honestly, I was scared to be a disappointment to my mom and my family, I was scared to hurt them. I don't want to say disappointment because we have a wonderful relationship but I was scared to hurt them. And I made that decision in that moment that you know what? This isn't the end, this is only the beginning. I'm going to use this as power not as a weakness. I went through a lot of self discovery over that course of 10 years. Living in the south, friends stopped wanting to be friends with me. People didn't want to date me because there's a stigma and it is a fun one to talk about.
Mike: But I still used anything that was negative to power me forward. I ended up finding my tribe, I ended up finding the people that I can confide in both within family and within friends and started to learn that I do bring things to the table, I'm not a reject, I'm not somebody that's not worthy because you go through that. And I'm not afraid to admit that because we all go through elements of that, us being humans. Whether it is, for example, my diagnosis or it is a disability or it is an insecurity or it's anything. But, we have to learn to find power in that so I found power in that. And so, while I was making my way through being a hairstylist and realized trying to do it, I thought I was finally at a good spot in a salon and learning, I was sexually harassed by the owner.
Mike: And that was interesting. I quickly left that role. Unfortunately because of some law loopholes, couldn't sue. But I was lost and I ended up through my tribe finding way through, I ended up finding a role managing in the local retail at a local department store. I thought it was going to go work at the makeup counter, ended up in men's and decided I'm going to make the best of this and figure out where I'm going to go from there. Kept doing a little bit hair and makeup on the side but eventually decided to go back to school and get my degree. And thought I was going to go into media buying and fashion, kind of follow my dad's footsteps honestly.
Mike: And at one point, I got this glimpse of this crazy media sales world. And a friend of mine was working in a local TV station and she went out on a limb for me and gave me the opportunity and recommended me right before I graduated actually to become an account executive at WCNC in Charlotte and that started my foray into media.
Kathleen: I was just going to say, you have such an amazing story, first of all. And thank you for trusting me in a way that you're comfortable to share it on this podcast, first of all. Because I feel really honestly very honored to be able to share that story with folks who listen to this. And I just want to say how powerful it is because everybody has their own challenges in life, right? And everybody has the setbacks and the things that really hit them hard and scare them. Hearing you talk about overcoming that and if anything, using it as a motivator but also hearing how honest you are and how vulnerable, to me, it is the most powerful thing.
Kathleen: And I think that if more people were like that and able to share and be honest and be vulnerable, all of this would be less scary for all of us because we wouldn't feel like we were alone. And so, I just wanted to tell you how much that means to me to hear you do that.
Mike: Thank you, I appreciate that. It means a lot to hear that as well. When it comes to vulnerability, we are trained naturally to think that vulnerability means weakness and it doesn't. We feel or perceive weakness because weakness is only a perception, it's a feeling, it's not actually an actuality. It's because we feel as though we're not in power. But if you don't give somebody the power to hold over you then do you really have a means to feel weak? Look, I still have insecurities every single day and I'm not on the top of the world by any means, no human is. But I don't give that power to anybody to hold over me because I let that power be held over me for a long time.
Mike: Whether it was people that were bullying me before I came out as gay, bullying me for being Jewish in the south because that's a whole nother fun thing to talk about.
Kathleen: Oh boy.
Mike: All the way through to not wanting to date me or be friends with me for having HIV. And there are many other things that go into, different reasons to feel vulnerable. But you know what? The biggest thing is to understand that it's okay to be human. None of these things that I've talked about define who I am. How I've dealt with them, how I've overcome them, how I've accepted them, how I've used the power to better myself and those around me, that defines who I am. Because it's not the opportunities that are given to you, it's not the elements of what it is that you're dealing with that defines you, it's what you choose to do with your actions.
Kathleen: That's so true.
Mike: I had to make those decisions. And I was making those decisions not realizing I was making those decisions to move forward. It wasn't until into my 30s that I self actualized, that I truly decided or realized that it's okay to love me. And that's, even today, still a struggle. There are still times that you'll look in the mirror and say, "Did you make the right decision doing that?" Or, "No, I don't like this one part about me." Or whatever it is.
Kathleen: Every day, right here. Between doubts about yourself and imposter syndrome, I've never met anybody who doesn't have it or at least anybody that I've liked. And I really think the hallmark of a good and empathetic person is to have some degree of self doubt because that's how we kind of fuel ourselves to make ourselves better, right?
Kathleen: Well, listening to you talk it brought to mind something that somebody I went and had her to talk, and someone once said this phrase, "Don't let others rent space in your head." And listening to you talk, that's what came to mind. You recognize that you have this power to decide who gets to rent space in your head and that in and of itself is incredibly powerful. It seems to me like so much of your journey was leading up to where you've gotten. You've had these different career experiences, these massive challenges in your life. You've learned to not embrace the challenge but to see it for what it is as an opportunity. And then this opportunity came in front of you to move into the media world.
Kathleen: And I loved your way of talking about it, how you thought you were going in entertainment and this is a way of doing that. So, segue for me into how did you get into this business?
Mike: Well, I started a WCNC selling TV ads not knowing what the hell I was doing. I did not have an agency list, didn't even know what agencies were. It was quite an interesting experience. So I was there for about a year and a half, transitioned into an account management role, learned more the business, became more focused on how to share products with the sales team and really support that. It was also fun working in local media during the 2016 election cycle, do you remember those? That was very fun.
Kathleen: I will never forget.
Mike: You learn a lot about TV media working political and local so it was very interesting. We also dealt with digital as well. And there was a time, it was about 18 months in and I loved what I was doing, I loved the people I worked with but I wanted more. I felt as though it's time to leave Charlotte even though I loved my family, loved my friends, still do, still go back and see them but it was time for more. And so I remember this day very clearly because this was the day, a turning point of my career. And we had watched a video from this division called Hatch and Hatch was an integrated marketing division out of Dallas. And one of my colleagues suggested that, "You should come work for them."
Mike: Because I was constantly creating and innovating and everything. And so I quickly looked into the portal and was looking for a role. There were no roles available but there was one role that did pop up and it was with this other division called Premion which at the time, we had just learned about two weeks prior. It was this new concept of OTT, nobody knew what the hell it was. I was like, "O-T what?"
Kathleen: It just reminds me of that rap song.
Mike: Right? OTT, you know me?
Kathleen: Yeah, exactly. I was going to be like, "You don't know what I'm talking about."
Mike: Those are some of the phrases we would use, it was fun. I mean, I remember back it was around the time that I knew what Netflix was, I knew what Hulu was, I was barely using it so I kind of understood it but it was really interesting. And they have this role for product marketing manager and it really fit everything that I was doing with CNC locally but on a national scale working in this realm that looked very interesting, that I've loved getting into evolution of tech and evolution of industry. And so when we went into that I was like, "This looks interesting." And then on top of that, it was in New York. And I'd finally visited New York, my family's from here but I finally visited for the first time as an adult back in December 2015.
Mike: And that weekend, which was quite a fun weekend. One of the best stories I could ever tell was when we accidentally crashed The Lion King cast holiday party.
Kathleen: That's so cool.
Mike: So, got to hang out with the entire cast of The Lion King for my last night in New York when I was-
Kathleen: One of my favorite shows and given that you've already said you're a Disney fan, I can only imagine how much you must have just been starstruck.
Mike: It was incredible, it was so much fun. So we were there at this lounge and all of a sudden these people were walking in dressed to the nines. So I was like, "What's going on?" The waitress was just like, "It's The Lion King holiday party. You don't have to leave." And we didn't.
Kathleen: And I am not going to.
Mike: I was like, "We're going to hang out. We're going to do it." At that point, I had not even seen a Broadway show on Broadway. I've seen them in Charlotte. I didn't see my first Broadway show on Broadway till February when I came back to visit because I was like, "I'm coming back again." But that weekend, I decided I wanted to live here one day. So when I discovered this new role in October, the following October, I quickly went and I submitted for it and talked to the right people and I happened to be coming up here to visit a friend. So I was like, "I'll stop by and talk." All of a sudden, three weeks later had an offer.
Mike: And I was then flying up here on the exact same day that I flew up here for the very first time to start my new role one year later. And it's one of those things that when you put it out there, it will materialize if you take hold of it. Luck is simply the intersection of opportunity and intent at the exact same time. I took hold of that opportunity because I intended to move forward and grow my career and also live in New York. That was fun, let me tell you. It was a great time. I had no clue what the hell I was doing but I had a great leadership team, Jim Wilson who was leading the group, one of the best leaders I've ever had and I learned a lot very quickly. I even learned a lot just being thrown to the sharks.
Mike: Three months into the role, he was double booked for an event, one in New Orleans and one in Phoenix and he said, "You're going to go to Phoenix and you're going to give a presentation." I'm thinking, "Okay, cool. I'll get crushed by people, tell them about the business, call it a day." I show up to the event, it's 200 people [crosstalk 00:24:17]-
Kathleen: Oh my gosh.
Mike: Yeah, that was fun. So it was very fun, it was eye opening but over the course of two years, I was able to more or less be a channel development person and bringing this sales product to sales teams across 60 local markets both at Tegna and we started evolving externally into E.W. Scripps local markets as well offering them to sell it. So it was a very fun time and it was very interesting because I saw this evolution of the way CTV and OTT was being accepted by the buying community locally and nationally. We also work with national teams and you had various agencies working with every single market and so I literally was riding this wave along with everybody else.
Mike: And writing a lot of the how-tos, and writing a lot of the go-to-market strategies and working with an incredible team. Some of those are still there today at Premion, still a fantastic organization. But time came after we got out of growth stage and things were maturing and I was like, "Okay, it's time for a little more." And a friend of mine that I actually had known at WCNC who worked for E.W. Scripps at the time, she texted me and says, "Hey, you know what? There's this programmatic roll over at Newsy?" I didn't know what programmatic was, I had no clue. And it's funny for me saying this now because it's three years later and I'm running programmatic globally and a few other [crosstalk 00:25:44]-
Mike: ... That I'm admitting this and not afraid to. But part of the role, the description was working with third parties to make sure they're evangelizing your product and getting to sell your product at the end of the day.
Mike: Exactly what I was doing. So just the only difference was working with tech versus working with IO-based sales. So, I was like, "I could be a good opportunity for that, let's try." So I was very fortunate to be given that opportunity. And, look, I walked in and became very humbled. Mind you, my entire life has been a humbling move especially going back to hair school. When you burn somebody's hair off that you go to school with, with bleach, you pretty much learn to step back.
Kathleen: That's a tough one, yeah.
Mike: But that was fun. Yeah, don't triple process hair, be very careful. But I was there for about nine months. Unfortunately, I just had a little disagreement with leadership in the sense, it just wasn't the right fit for me but that's okay. We understood that but it was a great time that I was there because I met some amazing colleagues and people that I still work with today across the industry. Freddie Godfreys, Stephen Strong, they went out started Origin Media, they are fantastic. If you've not talked to them, you should. They're really, really doing some incredible things with CTV products and many others. And so time came when I was like, "Okay, it's time for me to maybe transition to something else."
Mike: And another friend texted me and says, "Hey, Jukin Media is looking for somebody and I'm not ready to move. What do you think?" Next thing you know, I'm meeting out with a couple peeps. And a few weeks later, I was starting at Jukin Media back in 2019. And so, came into this and I'd known about them back even from my Premion days and they were looking to really grow their CTV offering and grow from a programmatic aspect and third party sales aspect across, not just in the US but globally and I could not have made a better decision joining this team. It has been-
Kathleen: So, a question about Jukin Media. When you look it up online, it talks about video. What is the mix of products?
Mike: So Jukin originally started over 10 years ago as a viral licensing company. Jon Skogmo, who's the founder, I believe he worked at America's Funniest Home Videos as a clip producer and was looking for a better solution to bring clips to production houses. And figured that there's got to be an easier way than going and picking things up in the mail or hunting these things down. So more or less built a service that sources content from users that are out there producing content that is eligible to go viral or is starting to go viral and secures rights to that and helps those content users monetize their content by selling them to various production houses, selling rights to production houses, you name it.
Mike: So think of Chewbacca Mom, videos like that. Those are all videos that Jukin's license over the years. And we've paid out millions and millions of dollars in licensing royalties to our video creators and it's been a fantastic journey there. And at one point, one of the decisions and I might be a little foggy on exactly the timelines here and all the exact details but ultimately, there was a desire to have a D2C offering. We had all this great product from a content perspective, over 70,000+ videos in our library but how can we bring some content directly to users and that's when we went out and started acquiring a few brands or building brands.
Mike: We have FailArmy that was born from that. The Pet Collective, People Are Awesome. Recently WeatherSpy which has a really cool story behind because it was our first time we built a brand that was on TV first and years later, where I'm at currently in this process. And so when we started building out these brands, we were delivering and connecting to users in the social YouTube environments and amassing hundreds of millions of followers across the world. So, if you've heard of those brands or watched them or seen the Poke My Heart for example, that's all us. And great business model, fantastic following, fantastic group of viewers.
Mike: And then the time came, I believe Zooma was first and they loved our content and asked for us to program about four hours with the content on one of the comedy channels they have. Well, as you can see today, it's turned into a full fledged [crosstalk 00:30:47] army and not just one but we have four channels, FailArmy, The Pet Collective, People Are Awesome and WeatherSpy and we are on across more than 20 or so platforms in more than 25 countries today and with plans to launch even more within the next year or so. So, it's been a very exciting growth from viral clip production all the way to full fledged TV channel operators and there's no stopping, the sky's the limit.
Mike: And then we walked into an acquisition in August where Trusted Media Brand has fantastic brands on Dot Com and Reader's Digest and all of these brands that have staying power of well over 100 years because that's the age of readers and they are fantastic when it comes to the dot com environment. And so what Jukin was able to bring to the table was the realm of social and CTV because we sucked at dot com, we're not afraid to admit that. And so everything we do is what TMB does and everything TMB does but Jukin doesn't so it's been this gorgeous harmonic merger per se or acquisition of teams coming together. The plan is to spend more money, this is not a cost savings event.
Mike: I think that's one of the most empowering things about all of this. It's the acquisition as well has been a fantastic experience overall.
Kathleen: So the thing I'm dying to ask you about this is you're leading programmatic and I've interviewed lots of other people who've led programmatic but in most of those cases, it is a dot com environment. And as I said, I heard you speak at AdMonsters and just a little that I heard really hit home. It almost sounds like a completely different job because the targeting, the reporting, it's all so different. So can you somehow distill into a few minutes really how programmatic for CTV is different than what we mostly think of as programmatic?
Mike: Yeah. I had to actually explain this in analogy and it really worked. Think of it this way, on two sides of the fence is you have... Let's talk medical, right? You've got two doctors. One is a plastic surgeon and one is a heart surgeon. Now, they both went to medical school. They both know the foundation of the body but one specialized in plastics, one specialized in heart and that's kind of what this is, right? It's a sector of the space that is specialized. CTV is a combination of TV experience, TV type delivery strategies mixed with using digital foundations to deliver that content and also empower the ad serving in that capacity.
Mike: So, it's not that they're so inherently different, it's the fact that you're using different resources within the ecosystem to make it work. So for example, within the ecosystem that I run in, we are not GAM dependent, we do not have a GAM instance. Our ad server is SpringServe and that poses some issues when DV wants to come by and whatnot. But there have been evolutions that the buy side and the sell side have had to change to be able to administer in this space. We're no longer dealing with single ad unit experiences, you're dealing with entire pots. So you're making an ad request but you could have up to six different ads and that one request that need to get packaged and stitched together and run through.
Mike: So there's a lot of additional tech that goes into that. There's the use of, for example, SSAI. Prior to CTV, SSAI was a bad word but you can't do CTV or at least on a fast environment which is that more linear experience without using SSAI or else you're going to break the stream because you have to be able to lay it in and keep things continuous, you can't have a load bar in between, it can't be served client side. So, where there were a lot of evolutions in the digital side of ad serving and programmatic and just ad ops in general and evolutions to help prevent against fraud and make life better for the buy side.
Mike: So you had be paid, you have all these other things that started up. But then when you got into the CTV realm and CTV started popping up, all these evolutions that were built for digital that made it more sophisticated and more involved didn't work for CTV. So it's as though CTV had to restart the journey.
Kathleen: It's a little bit like the Wild West in that regard?
Mike: Yeah, it is. Well and it's interesting because a lot of the things when I talk to a lot of people that are veterans in the digital spaces, I didn't work in programmatic, it was within the traditional digital space. And when I go through a lot of the things that we're having to deal with and some of the workarounds and they're like, "That's a lot of stuff we dealt with 20 years ago, 15 years ago." So in some cases, it's not that it's so different, it's just that it's so far behind but it's made so many strides. Not just in the past 18 months but also in the past six years. CTV didn't become a household word at least in the ad tech business or the ad sales business until about 2015, 2016. But a lot of people don't realize that the first CTV device or OTT device was sold in 2001. And it was to help expats that were here in America watch shows from back home.
Mike: Took time and now it's become this behemoth and soon by what 2025, if not 2030 at the latest, the term CTV or term OTT will no longer exist. It'll just be TV because we don't call cable TV, cable TV anymore, we just call it TV.
Kathleen: Yeah, that's so true. Especially for younger generations who will have grown up with it. It's a completely different landscape than what we had.
Mike: I would love to be able to jump into the mind of somebody that's young today. That all they knew were iPads growing up.
Kathleen: Yeah. That's my son. I have a 14 year old.
Mike: Right. I can't imagine what that's like. Because for me, it's VHS tapes. I mean, I was born after the eight track days but it's cassette tapes, I remember using a pencil to rewind that up. It's crazy how much that we've seen in this short period of time we're on Earth change and evolve.
Kathleen: And well, the thing is, it's just accelerating even more. And so I imagine even in our kids lifetimes, it's going to be a crazy amount of advancement as well. So, the CTV thing is so interesting to me because, like we said, it is the Wild West. You have this history of jumping into roles where you're like, "I don't know what I'm doing but I'm going to go do it and figure it out." Right? So if somebody is working in ad ops and they are intrigued by CTV, what advice would you have for them as far as what they need to think about or know or how they could prepare if they wanted to make a career move in there?
Mike: Ask for help, ask for advice, learn, attend events, virtual or in-person if you can, read the trades, download the white papers, become involved in it. When I started working at Premion, I had to really get to know the industry. And so that was a lot of market research, ongoing, non-stop market research. There's a lot of resources out there. Hell, I'm one of those people. If you want to reach out to me, I've got some time.
Kathleen: Right now you do although you just had a merger so that may not continue for long.
Mike: Right. But I do believe in helping those that want to transition in or those that are newer in the space. Especially people that have no clue what they want to do because you can't go to school for ad ops. But we're this wonderful realm of humans that discover this great industry that one, the camaraderie within it is fantastic and the ability for us to learn and exercise. When I'm out with friends, most of my friends are ad tech friends and we're out having a few drinks so I'm like, "It's crazy how much intelligence is at this one table?" Of course, after we threw back [inaudible 00:39:05] and making fools of ourselves and it's a weird situation but that's the ad tech industry.
Mike: My friends that are not ad tech, they're like, "What do you do?" I'm like, "I don't know how to explain that too."
Kathleen: That's why I ask everybody to explain to a five year old in the beginning because it's really hard.
Mike: Right, how do you have so much fun but also be so technical? I'm like, "I don't know. It's just us." Because it is a fun industry, I'm not going to lie about that. We all know that and I love the people in this industry. It is such a fun place to be but remember when I talked about luck earlier, it's that intersection of opportunity and intent. It's recognizing when there's an opportunity in front of you and intending to take that and not be afraid. I tell people all the time, know your equity. I was talking to somebody earlier today. I was like, "What do you want to do? What do you bring to the table?" Forget what you do, forget what you focus on because it doesn't matter exactly what you do. It matters what you bring to the table and how you do it and the why behind it because you can then take that and apply that to something else.
Mike: You can then take that knowledge if you know how to adapt, if how to figure it out. For example, when I was getting into programmatic, I had no clue what ad tech was. I mean, a little bit but nothing that I know now. But I read the JD and it said, working with third parties to help to sell your product. That's what I was doing it as a product marketing manager and general development manager at Premion. Nobody would think going from that to a director of programmatic on a national news org would make sense but it's how you were able to position it. Transitioning industries or transitioning roles or specialty is within an industry is easy to do if you believe in yourself. Now, if I wanted to go be a doctor, I can't just go do that off the fly. No, I'm going to have to go to medical school-
Kathleen: Although seems to me these days, a lot of people think they can just go do that on the fly.
Mike: Don't get me started on [crosstalk 00:40:58].
Kathleen: That's a whole nother podcast so we won't go there.
Mike: Yeah, thank you. Social media doctors. But that's what it comes down to, there are skills and then there's knowledge, right? You can learn skills but you're born with the ability to hold knowledge and learn knowledge, right? Because knowledge isn't just what you know, it's your ability to gain knowledge, your ability to adapt, ability to learn, it's your ability to be curious. That's what lives in me, it's curiosity. If I don't understand something, know something, I'm going to go ask why. And the first thing I always ask somebody when somebody explained something to me and it sometimes pisses them off, "Why did you do it that way?" Or "Why is it done this way?"
Mike: And they will think that I'm asking them that because I'm wanting to catch them off guard or something. No, I sincerely want to know why this was done this way because down the line, we may not do this exact thing but if I understand the why behind it, I can apply that why to the next thing that we're going to do with it.
Kathleen: I love that because it's like when my son was little and everything was a why. "Mom, why is the grass green?" "Why is the sky blue?" And he really wanted to know but as a parent, I was like, "Oh, my God."
Mike: Well, we forget. We forget that we ask why.
Kathleen: Hey Siri, why is blah, blah, blah. Now my phone is actually going to start yelling at me about stuff.
Mike: You embrace the why. I mean that's the key.
Kathleen: That's why kids learn so much so quickly. It's because they do ask those questions.
Mike: It's going back too, don't forget to wish upon a star. Meaning also, don't forget to ask why. We forget that. We go into soldier roles or we're going into various things but why isn't because you were trying to formulate an opinion. It's because you're trying to formulate an understanding.
Kathleen: So you literally just gave me the perfect full circle back to the beginning of our conversation, recapturing the childlike sense within you. So now I'm going to shift gears and we're going to go to the two questions I ask all my guests because otherwise we're going to run out of time and I want to know your answers. The first one is, we've talked about a ton of stuff that's changing in this industry. And there's no doubt that that advertising, ad ops, as an industry is changing quickly so how do you stay on top of it all? What are your favorite sources of information?
Mike: Everything, frankly.
Kathleen: You've got to pick a few favorites though.
Mike: I know. Well, frankly, it's staying involved in events. I know especially with 2020, everyone's like, "Are events really necessary?" Yeah, they are.
Kathleen: Which events are your favorites?
Mike: AdMonsters definitely is one of them. I definitely peel most of my learnings from Admonsters, the ones that I've been to just because you get really down and nitty gritty and you're not just posturing on stage, you're really sharing good information which is necessary. I love ALM because you get a lot of smart people at ALM from IAB and that's a great time. And aside from that I mean, I'm not going to say I don't like Digiday. I love Digiday, they got fun events and great people. I mean, look, I'll name them all right? Realistically, each event brings its own different crowd, its own realm of education and information and it allows for you to... Sorry for the jingle, that was Finn waking up.
Kathleen: Hi Finn.
Mike: It allows you to stay up to date with things. And aside from that, being involved in the trades. I'm fortunate now that I get to also... Yeah, I get pain from various reporters when they're wanting to run trade articles so I get to kind of stay in the trades that way as well from both a contributor as well as learning.
Kathleen: Yeah, you can learn a lot from reporters for sure.
Mike: 100%. And being part of different professional groups, learning your tribe, I say network like it's a cliche but it's true. And it's not because I'm networking just for the value of my career but I'm networking for the value of my knowledge. Learning from peers, naturally humans are a tribal based society. But we tend to go ego in a sense of going to ourselves and then separating ourselves from other people. But you can't do that, especially with this past year and a half, two years. It's really easy to be stuck in your apartment in New York City and forget people exist.
Mike: But I think the other part of staying connected is... I'm trying to think of the right word. But it's remembering to make an effort. Back to intent, it's intending to make that effort. It's remembering, "Hey, let's reach out-"
Mike: Yeah, it's key. Because nothing's going to be thrown on to your plate. Nobody's going to just give you the answer, you've got to find it.
Kathleen: That is so true. That's so true. All right, second question. Who else out there is doing amazing work in ad ops and who should be the next guest on this podcast?
Mike: Well, I think I already named them, oddly enough. But no, Fred Godfrey and Stephen Strong. I know that's two people but they're co-founders of Origin Media. Worked with them in Newsy and they're doing some incredible things. I've heard some recent updates with the platforms that they're building, the revenue that they've been able to generate in a short period of time, it's very, very just impactful. And it's also inspiring to see them their companies growing. One of my other friends, she just joined the team over there and when she was consulted me about it, I was like, "Do it." They are a pair to be reckoned with and just fantastic people both [crosstalk 00:46:43] and professionally.
Kathleen: Awesome. All right, well now I know who I'm coming after next. All right, if somebody wants to learn more about you or has a question, I mean, you shared so many amazing things. If they just want to connect with you, what's the best way for them to do that?
Mike: Hit me up on LinkedIn, Mike Richter. You'll see me there, I'm usually pointing at my shirt that says technical difficulties. That's my life. And by all means that please feel free to hit me up there. I love making new connections. I love sharing what I can share and being able to not only share my knowledge but also learn because I learned from everybody, no matter how much experience they have, no matter how old they are, you learn. And if you accept the fact that you can learn, you're only bettering yourself and you're you're only increasing your equity that you have to remember to know every single day.
Kathleen: Well, that is a wonderful note for us to end on. And so everybody who's listening, thank you so much for joining me. I hope you enjoyed this episode as much as I did because this was just such a wonderful conversation and I feel like my cup is full leaving it. And if you want to connect with Mike, I will put those links in the show notes. So head there to get the LinkedIn profile. And if you enjoyed it, consider heading to Apple podcasts and leaving the podcast a review, that's how other folks find us. And in the meantime, if you want to learn more about protecting your user experience or your revenue or you just want to hear more interviews with leading ad ops experts, you can head to clean.io and check out our resource center where you'll find all of our podcasts as well as our other content.
Kathleen: That is it for this week. Thank you so much Mike for joining me. This was wonderful.
Mike: Thank you so much. I'm so happy that we connected and look forward to many more fun times with you.
Kathleen: Yes, I can't wait.