Shiv Gupta, U of Digital: “The why behind the what”

“The why behind the what”

It is a complex and ever-changing fast-paced industry we are in - with no shortage of new technologies and buzzwords to keep up with. This creates a need for not only education on everything that happens but a constant evolution of that education as new topics and acronyms emerge.

In the latest episode of our Identity Architects podcast, InfoSum's VP, Corporate Marketing, Ben Cicchetti, sat down with Shiv Gupta, Founder of U of Digital, to discuss educating the industry, collaboration, the value exchange, and more.

“It's really important to understand the why behind what you're doing, and I don't think people push hard enough early in their careers to say wait, hold on, why am I doing it this way? Why are we selling it this way? Why is it set up this way? Why does it work this way? And I think like first of all, that's a muscle that you want to build earlier in your career because you're going to use that throughout your career. It's going to help you be smart. It's going to help you elevate yourself, your career, your business, your organization. Understanding the why behind the what. Having that mentality is crucial.” 

So true. And it is so important to work in an environment that encourages asking questions, and also forming opinions.  

“Kind of playing off of that is, start forming opinions really early. And the reason I say this is I think it feels like an obvious thing, of course, having opinions is hard. It's not easy right? If you think about it. The example I always use is when you read the news, right? If you read an article. [...] I'd say nine out of ten people read [it], and they just keep moving, right? One out of ten people read [it], and they take a few minutes after reading it to think about it and form an opinion, and that part of it is hard, right? That requires like mental gymnastics, that requires maybe asking some questions, maybe doing some follow-up work, and forming that opinion is what separates people.”

That education piece is so important, especially when it comes to our industry. With the only constant being change, it’s important to revisit opinions and widen our knowledge, whether that be through training, news, industry events, community groups, or peers, to have an informed point of view.

“The pace of change in our space is accelerating, right? It's only getting more and more complicated. There's new technologies coming out at a faster clip all the time. There's new acronyms, there's new jargon, there's new companies. And because of that, if you don't evolve rapidly with it, if you don't learn about everything that's going on, you're going to fall behind.”

And that is where U of Digital comes in, because you often need to look outside of your own company to ensure you’re not remaining stuck in a bubble. Bringing in experts with a broad understanding of all aspects of the industry rather than just having someone internally be a subject matter expert, ensures you’re gaining a holistic understanding of emerging opportunities.

“I was at CES and I heard this constantly as a theme in my meetings at CES, which is, companies have done a great job of evolving their products into new areas, right? Okay, well if you're a linear TV company, now you're doing this cool stuff with CTV, now you're using a clean room, now you're using an ID solution. Cool, awesome. You've evolved your product. Have you evolved your people?”

U of Digital is clearly doing a fantastic job of educating the industry and organizations within it. But what about consumers? Realistically, most consumers have minimal awareness of the role they play on a minute-by-minute basis within our industry. Who's responsible for educating them on how their data is used and that value exchange that we all know exists between consumers and brands and media owners?

“There's not a right answer. Obviously, there's a lot of hypotheses and thoughts. I think consumers are obviously critical. They form the industry, right? Their behaviors and what they do kind of form the industry and what we do in order to reach them. So I think it's important to bring them into the conversation. I also think it's important to have a delicate kind of balance between oversharing and bombarding. [...] I think it's incumbent on big tech. You know, big tech has the dollars and the muscle. We've seen it with Apple. Apple is the biggest advertiser in the world, right? That's why they've gotten consumers to kind of latch onto this idea of privacy is critical. Other big tech needs to kind of follow in their footsteps. And maybe tell a more, let's say, honest message, or send a more honest message, and so I think that's critical. And then, obviously, it's incumbent upon all of us.”

It is so important that consumers understand what’s happening and why, that there’s a reason that value exchange is happening and they, therefore, have a role to play. But they need to be treated in a privacy-first way that protects their data. And it is on all of us - a collective responsibility - to build a better future and face challenges such as ad fraud head-on. 

“We're getting closer and closer and closer to the truth, and I think that's what's important to recognize. We can't stop doing that work, right? We can't get frustrated, and we can't feel like, ‘oh well, this is futile because we are demonstrating progression.’ The industry has gotten better from having no viewability to having viewability to now having attention to then hopefully you know now we're testing incrementality a lot more thoughtfully. We're getting better and better and better. Let's keep that good work up because that's what's going to help us eventually get rid of fraud. And listen, I think the reality is we're never going to get rid of it. It's a digital ecosystem, like again, digital is exposed in that way to bad actors but we can continue to get better and better and better. And in order to do that, we have to stick to it. We have to kind of continue to do the good work.”

Absolutely. It is so important to also recognize that it can often feel like you're in a spiral going around in circles. But as long as that spiral is going up and not down, then we're making progress, and we're actually heading to a better place. Another of those topics that can sometimes feel like we are having a little bit of a Groundhog Day is the third-party cookie that is now - finally - going away. Which leaves us to wonder: What will be the next hot topic?

“Long term, I think the industry hopefully will get refocused on marketing to a certain extent, right? Like get refocused on great creatives, get refocused on doing a great job with planning and strategy. The thing is, it always comes back to data, and so we're never going away from that headline, right? Data is always going to be the headline. But I think right now, there's a fear aspect to that headline. Hopefully, next year, there will be more of like an optimism headline.”

Always look on the bright side. So true. Thanks, Shiv, for the chat!