Moloco poaches Bill Michels from the Trade Desk to run its retail media group

Bill MichelManaging Director, Retail Media

Bill Michels knows programmatic data.

For the past two years, he has led the entire product group of The Trade Desk.

At Yahoo Search in the mid-2000s, he was senior director of product management. He then served as chief operating officer of location data company Factual, and later served as chief data officer at Foursquare, following the acquisition of Factual.

Now Michels is heading to Moloco, where he starts as general manager of the company’s retail media business unit.

Why go from The Trade Desk and a string of big names in online advertising to an upstart player like Moloco?

This is the potential opportunity in retail media to leverage the web’s most lucrative invention: the search query.

“I think research is one of the most elegant businesses ever. I like simplicity,” Michels said.

Retail media today is like the early days of search, he said. Brand new vertical and marketing applications are discovered seemingly week by week. AdExchanger caught up with Michels about his new gig and the opportunity he sees for retail advertising to shake up the internet, as he’s seen at the forefront with companies like Yahoo and The Trade Desk.

AdExchanger: What is the appeal of retail media for you, with your background in programmatic?

BILL MICHELS: Retailers are in a very strong position because they allocate spending at the right time in the consumer journey.

Nor is it intrusive. Retail ads play into the flow of purchases and discoveries. Done right, search results ads are super relevant.

It’s also great because marketplaces have a login experience. A regular inventory item, an advertiser gets a contextual keyword or signal, maybe third-party segment data, and if you’re lucky, a first-party data snippet that might be a cookie or to another identification key.

Retail media is a product where you swim in first-party data. Especially in a platform that can relay that first-party data. What has this person purchased over time? What are they looking for in different markets? The retail advertising platform is integrated with this first-party data and all of this data is part of every impression and search opportunity.

Retail advertising makes sense for retailers, but does it benefit the open web, which has been a big part of programmatic value?

Something I liked about The Trade Desk is that they were an open web advocate. I love creating products that help prevent the concentration of power from landing with just a few.

How this idea translates into retail media, first of all, is that we want to have lots and lots of places where merchants can sell their products and where consumers can buy those products. As for the long tail of content publishers and app developers who have a small set of proprietary data, they now have incredibly rich proprietary data that can extend to their apps, or also CTV apps , and increase those CPMs.

If the merchant is satisfied with the higher price he is paying based on the data the retailer brings, that retailer can bring [that] data to be carried on the open internet [buying media for the merchant].

Retail media currently seems limited to retailer sites and apps. So where does all the inventory come from?

I see what you mean. I had the same reaction in the past when I started broadcasting on CTV. I was thinking, like, “Isn’t that like five apps with the whole audience?”

But as you dig in, you realize, oh, there’s a lot of these streaming apps that I don’t use as a consumer, but have huge volume and APIs that bundle them together. And they are very significant taken together.

And on the retail media side, I would say there’s a similar pattern with marketplaces. They are everywhere in the world, constantly more and more numerous. We’ve been incredibly successful in Asia, where we’re seeing these marketplaces emerge and our list of targets keeps growing.

Maybe there’s a Shopify merchant that sells hammocks or a mechanic that sells auto parts and service. Three years ago they were buying ads on Facebook and that steering wheel was spinning. Maybe they sold on Amazon and used those sponsored search ads.

There’s been a realization now where these independent sellers are saying, “Oh, there’s 30 other places I can sell my product.”

Think of it like this: there are Doordashes in every country. Many of them. And in every vertical – carpooling, travel, ticket sales, furniture, etc. – there are market versions for this.

We will propel the search and sponsored ads product into these other retail markets. In terms of CTV’s offering, as you get to know these markets, they are much larger in scale than you might initially anticipate.

About Ricardo Schulte

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