Dave Castell is GM of Inventory and Partnerships EMEA at demand-side platform The Trade Desk.
Econsultancy caught up with him to find out what his role involves day-to-day, his ‘non-traditional route’ into advertising, what excites him about the direction that TV advertising is taking, and why he believes that advertising can make the world a better place.
Hi, Dave. Please describe your job: What do you do?
Dave Castell: I’m the General Manager, EMEA for Inventory and Partnerships at The Trade Desk. We’re the biggest independent demand side platform (DSP) globally, and our clients – media agencies and brands – use our technology to buy ads programmatically, enabling them to engage with exactly the right audiences in the right place and at the right time.
The inventory for these ads has to come from somewhere, and that’s where my team comes in. We manage The Trade Desk’s relationships with our supply side platform (SSP) partners who aggregate inventory from many different publishers. We also develop and maintain direct relationships with most cross-channel major publishers and media owners as well many of Europe’s largest broadcasters, as appetite for Connected TV – a really exciting channel – ramps up across the region.
Whereabouts do you sit within the organisation? Who do you report to?
Dave Castell: I’m based in London and, technically, my role spans EMEA. This is a little misleading in practice, though, as we really do see ourselves as a truly global company with offices in all regions of the world – and Inventory and Partnerships is the glue between many different functions across the business.
From evangelising the future of CTV at an industry conference, to collaborating with our international commercial leaders and teams to troubleshooting complex ad ops and transparency challenges, or advising agencies and CMOs on how to increase their advertising yield, we bounce all over the place ensuring everything runs smoothly. Silos don’t exist at The Trade Desk.
I report to our New York-based Senior Vice President of Global Partnerships.
What kind of skills do you need to be effective in your role?
Dave Castell: We need to be entrepreneurial and ambitious, with a real desire to innovate and move the industry forwards. But this should be balanced with an open-minded flexibility that allows us to be able to continually refresh our approach and change the way we think – as well as learn new skills.
This isn’t just for my role, though. These are attributes that everyone at The Trade Desk has and it’s one of the reasons it is such a great place to work. Everyone has an innate ability to be empathetic and understand our clients’ and partners’ needs, but also super ambitious about what we can do as a company. And of course, this is all underpinned by a real passion for media and advertising.
Tell us about a typical working day…
Dave Castell: My time tends to be split between five key priorities: maintaining and growing existing partnerships, networking and prospecting new partnerships, supporting with PR, thought leadership and marketing activity, innovating and developing our offering, and – very importantly – growing and working day to day with our great team. I love meeting and interviewing new talent too.
I always try to include at least one random activity in my week that surprises me or takes me out of my comfort zone. For example, a partner might come to speak to us about a gaming product that seems tangential to The Trade Desk’s business right now, but gives us an exciting hint about what’s going to happen in five years’ time.
While my work days are always busy, I’m a big believer in work-life balance and switching off when I get home – not that I have much option with four kids with packed social lives! Jeff Green, our CEO, is great at empowering and inspiring people to develop a healthy work-life balance, and you can really see that at all levels of The Trade Desk.
What do you love about your job? What sucks?
Dave Castell: There is so much I love about my job. The culture at The Trade Desk is genuinely unique, and I don’t say that lightly. We’re living the digital dream. It’s really refreshing to work at such an open, supportive company where everyone can truly be themselves.
I also enjoy the pace, and the ethos of what we do. We’re supporting the free and open internet, and ultimately want to make it a better place for advertisers and consumers alike.
Having worked a lot in music and entertainment, it’s important to know that we are ultimately supporting culture and the wider ecosystem of creative content too.
What sucks? The level of willpower required to resist the amazing array of snacks in our office kitchen. Watch out for the M&Ms. [laughs]
What kind of goals do you have? What are the most useful metrics and KPIs for measuring success?
Dave Castell: World peace through advertising. I’m only half-joking, ha! Although it sounds ridiculously grandiose, I think it’s our job to make the world a better place through advertising. More and more of the world’s population is coming online and we’re all better connected than ever before. It’s really important that we continue to advocate for a transparent, unbiased advertising ecosystem to properly support the development of digital experiences for a whole generation coming online.
I’m a big believer in the power of KPIs, and of course, as in any business, we need to adhere to lots of well thought-through strategic goals globally. But I find it most effective to ask my team members, ‘What is it that you want to achieve?’ – and then tie that personal goal into a KPI relating to our work. I want my team members to thrive and be the best versions of themselves so the work we deliver is the best it can be.
What are your favourite tools to help you to get the job done?
Dave Castell: As a global company, we couldn’t communicate effectively without video conference tool Zoom. And, while not that exciting, my Outlook calendar is vital for helping me to maximise my time and fit as many meetings in as I possibly can!
Personally, I’m also loving Trello as a way to balance home and work. I’ve discovered incentivising my children to do chores in exchange for screen time. Sounds a bit mean? Perhaps so, but it’s been a game changer in our house…
How did you end up at The Trade Desk, and where might you go from here?
Dave Castell: It’s fair to say I’ve taken a non-traditional route into my role. I started off in digital content and journalism, then moved into start-ups and agency-side innovation, then to big tech companies around entertainment partnerships and finally consultancy within TV and mobile before joining The Trade Desk.
I’ve always been up for experimenting in different industries and trying new things. So, with that in mind, who knows where I’ll be in five or ten years? Saying that, there’s still so much to do in programmatic. No-one could have predicted that the digital advertising landscape would look like this ten years ago, so who knows where we’ll be a decade from now.
Perhaps in my later years I’ll do something more ‘worthy’ involving innovation and music, or raising mental health awareness. These are some of my big passions outside of work.
Which campaigns have impressed you lately?
Dave Castell: I’m really excited by the direction TV advertising is heading in, as we start to move beyond traditional linear ad breaks. We’ve seen some brilliant partnerships from Netflix, including collaborations between the Stranger Things team and Coca Cola and Lego to enable consumers to experience the brands in new ways. We’re going to see a lot more of this kind of content in the future.
At Cannes this year it also struck me there’s a real opportunity to think about how as an ecosystem we (re)-introduce creativity into multi-channel programmatic. There’s a massive amount of innovation and opportunity from film and TV producers at the moment too. We are living through a golden age of creative content and advertising!
What advice would you give a marketer optimising their media spend/mix?
Dave Castell: Get involved in programmatic ASAP, if you’re not already! Today’s marketers are expected to do more than ever before with fewer resources, and, as a result, many don’t have the time to explore how programmatic technology can transform their campaigns. But it really can. Programmatic can help marketers target more effectively and at much greater scale across multiple channels, as well as delivering crucial insights about campaigns in real-time.
Take TV as an example. Marketers spend billions on linear TV ad campaigns without knowing who they’re reaching and how effective they’re being. With CTV, we can target specific audiences and track every pound to see the return on investment, whilst also lining up a brand’s great creative campaigns with the best premium content.
Finally, if you haven’t listened to The Beatles’ A Day In The Life track, stick it on. Favourite bits are Lennon sounding laconic in the verses and McCartney sounding ridiculously happy bouncing out of bed in the middle section. Does that make me an optimist? [laughs]