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Integral Ad Science’s Csaba Szabo on contextual advertising and CTV
Ecommerce Trends

Integral Ad Science’s Csaba Szabo on contextual advertising and CTV

Csaba Szabo is Managing Director EMEA at Integral Ad Science. I recently caught up with Csaba to find out more about his role, trends in advertising such as contextual advertising and connected TV (CTV), and what’s next for IAS.

Image credit: Csaba Szabo

Tell me about your role at IAS – what are you most focused on right now?

I joined IAS at the beginning of this year as its Managing Director in EMEA to further expand growth across our priority markets. My main focus is on building on our industry-leading product, data, and insights to deepen our relationships with clients and partners in the EMEA region.

I believe that we have a winning formula in programmatic, and am excited by the significant emphasis we’re putting on expanding with social platforms and doubling down on agency relationships. I believe we are very well positioned to win in CTV as well, and so am delighted to be bringing our offerings to the region.

I am also a leader of our ESG task force at IAS, and I’m pleased to be working alongside a passionate and dedicated team on our ambitious goals of making IAS an even more diverse, and inclusive company that makes positive contributions to our social and physical environment.

Compassion and a strong moral compass have always been at my core, both as a person and a leader. Assuming positive intent and believing that we are all working together towards a good outcome are beneficial driving forces in my roles as both a regional leader and as a commercial partner to many global brands.

It is even more important that I bring these core beliefs into global markets as we engage with issues around geo-political conflict and the role the internet plays in these. It really puts our work into a new perspective. Reducing misinformation and creating a safer, better trusted experience on the internet is critically important across the globe, as is ensuring that advertising budgets do not support misinformation agendas. This work matters now more than ever.

It has been a busy start to 2022 for myself and IAS but, despite challenging circumstances, we are already delivering strong results. We have made strategic acquisitions such as European-based AI and video classification company Context. We have also deepened partnerships and platforms, and truly maximised outcomes. It’s exciting to join the company at such a fruitful time for innovation and business development.

How are advertisers approaching brand safety right now?

Advertisers are clearly shifting focus from brand safety towards the intersection of brand safety and suitability. This has become paramount for brands not only to prevent ads from appearing next to undesirable content but also to allow it to appear next to contextually relevant content online.

This has become more challenging due to the pandemic driving people to consume more digital content than ever while social justice movements have permeated news cycles. As we continue to navigate through the pandemic and the military conflict in Europe, emerging analytical technologies are allowing advertisers the tools to instantly gain precise ad targeting techniques on a large scale.

What are some of the biggest trends you’re seeing in your industry?

There are two main trends that we’re seeing in ad tech right now. The first is the adoption of contextual targeting. Google’s shift from FLoC to Topics has been the tipping point in digital advertising’s evolution from audience-based targeting to contextual targeting. More advertisers and publishers are integrating contextual insights and strategies to optimise their digital media quality, with consumer privacy as priority number one.

As a result, brand risk has made significant declines, improving by -6.9 percentage points between H2 2020 and H2 2021 for mobile web video environments for example. This news should be a call to action for every marketer and publisher to be proactive and consider how they scale their contextual efforts in the months ahead – especially as context can boost ad memorability by up to 40%.

We’re also seeing more and more advertiser budgets moving towards CTV. The growth in audience it experienced during the pandemic is continuing unabated, and in response, it is representing a growing portion of the media mix.

What’s next for IAS in terms of business strategy and growth?

As mentioned above, the use of CTV is rapidly expanding, and so this is an area of focus for IAS. Almost half of media experts agree that CTV and digital video hold the most potential for innovation in 2022.

Yet, where cost per mille (CPM) is high, fraudsters may look for ways to get ahead of the technology. But further verification metrics, such as brand safety for CTV or content classification of video, can help counteract fraud in the sector. Through our acquisition of Context and Publica, as well as ongoing innovation, we have a fantastic opportunity to build on our CTV successes and accelerate our growth in 2022 and beyond.

Social partnerships are also high up the agenda. Platforms such as Facebook, TikTok and YouTube are continuing to be a critical part of media plans, and so bringing safety and suitability options to these areas is vital.

Finally, the company will be focusing on bringing its services to an even wider international audience. One of the main reasons I felt excited about joining IAS was not only its already existing market-leading position internationally, but also its big ambitions to expand into new frontiers.

We are partnering closely with our larger clients and working with them collaboratively on what markets are critical for their strategy, then bringing our products and services to these new regions to support them.

What advice would you give to others starting out in advertising?

Whether someone is beginning their journey in advertising, or has been around for many years, I’d encourage them to never stop learning.

The technology and the marketplace is evolving rapidly, creating more and more complexity for all players in the ecosystem. I remember how complicated the LUMAscapes of our industry looked 15 years ago – it’s not any simpler now.

Exposure to as many parts of the ecosystem as possible is important for anyone starting out. I was fortunate enough to work first on the publisher side, gain experience with running an ad network, work with the creative side, as well as with marketers within a brand, before finally joining IAS…

Regardless of the journey, thriving for excellence and superior customer experience is critical. I always lean on the advice that was given by my Managing Director when I started my career in a small boutique management consulting firm in Hungary. They told me to ask one simple question before sending work to a client: “If you were to show this piece of work to the Queen of England, would you be proud of it?”

It was a fabulous learning experience when starting out in such a client-obsessed environment, and it’s a lesson that has stuck with me and served me well over the last two decades.

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