10 Years’ Streamlining Ad Management: Q&A with Founder & CEO Bernd Bube
We are very proud to be celebrating the ten year anniversary of the ADvendio product. Reaching the 10th-anniversary milestone has been the result of a lot of hard work and an unwavering commitment to provide customers with trusted and focused solutions for full-service media buying and ad sales.
It is highly unusual for a consultancy to transition into a software company. But this was the secret to ADvendio’s success, recognising the problems within the advertising market from the customer’s point of view allowed the ADvendio software to develop on a solid foundation. Fast forward to today and ADvendio is the leading advertising management solution built on Salesforce for publishers, advertisers and agencies. ADvendio now operates globally with offices in Ireland, Germany, Chile and the US providing service and support to customers in more than 25 countries worldwide. Building on the successes of the past 10 years ADvendio looks forward to the next ten, striving to achieve their vision of creating unrivaled advertising solutions that bring teams together to buy and sell advertising on one platform.
To mark this special milestone we sat down with Bernd to speak about how ADvendio came about, as well as some of the highs and lows of the past ten years, while also taking a look forward to the next ten.
How about we start off with a brief history of ADvendio?
ADvendio was officially founded in 2004, but not as the software company it is known as today. After spending a number of years working in the media industry I founded ADvendio as a Salesforce consultancy. During this time I began to understand the advantages of Salesforce.com and software as a service (SaaS) solutions as well as the need to focus specifically on one industry and create standardized solutions that did not require lengthy implementation projects, but would instead function straight out of the box.
I realised that there was a gap in the market for a full process management solution designed specifically for the advertising industry. Many of the technical elements for print and broadcasting were available on the market. However, there was nothing available in an easy-to-use format and most solutions would take a lot of development work to implement effectively. Digital advertising was also highly fragmented at the time and it was clear there were many inefficiencies across all of these media channels. Available solutions required joining a number of platforms into one in order to create something that was viable for any advertising enterprise no matter what channel they focused on. The solution was ADvendio, a cross channel advertising sales, order and finance solution that brought together all departments involved in selling advertising and made the process easier for everyone.
Greatest challenges you faced over the past 10 years?
Without a doubt, the greatest challenge I have faced over the past 10 years has been to build ADvendio to what it is today without any external investment. Bootstrapping the company from its inception has been difficult, especially during times of international financial strain such as the 2008 banking crisis. However, seeing the company grow to be self-sustaining while also retaining the control to bring to life our vision from inception has been a great privilege. Some may have seen this as a limitation, but in truth this allowed us to be much more forward-thinking in our approach to ensure what we were developing created value for our customers.
A big stand out for me has been undertaking ADvendio’s global transformation including setting up offices across multiple international locations. This involved learning new laws, adjusting schedules to work effectively across multiple time zones and hiring staff in languages and locations that were unfamiliar. On a brighter note, learning about many new cultures and perspectives that would have been closed off to us if we had remained within Germany was part of the many positive aspects of our global transformation. Part of this internationalization also required us to pivot from German to using English as the primary language of communication within the company. This took some getting used to for sure but with an excellent base level of English in Germany as a whole this was a great opportunity to excel our expansion opportunities globally.
And of course, 2020 has given us one of the most universal challenges of our time, COVID 19. This has been a tough time for all businesses to adjust to new patterns of work, on/off worldwide restrictions, and uncertainty in so many aspects of our lives. However, I think that as a company ADvendio had embraced remote work long before the COVID 19 pandemic and this has been an advantage for us in adjusting to the current situation. Our remote sales and implementation processes had been finely tuned before this year and for us, it is great to be able to guarantee customers remotely sold & implemented solutions at a time where we have seen an increase in the companies who are in need of immediate help.
Highlights from 10 years in business?
Of course, your first customer is always going to be a standout moment. In our case, this was the digital advertising unit of a leading German telecom. Generally speaking, you have to start out small and grow over time, but ADvendio over the years has not been afraid to tackle the biggest challenges head-on and ensure success.
As I mentioned many of our challenges came from the globalization of ADvendio, that is why reaching the milestone of having ADvendio customers licensed in over 25 countries worldwide is a stand out in my mind. This was a result of the dedication and passion put in by all of the team members now located across the globe to make ADvendio a success and satisfy the needs of publishers, advertisers, and agencies worldwide.
Being built and operated on the Salesforce platform was a decision made right from inception. We understood that using the guaranteed security and scalability of a world leader like Salesforce would help us to better focus on the key deliverables for the advertising industry rather than spending our time learning and improving security functions. As such, becoming a certified salesforce ISV partner in 2011 was a huge highlight for me. The relationship we have had with Salesforce has always been strong and to be recognized as a fully native application was a great milestone for us all.
This year has also brought more highlights for us as a business as we expand our offering to new revenue-generating channels for publishers, advertisers and agencies by incorporating Media Buying support and Self Service Advertising into our solution offerings. We expect many more highlights to come in the months and years to follow.
Any learnings from the past 10 years in business?
The greatest learning for sure has been actively engaging in listening to customers and creating solutions to their problems. As mentioned earlier, this has been at the core of ADvendio from the beginning, recognizing problems and helping customers to solve them through technology. Customers know best about their problems, you just have to become the one that knows how best to solve those problems.
A small but important learning has been to invest in your technology & hardware as this is the backbone of your work. If you can come into work every day trusting the technology and hardware then you build your day on a solid foundation and success is only restricted by your own limitations!
Something which is maybe difficult to get right from the start but highly important for global success is to plan for scale and always be future-focused in your mindset when planning, especially in terms of technology decisions. Do not focus on how best to serve the 5 customers you have in front of you right now but think of the 500 potential customers you could satisfy with your product and be prepared to serve them all when they find out how good your solution is. Otherwise, you will spend much of your time scaling solutions to meet greater needs than expected rather than focusing on developing the new solutions they haven’t realized they need yet!
Lastly, for us personally, it is important to remember to never lose focus on building a standardized product. We have talked to many customers about their history of purchasing solutions that end up being development projects rather than products. Our goal is to offer our customers something that will work for them as soon as they need it to. To solve problems that are currently causing issues with immediately implementable products.
View to the future for the next 10 years?
I believe the future holds a more interconnected advertising ecosystem in terms of the platforms used to buy & sell advertising. I can see a future where media buying and advertising sales becomes more converged by bringing direct and indirect buying and selling together with emerging technologies. This will drive efficiencies for both sides of the market and create a more effective industry as a whole.
The technologies that will play a key role in the future of the advertising market will be the continued development and evolution of programmatic advertising. The growth of self-service advertising platforms to help empower advertisers and drive efficiencies for sellers of advertising inventory. As well as the emergence and widespread availability of big data, automation and artificial intelligence. AI and automation are particularly important for the future as it will help to make use of the enormous amount of data points currently being underutilized in today’s market. Many publishers, advertisers and agencies already have the data they need to transform their advertising buying and selling but simply do not have the resources, time, or tools to make this work to their advantage.
For example, data-driven decision making is becoming essential for modern publishers and advertisers to stay competitive while effectively meeting growing client needs. Having all your data integrated into one system as a single source of truth will allow publishers, advertisers and agencies to engage in data-driven decision making and improve overall cooperation between departments. An omnichannel advertising management solution incorporating sales, finance, operations, external users, management and more is needed to align these historically siloed functions.
Speaking specifically about the future of ADvendio. Similar to the rarity of the consultant switching to be a solution provider — our future evolution from a solution provider to an interconnected platform provider is uncommon, but great results should be expected.