ViralGains Milestones: Celebrating AJ Jaggi’s 10 Year Anniversary with ViralGains
In the constantly evolving world of advertising it takes a unique perspective and skill set to navigate the industry for over a decade. Yet, AJ Jaggi – a seasoned AdTech professional and our Director of Enterprise Solutions, has accomplished just that. As we celebrate his 10-year work anniversary here at ViralGains, we had the opportunity to sit down with AJ to discuss his journey into the industry, the biggest challenges he’s seen over the past decade, and what he’s loved most about his time at ViralGains.
How did you get into the industry?
I fell into it! I majored in Finance and had something lined up at a firm heading into Spring 2013, but the start-up and tech worlds were thriving and I wanted to get involved. I knew I would likely be unpaid, and therefore living at home, so I reached out to startups pitching T.I.E, a Boston based angel group.
ViralGains was the first to return my phone call. I flew up to Boston, met Jay, our CEO at the time, and after meeting the rest of the founding team, I enthusiastically signed on. I still wasn’t 100% sure what ad-tech, video, etc., was, but I took the leap!
Since my first day at VG, I’ve been learning and observing growth in an industry that somewhat operated behind the scenes. Consumers knew about advertising, but not many understood the mechanisms, deal-making and technology that fueled it. It was fascinating to learn about a field through a career and experience versus what I was taught in the classroom. Start-ups are incredible crash courses.
What are the biggest challenges you’ve seen in advertising over the past 10 years?
One of the biggest challenges that still plague advertisers today is tying Brand to Demand i.e. operating a truly connected funnel. We have large siloed organizations, both on the advertiser and agency side.
These entities are still working to not only connect things like awareness to conversion via technology, but to communicate these goals holistically at the planning stage. This leads to fragmented programs and caps a platform’s ability to support brands and agencies in bridging this gap. With a contracting market, I think you’ll see more advertisers looking to map business outcomes against comms and top funnel marketing efforts. Hopefully platforms that have the infrastructure to demonstrate this will net in a better position by EOY.
What has been the biggest industry shift you’ve seen over the last 10 years?
The focus on automation and the trickle effects from it.
You have some of the highest valued companies today in the industry own the Programmatic space, and are now pioneering subsequent iterations in the form of unique identifiers. These platforms have not just done well in the private markets, but some have even performed on the public market, which has been a tough arena for advertising. Agency trading desks are now full business units positioned as cost, then value, drivers for the holding co.
Manual / lag reporting is being phased out, optimizations are made in real-time as best as possible. For example, you currently see this happening in the brand health monitoring space. You also have the shift from inventory to consumer. Forward looking publishers, retailers and data partners have been building audience sets that are ready for the market. Over time consumers have become much more succinctly purchasable.
What have you loved most about your time at ViralGains?
Very quick and easy answer, the people I’ve met!
Over 10 years, I’ve seen full classes of individuals come and go through ViralGains, and I know I can call folks up today from every stage of the company. On the other side of the coin, are teammates I’ve worked with for the full 10 years now, and it doesn’t get easier to solve problems with an experienced team like that.
We came up during a time when workplace norms were shifting and the focus was more on output than input. This freed up time to create memories outside of the office and celebrate victories along the way as a unit. Everyone trusted each other to do their part, and we grew at a fast clip, largely thanks to this structure. It was a lot of work in hindsight, but did not feel like it at the time. The net net of all this was our culture, and that has truly endured time and our growth.
What excites you about the future of the industry?
Ad-tech / Mar-tech still uses a ton of energy! There are now panels, groups, and companies being built that are addressing the industry’s footprint. This is particularly interesting for Media because you have entities like B-corps and publishers in the ecosystem which can already establish base infrastructure and with greenwashing the funding will be there.
Additionally, the focus on privacy. As I mentioned earlier, when I started, consumers didn’t understand the advertising value exchange ($ for attention) and then $ for your data. Now that we have savvier consumers, we have enough forces working in a positive direction to protect people, and ethical businesses, in the face of cheap impressions.
What advice would you give someone who wants to get into the AdTech space?
Tie it to a passion!
The cool thing about ad-tech is that it intersects many industries, so if possible, try and get involved in a company that is adjacent to the form of Media you enjoy. Whether that be Video, Audio, TV, Digital OOH, AR/VR, there are many many companies within many many niches, and in today’s a-la-carte of startups… take your pick. And, you don’t have to go the start-up route, there are many larger cap ad-tech companies in the space now.
However, I would work at a challenger brand to start. You can learn very fast, and get connected to the right people without any red tape. You may fall on your face multiple times, but it is worth it. From there, see where you want to take your career next. I chose to stay to learn the sale of our company but could’ve just as easily explored different avenues after 5 yrs.
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