The PPC Show

Machine Learning and The Future of Advertising

On this episode Jason Wu, CTO and Co-Founder at AdStage, joins The PPC Show. Besides leading the engineering effort there, he also loves running and is constantly learning about new tech topics ranging from security to AI.

Listen to the full episode of The PPC Show as he talks about the early days of AdStage, machine learning, and the future of advertising.

And we have an exciting announcement that we're now on Spotify PodcastsAs always you can find us on Apple PodcastsStitcherSpreaker, PlayerFMOvercastSoundcloud, & Tunein Radio.

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Show Notes & Transcript

Paul Wicker:                 I'm your host Paul Wicker, and this is the PPC Show. This week's episode is totally different. We talked to the co-founder of AdStage, Jason Wu. He's the technical founder. We basically learned his origin story. Why did he decide to get into the crazy entrepreneurship world? Little did he know he's be running a successful startup five years later. We learned a lot about those early days at AdStage, what it was like, and some of those early products that have never seen the light of day. We record the PPC Show most Tuesday at 10AM, and you can find more episodes on SoundCloud, and at times, iTunes. Enjoy the episode. To start it off, before the audio was working, you said have I ever heard stories about the old days?

Jason Wu:                    Yeah, yeah. Even before AdStage Express, when it first joined AdStage, and I first joined Sahil in this crazy journey, he was actually working with a couple of folks. I think they were interns at Trigger, his previous company. They were just trying to figure out a few ideas about how to create AdStage. At the time, AdStage wasn't the ad management platform.

Paul Wicker:                 Let's start over. Did you practice this history?

Jason Wu:                    No.

Paul Wicker:                 All right. I first saw AdStage when I was at Kenshoo and you guys won launch. You launched a platform that was like manage everything in one. We were freaking out because we couldn't Google and Facebook in the same interface, and you guys had all four networks in one. We were convinced it was all just vapor, and you had a good designer somewhere that we tried to poach. You definitely got on our radar then.

Jason Wu:                    Did you really?

Paul Wicker:                 Yeah, but he was in the UK, so it was like not a fit. Yeah, we somehow figured out who the designer was and says, "Let's just go double their salary and take their designer."

Jason Wu:                    Wow.

Paul Wicker:                 Anyway, so that's how I learned about AdStage, at the time you were launching AdStage Express, which was like the all-in-one, Bob the plumber can create an ad and it goes on all five networks. There's a story from before that?

Jason Wu:                    Yeah.

Paul Wicker:                 Okay. Now I'm interested, and we can have this conversation.

Jason Wu:                    Here we go. Even the name AdStage has a deeper meaning. It's called AdStage because the original idea was to try to stage your ads. It wasn't supposed to be this full ad management platform. It was supposed to be a tool where you could create some creatives and some targeting across all these different networks, the four networks that we were supporting at the time. You could just run tests basically that would lead to eventual campaigns that you could actually run. The idea behind it was really to be able to help you allocate your budgets 'cause that was a problem that Sahil was having at Trigger when he was the CMO there. He was trying to figure out, given all these networks, Google and Bing were more established, Facebook was up and coming, LinkedIn, he was just trying to figure out how to use. How does he actually figure out where his ads are being the most effective, and how to actually allocate budget across those different networks.

Paul Wicker:                 Did you build any actual product?

Jason Wu:                    We tried.

Paul Wicker:                 Wire frames?

Jason Wu:                    No, we did actually. I actually have a few mocks. Not even mocks, I have some product screenshots that it can show you from back in the day.

Paul Wicker:                 Wow.

Jason Wu:                    The very first product that Sahil was working on, he was actually thinking through the idea with some interns at Trigger. The original idea didn't work out that well. They were trying to use generic algorithms to basically over many generations of ads, figure out the best copy and the best targeting and whatnot. Unless you have maybe three years, like basically each day is a data point. Unless you have like years of time and thousands of dollars to waste on potentially really terrible ads, it's not gonna work that well. We threw away that idea when I came on board. My idea was really ... Actually, the idea that Sahil had came up with was really once someone links their accounts tells us what their business is trying to accomplish, let's figure out what their competitors are doing.

Paul Wicker:                 Let me interrupt you. Just so we can get the setting here. How old were you at the time when you built that first genetic ad creation?

Jason Wu:                    22.

Paul Wicker:                 All right, and you were in school?

Jason Wu:                    Yeah, so I was in grad school at the time. That's actually a funny story, too, that I won't tangent into right now.

Paul Wicker:                 No, you should tangent. That's what this is all about, the tangents.

Jason Wu:                    The tangents?

Paul Wicker:                 Yeah.

Jason Wu:                    Okay, fine.

Paul Wicker:                 You were at Carnegie Mellon.

Jason Wu:                    Yeah, so I was at Carnegie Mellon. I was interested in two things in particular, security and machine learning. Mainly I focused on security 'cause that was actually what my program was. I tried to incorporate some machine learning, too. Funny enough, just on a whim, I decide to take and entrepreneurship class as well, in addition to all the CS classes I was taking. As part of this class, one of my assignments was to interview an entrepreneur. I asked around my circle of friends, and a good friend of mine, Nathan, actually introduced me to Sahil. I guess they met at some Tech Crunch event. Basically Sahil put me off for months. I kept emailing him saying like, "I need to get this assignment done." Finally I was just like, "Please, the assignment's due in a week." It was like Thanksgiving break, and I was like, "Please, I just need an interview. A quick interview, it'll be 30 minutes, I'll buy you a beer."

                                    We didn't end up meeting in person, even though we were both in the Bay Area for the break. I think he had some business to attend to. I flew back to Carnegie Mellon and basically the day that I flew back, I got on a call with him. It was pretty standard. I asked all the questions that I had, I filled out the assignment that I needed. He started asking me questions about myself. I started telling him I'm actually an engineer, and not an MBA candidate like I thought. Which turns out to be the reason he actually was trying to push me off. He didn't want to talk to another business guy.

                                    He started pitching me on the idea for AdStage. He's always closing. He's always the perfect sales guy. He started pitching me on this idea, and honestly I didn't know that much about digital advertising. I was always one of those guys who used AdBlock everywhere. I basically hadn't seen a Google ad for like years, or Facebook ad for years.

Paul Wicker:                 You still are a guy that uses AdBlock.

Jason Wu:                    Only in one browser. When I work on Chrome, I disable it. I basically took about a month to really learn all of the tools that were out there, run some ad campaigns for previous startup ideas that I had in the past that I had domains for as well. Took a look at like Miran and Canchu, and tools like that that were actually really difficult to sign up for and very expensive. Decided to work together with Sahil, flew back, chatted with him for a bit, really got to make sure that we were compatible. Then we immediately started ideation, working on demos, even in his free time when he was working at Trigger, he was pitching VCs whenever he could.

                                    Then basically I went back to school for Carnegie Mellon. I went back for my I guess, spring semester. About April, I think, of that year, I get a call from Sahil and he's just like, "Jason, you have to drop out right now. I just quit my job, we're going at this full time." I'm like, "Okay, I still have a few finals left. Let me finish these off." Did that, came back, started working with him, and then never went back to Carnegie Mellon. I think I still got like two credits left or something, like one class I need to finish.

Paul Wicker:                 The classic founder story. Wait, so there's a few things I want to ask about. One, what were these startup ideas that you had previously that you used as tests?

Jason Wu:                    Okay, so probably the main one that I used is a domain that I still own, it's called Stackems. I was working on it with the guy who introduced me to Sahil, Nathan. It was this idea where it was like a local, location based coupon idea with a loyalty program built in. It benefited both sides, both the mom-and-pop shops-

Paul Wicker:                 We're already through the coupon stuff.

Jason Wu:                    Yeah, I know.

Paul Wicker:                 There's like a million of those guys.

Jason Wu:                    I know.

Paul Wicker:                 Good choice to get out there.

Jason Wu:                    We applied to YC, and it was like that one class where pretty much everyone had the same idea. I don't anyway, maybe five startups got into YC. I don't remember. Someone got it, but we didn't unfortunately.

Paul Wicker:                 They were your original test account when you were trying to just make sure you could get on board with this whole ad management idea?

Jason Wu:                    Yeah.

Paul Wicker:                 You're a pretty conservative guy. You went to Carnegie Mellon to study security. You take one class on entrepreneurship and your life changes. When you were taking that class and when you met Sahil, did you ever really think this was gonna be the outcome?

Jason Wu:                    This, like five years down the road? Probably not.

Paul Wicker:                 Startup world, entrepreneurship, or-

Jason Wu:                    Yeah, yeah. Honestly, I always knew that. That's why I work on so many ideas with my friends during early college, through the end of college. We were just constantly thinking about ideas, constantly trying to come up with some kind of market that we could address. I always knew that I would get into entrepreneurship. I always thought that I would go into a bigger company first. I really was passionate about security. I wanted to get into a bigger firm, or maybe even the government. Then eventually jump to some sort of security based startup. Obviously that didn't happen, but I'm happy with the path that I took.

Paul Wicker:                 Well, judging from the security around here, you have plenty of work to do.

Jason Wu:                    Yeah.

Paul Wicker:                 I'm just kidding. If any customers are listening to this, everything's very secure. It's so secure, the most secure ever. Gonna build a security wall, keep all the bad guys out.

Jason Wu:                    That's right. Just got to make sure you have strong passwords, Paul.

Paul Wicker:                 We'll delete this part of the interview. You always want to be an entrepreneur because you were born and raised in the Bay Area. Where did you get that bug from?

Jason Wu:                    I don't know. Honestly, when I was a lot younger, I really wanted to become the CTO of Cisco, which was the company that my dad worked at. I idolized him and I really wanted to join Cisco, rise up in the ranks, get to the C level or at least VP of engineering, something like that. Then I got to Cisco, I started working there, I worked there for three and a half years actually, and it was not at all what I expected. The bureaucracy just killed me. I couldn't deal with it. I realized that really to be happy, I'd probably have to work in smaller companies. Of course, I'd want to start my own thing at some point.

Paul Wicker:                 Well, you say that so matter of factly, like I'm an old man compared to you, so when I was your age in college, no one thought about starting a company, you went out and got a job at someone else. I grew up on the east coast, you grew up pretty close to Silicon Valley. I wonder if ... Well, did everybody in your high school class assume that they were gonna go start a company. Is that what everyone wanted to do?

Jason Wu:                    No, no, definitely not. It was like basically I do credit my friend Nathan with instilling a lot of that bug in me. I think he always had dozens of ideas running at any given time. He really got me reading like Tech Crunch, things like that. I think really the idea started forming, and the idea of really doing my own thing started from that.

Paul Wicker:                 Nice. Now, so here you are five years later. Co-founder of a successful growing startup. I don't want to make this a commercial for AdStage. We'll skip the present, and then go to the future. 15 years from now, when AdStage is probably behind you in some way, shape, or form, what do you see Jason Wu doing in the future?

Jason Wu:                    I don't know, honestly. It's really hard to see even like two years into the future, let alone like 15. I think at some point, I would love to get into VC to give back to other entrepreneurs as well, and to be involved in a lot of different ideas at the same time that you can't necessarily do as a founder. I'd love that, or at least to be an advisor in a couple of startups. Just to help people out. I find it really hard to think of myself going back to any kind of bigger company. I'm sure it'll be flipping between advisors roles, VC, doing my own thing, starting another startup, possibly with Sahil.

Paul Wicker:                 We need the big IPO exit. You make enough money that you can then just be a VC full time, where you can just take bets on idiot kids like-

Jason Wu:                    Like myself.

Paul Wicker:                 Like you were.

Jason Wu:                    Five years ago.

Paul Wicker:                 Right. Well, you have to sometimes imagine part of the naivety that you had about the ad space at that age was probably helpful, right?

Jason Wu:                    Absolutely. Sahil and I talk about this all the time. If we were to do it again, if we knew what we knew today, there's no way we would have tried to bite off that much at the same time. To be able to build ... It wasn't vaporware at the time that you saw AdStage Express, everything actually worked. We worked our asses off to try to build something that actually supported all four networks, and we basically killed ourselves for a year to build that product. It was extremely ambitious, and I'm not sure we would do it again if we knew what we knew today.

Paul Wicker:                 I feel like that's a common theme with startups, is they take these very improbable strategies that more established companies would never do, and then of course some of those turn out to be winners.

Jason Wu:                    Yeah.

Paul Wicker:                 In this case, hopefully ours is a winner.

Jason Wu:                    Yeah.

Paul Wicker:                 Is there anything else from your background that we should dig into? Well, I think before AdStage, you already told us about when it was literally staging your ads. Were there any other early version of AdStage, pre Express?

Jason Wu:                    Yeah, so did I even get into the clustering part where-

Paul Wicker:                 No.

Jason Wu:                    Okay.

Paul Wicker:                 We just had the anniversary where your children are idiots and it took 3,000 years.

Jason Wu:                    Yeah. There was one other product that we were starting to build. It was something that we took to a lot of investors, and they seemed to really like. We got a few customers on it as well. Let me describe the product a little bit. It was basically the idea was that a customer would come in, usually a newer SMB, just trying to figure out their digital marketing strategy. They would basically give a blurb about themselves, a few keywords that were relevant to their business and their URL. We would scrape as much information as we could from their sites. What we'd done in the background is actually utilize a few APIs that we had access to, like Crunchbase, SEMrush, Alexa, and a few others where we were gathering just a ton of data about other companies. Other startups, other more established companies and whatnot. We would basically cluster all of those different companies. As soon as a new company linked, and gave us their information, we would try to cluster them as well with the existing companies in our database.

                                    What that allowed us to do was actually be able to somewhat tell people, "These are your competitors, or these are people in a similar space." We were able to basically generate dashboards that would say, "Your competitors are getting traffic from these different sources. Like 30% Google, maybe 20% Facebook, and some other sources and whatnot." The cool thing was we were also able to suggest relevant ads and keywords that these competitors were running. In addition, I think we utilized a few other sources like Google's keyword tool and Bing's keyword too to also offer suggestions, things like that. It was really a great way to at least give you an idea of where you should be spending your money and what kind of copy was resonating. Or at least what kind of copy other folks were using in the space.

Paul Wicker:                 At least that was the idea.

Jason Wu:                    That was the idea.

Paul Wicker:                 Again, there was a huge explosion in the let's call them, competitive analysis tools.

Jason Wu:                    Yeah.

Paul Wicker:                 Where I think it's when Groupon and Living Social started struggling with the core coupon model, they moved to this like, "Hey, in addition to doing deals, you can also find out who around you is doing deals and what are they doing, and when are they offering." Then there was all these third party tools that would give you these competitive analytics. Similar to what you're talking about. I feel like you guys were very on trend, which is positive. It also makes me think like, man, all this machine learning crap we talk about now, and lots in commercials and all these acronyms that have become buzz words, we've been trying to make it applicable to every day tech for like a decade. Do you feel like things are now actually taking advantage of some of these algorithms and tools that are out there. Or is most of this stuff still a fantasy?

Jason Wu:                    I think we're getting closer, for sure. There's definitely been a lot of vaporware that we've seen in the market. Even thinking back to five years ago when we were working on machine learning algorithms, it was such a hassle to actually bring up the infrastructure you needed. You had to, in a lot of ways, customize or even write your own algorithms for the infrastructure that you were building. For example, for the clustering algorithms that I was running, I had to bring up maybe 20 boxes on Amazon, had to manage them, they were always in Hadoop, Mahout, Lucene, and a few other tools that were running on there. It was just a lot of overhead to manage. That's before we even start experimenting. Even then the tuning all of that takes who knows? Months. Weeks or months.

                                    Nowadays, it's a lot easier. Nowadays, folks like other startups have access to a lot of really great tools that are out there. You look at Amazon machine learning, IBM Watson like you mentioned, Google Cloud compute has ... I forget what they call it. They have some kind of product that wraps around TensorFlow. Even Microsoft is getting into the game of cognitive services or whatever. All these different tools where you don't have to manage your own infrastructure anymore. You basically just send in your data and you're able to tune the parameters without actually having to manage the boxes yourselves and having to write a lot of those algorithms.

                                    For example, we just had a Hackathon here at AdStage, and actually three of our teams used some of these services to build pretty compelling products, or at least proofs of concept. One of them was ... Eventually we built into our product called Ask AdStage, which just launching, using Google's NLP. At least the proof of concept was using Google's NLP to try to parse natural language on Slack and really return results, return some useful information from our products. We had another called I think, Autopilot, which actually used Amazon's machine learning tools to try to analyze CRT and conversion rates, and basically suggest if you should increase or decrease the budgets for various campaigns.

                                    Then we had one more, which was called CRT Predictor, I think. That one utilized TensorFlow. That was actually really, really interesting. The engineer who worked on that project had a really, really great writeup about what he did. That was really he basically fed in a bunch of text ads and sponsored updates from LinkedIn, and was able to basically based on the training set and the validation set, and the experimental set, was able to get pretty good results in terms of being able to predict CRT based on ad copy and different targeting. I feel like we're a point where folks can actually utilize these tools and build really interesting products, without having to build all of the infrastructure behind it.

Paul Wicker:                 Wow, so that's stuff people built in two or three days?

Jason Wu:                    Two or three days, yeah.

Paul Wicker:                 Yeah, so imagine what people can do with a full spring or two.

Jason Wu:                    Absolutely.

Paul Wicker:                 When are we getting our first machine learning app?

Jason Wu:                    AdStage labs, that the team I want to build.

Paul Wicker:                 Yes. Spoken like a true CTO. I am ready to work on labs and just do fun stuff. You've been managing an eng team for five years now? AdStage just had their five year anniversary. For other startup founders that are on the technical side of the world, what is the advice you'd give 'em in terms of growing a team from two to 30?

Jason Wu:                    Two to 30? When you're five folks, process doesn't really matter. Everyone knows what everyone else is working on, the important thing is that you have things like co review and at least sending checks, pair coding and whatnot, to make sure that people aren't lost and people aren't blocked. As you scale from basically like 10 to 20, that's when you start feeling the most pain. It's important at that point to really start getting in some processes, start getting in like maybe splitting up stand-ups, having better planning and estimation, things like that become really, really important. Those things you need to keep working on as you continue to scale.

                                    I think one thing that we've been really successful with here as well, is having the engineers actually really involved in a lot of the product decisions, or at least getting a lot of feedback from customers. I think you've done a really good job of running customer feedback sessions and things like that, and getting the engineers to really understand what the customers want and how the customers use the tool, I think is really critical. I think that's been a big part of why our products, especially our reporting and automated products where we've done a lot of those types of feedback sessions, have been very successful.

Paul Wicker:                 I'm trying to think of the guy's name, you'll probably know him. Jason Fried, the Basecamp guy, who's like if the engineering and VC community were like republican and democrat, he would be lie the super left winger, 'cause the VCs are the super right guys who are like, "Make money, word harder." He's like the four day work weeks, let's all have a good work-life balance. I always find what he writes really interesting 'cause it's usually very counter to what VCs and the Kobe Bryant works 70 hours a day on his jump shot and ridiculous things like that. Anyway, so think it was him that was talking about this concept of basically trying to remove all the hierarchy from teams, so they're all unified around what's the problem, what's the solution, and just letting them organically build something. At AdStage, I'm the only product person here, and then we have I don't know, like 12 people on the engineering team or actually 12 engineers, and QA, and all that.

Jason Wu:                    Right.

Paul Wicker:                 Obviously there's not enough product resources to produce really great wire frames and PRDs, and I just battle. It's like is it just that we need more product people, and then it would be a better process? Or would that actually slow us down because it's gonna create this layer between the customer and the people actually building the tech? That's gonna remove the responsibility from the engineering team. Some engineers love customers, they love interactions, some hate it. The ones who hate it would probably be like, "Great, I never have to speak to a customer again. Just tell me what you think he wants or she wants." Anyway, I'm just thinking out loud 'cause I always wonder, is it like are we successful going down that path 'cause we just ended up there and it's working so we don't want to change it, or is it actually this is a better way to build product and we're actually doing what other companies will start to do more of, which is push more of the decisions to the team?

Jason Wu:                    Yeah. I'd honestly like to see that, but it's also the case that different people have different work habits and have different abilities to really think about the customer ... really to put themselves in the shoes of the customer. I think different teams are gonna need different levels of feedback from products.

Paul Wicker:                 Yeah, I'd like to think ... I've been in this stupid industry for like 15 years, so I'd like to think I know something that you can't just learn from a customer in 10 minutes, and it takes a lot of time and commitment to be dealing with interfacing with customers that often. On the flip side, sometimes I think we make it too ... not we meaning at AdStage, but in general the software community makes too big of a deal about personas and providing like 1,000 use cases when there's obvious things that need to get done, that if you just get rid of all that and focused everybody on the obvious stuff and then incrementally build, those things don't seem like you need a degree in advertising to understand.

Jason Wu:                    Right.

Paul Wicker:                 Anyway, I digress. I wanted to ask you a question before that I forgot to when you were talking about the early days, but also again, for people who are maybe starting their own thing. Investors, you mentioned Sahil's a great sales person, and also a very good fundraiser. What roles did you play in your early days in actually fundraising or demos or I don't know, what did you do in the early days for fundraising?

Jason Wu:                    Yeah, a lot of it was I was definitely hands down building demos a lot. I remember when I first moved back from Carnegie Mellon, I actually just lived at Sahil's apartment in Berkeley for two weeks, and really just built the initial AdStage product that I was talking about. The machine learning piece, and the dashboards that showed you your insights and whatnot. Every day he would go out to fundraise, and then every night he would come back and we'd play video games while I was still working. That was my role.

Paul Wicker:                 What video game?

Jason Wu:                    Some MMO RPG. I remember for a while, we were playing some Star Wars MMO RPG, but that faded pretty quickly.

Paul Wicker:                 I thought it was gonna be Counter-Strike, it was gonna be a cool game, but if it's an MMO RPG, those get pretty nerdy.

Jason Wu:                    Yeah.

Paul Wicker:                 We can use this against Sahil 'cause he's super cool these days. If it was like World of Warcraft or something.

Jason Wu:                    Well, he loves World of Warcraft.

Paul Wicker:                 Oh, this is great.

Jason Wu:                    We used to talk about-

Paul Wicker:                 Do you remember what his character was?

Jason Wu:                    No, I don't, I don't. He also used to play a lot of Halo too, so that's at least a little cooler.

Paul Wicker:                 Yeah, Halo's much cooler than World of Warcraft, but let's guess, what do you think his character in Warcraft was?

Jason Wu:                    I've never played World of Warcraft, so I can't even [crosstalk 00:27:22].

Paul Wicker:                 Neither have I, but only 'cause everybody tells me it's the most addictive game ever and it's something I don't need in my life. We can guess, there's probably elves and warriors, and wizards, and druids, and mages, and all that crap. It's the same JRR Tolkien paradigm, all these things are written in. He's got to be like a dark elf. Are there dark elves in World of Warcraft? It's definitely him, he's a dark elf archer.

Jason Wu:                    Sounds about right. Yeah, I could see it.

Paul Wicker:                 Like a ranger archer.

Jason Wu:                    I could see that.

Paul Wicker:                 Dark elf with a little bit of spell casting. Probably riding a warthog. Whenever I saw commercials, they're always riding things.

Jason Wu:                    Yeah.

Paul Wicker:                 All right, come one, what's your guess? Just throw any [crosstalk 00:28:08] out there.

Jason Wu:                    Your guess sounds great.

Paul Wicker:                 You can't just agree with my guess, you need your own guess.

Jason Wu:                    That's exactly what I was thinking. Great minds think alike, right?

Paul Wicker:                 Yeah. Man, you engineers, no creativity. I'm just kidding. What was I gonna ask you? Now all I can think about is Sahil playing World of Warcraft while you're in the back doing machine learning algorithms. We were talking about machine learning, right. We built the Slack app, there's a bunch of people talking about messenger bots, AI. Will we even need UI anymore? What would you think if we actually got rid of all event stage, and all we did was move data around and work on machine learning algos to go push data into Excel and Slack and Facebook Messenger, wherever else people are gonna communicate?

Jason Wu:                    I don't know, I have a hard time seeing that. I definitely personally like the personal assistants that we have these days. It's been interesting seeing the rise of chat bots and what not. At the end of the day, I still think that advertisers need a place where they can see all of their data and have tools to analyze that data. I have a hard time imagining actually doing away with the dashboards and things that we have, and just I'm not sure my mind is there yet.

Paul Wicker:                 I'm with you. Although, if it was a VR dashboard, that'd be better.

Jason Wu:                    Yes. You could have infinite screens of AdStage.

Paul Wicker:                 There's got to be a company doing that now, right? Like VR dashboarding.

Jason Wu:                    Yeah.

Paul Wicker:                 Why don't we send them some data and get our first AdStage virtual reality report room. Walk into the room of your performance.

Jason Wu:                    That's not a bad idea.

Paul Wicker:                 AdStage, coming Q4, 2017. What about privacy? You have a background in security, and let's just say the marketing world right now is not known for the way they respect the privacy of consumers. Do you ever have trouble thinking at night thinking that you're helping an industry that are professional creepers?

Jason Wu:                    I'm starting to get there, especially with the rise of the Internet of Things, where basically everyone's gonna have to encounter cross screen advertising. You're gonna see ads on your computer, on your tablet, on your phone, even on some of the newer fridges. It's like you're gonna see ads across all these different devices, and it's no longer just about cooking, which is something that I had to make peace with a long time ago. Now it's really about using your personally identifiable information to track you across these different devices. That honestly does keep me awake at night sometimes. I'm not sure how I feel about that still. I have a little bit of hope because of the EU's general data privacy regulations, I feel like now that they're requiring ... There's a few stricter requirements, like customers have to opt in for tracking across these different devices. Browsers have to ask if you actually want to allow tracking to be re-targeted by ads. I have hope that Google and Facebook will make changes, as well as other publishers and whatnot will make changes to actually support stronger privacy.

                                    Unfortunately at the same time, our president just did strike down FCC regulations to basically prevent ISPs from selling your data, like health, financial, and publishing, and tracking data for ads. I don't know, it's a mixed bag right now. I'm hoping to see it play out in the next year, two years.

Paul Wicker:                 Your examples were very 2010 about cross device being tablet, phone, and computer, or desktop. If you think about Alexa now actually has ads, and there's in-game advertising. Like VR games and VR experiences have ads in them. We're almost there were ads are just on everything. I wonder honestly, if you add a bunch of opt ins to some long terms and conditions, so before I sign up for my new VR video game or I don't know, some new smart home Nest device, there's gonna be a giant list of terms and conditions, and one of 'em's gonna say, "We may use your data to target you," and people are just gonna click it, except like one or two privacy nuts who's gonna be like, "I'm not gonna get the Nest." Do you think all this regulation is really gonna stop consumers? Or is it just it's too convenient because that's what fuels the advertising companies, which is what sells products, which is what moves the world around these days?

Jason Wu:                    I don't know, I'm hoping that regulation becomes stricter to the point where you actually have to opt in in some obvious way, like some checkbox or something like that. At the same time, I don't know, I feel like the younger generation is more okay with a lot of their personally identifiable information being out there. Basically with Snapchat, with all these other social networks, I feel like more and more of them are purposefully giving up their privacy to share with their friends. At the same time, they might actually not object to some of the advertising experiences that they're getting. Maybe it's not a huge deal. I'm still having a little bit of a difficult time accepting it myself.

Paul Wicker:                 Yeah, I don't know the right answer, but there is this seemingly war on advertising and marketing because it's so in your face now, but if you think about the history of consumerism, it's driven by advertising products to people. The very first newspapers had advertisements in them. Radio had advertisements, TV had ... any media was filled with advertisements, and that was the price you paid to get media. That continues to be the case, it's just now targeted, which marketers will argue will help you because now you don't have to look at commercials for a football team if you hate football.

Jason Wu:                    That's true, yeah.

Paul Wicker:                 Or something like that. There's always that, "We're actually making your life easier. So be happy we're creeping you nonstop."

Jason Wu:                    Yeah, I know. The goal of advertising really is to create unobtrusive ads that actually provide value and encourage you to purchase a product that you'd want anyway. Or that you're likely to want.

Paul Wicker:                 That's the altruistic way of phrasing it. It's to make you want the product. We all know advertising is built on the principles of motivating a buyer to buy a product, and there's different ways to motivate people. It's all psychology and I've never seen marketers be shy to use any psychological tactic they could find, if that's what sells. Whether it's making people feel inadequate, or making people feel like they need to buy product in order to keep up with everybody else, or false claims about how great a product is. I don't have high hopes that that's the reason, like we're gonna give you more value in the content so you can make more informed decisions. That's like an after thought.

Jason Wu:                    Thanks Paul, that's the story I tell myself to get sleep at night.

Paul Wicker:                 Yeah, but look at the president we elected. We just want to hear easy things about things and then just do them, as is species. If people are like, "Hey, I'll build a wall and it will solve all our immigration problems." There's a certain segment of people that are just like, "Okay." And they probably know none of that can really happen, but it's just easier to buy. I'm gonna buy this weight loss pill and I'm gonna lose weight. In the back of my mind, I know it's probably not gonna work, but it appeals to all the right parts of me in this moment of I really need to lose weight. So it works, which is why I think I'm less creeped out about it in some ways 'cause I feel like that's how marketing and advertising has worked forever. It's also like a capitalistic argument about it's a motivation that drives people to action. That's so part of our species right now, that it's hard to imagine us changing that behavior. You might as well accept it, and then learn to try to keep it as benevolent as possible. This turned super philosophical. Do you agree? You do? Great. Yeah, let's just talk about capitalism. What else? Is there anything else people should know about the co-founder of AdStage? You're a diehard Golden State Warriors fan.

Jason Wu:                    Yes, I am.

Paul Wicker:                 Which is very easy to be right now, as they are en route to win, knock on wood, their next championship.

Jason Wu:                    I remember the Baron Davis days, when tickets were like 20 bucks. It's been a hard decade basically, it's been good to see the success in the last few years.

Paul Wicker:                 I'm a Knicks fan, so whatever. I haven't seen success since the 1990's. Even then it was moderate.

Jason Wu:                    Well, I am sorry for you, Paul.

Paul Wicker:                 Yes. That's why I've become a Golden State fan in the western conference. In the eastern conference, I'm a Knicks fan.

Jason Wu:                    Yeah.

Paul Wicker:                 Is there anything else people should know about you? We know your favorite prime number's three, that's the most important thing.

Jason Wu:                    Yeah, exactly. Absolutely.

Paul Wicker:                 All right, well thanks for this weird episode of PPC Show, where we didn't talk about PPC, we just talked about Jason. But it was interesting, I learned a lot.

Jason Wu:                    Yeah, it was great talking to you too, Paul.

Paul Wicker:                 All right. See ya later.

 

AdStage Team