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Celebrate the small and win big: A Q&A with Marc Grabowski, Oracle Data Cloud’s new GVP of Global Activation Sales

As we head into a fresh year sure to see more adtech industry shake-ups, one thing will remain the same: digital advertising stakeholders will continue their quest to best use data and intelligence to drive business outcomes.

To enable Oracle Data Cloud to assist the industry with our never-ending endeavor to make data more accessible and actionable, we welcomed a new GVP of Global Activation Sales this past fall. Marc Grabowski joined us from Criteo, where he oversaw the Global Supply Organization. Marc lives in Chicago and in his spare time competes in endurance-running events. Additionally, he is on the Dean’s Advisory Board for the College of Arts and Sciences at his alma mater, Boston University.

We sat down with Marc to get to know him a little better and gather his thoughts on everything from his goals for Oracle Data Cloud’s Activation business (Audience and Context) to the biggest challenges he sees ahead for buyers and sellers in this ever-evolving market.

What drew you to the role and to Oracle Data Cloud?

Marc: We’re in a world where consumer behavior is rapidly changing, and the need to help publishers and brands understand more about their users and consumers—and doing it a privacy-first way—is essential. Allowing publishers to understand who their users are and their engagement on their platform and then demonstrate that value directly with brands is of paramount importance. There’s a level of trust that needs to exist for anyone who’s going to help form a connection between brands, users, and via publishers. Oracle is one of the very few companies that has that level of trust with data across various industries. Also, to have an independent position—to not be in the media buying-and-selling game—is really an interesting place to be.

And, there’s that centralized point to help normalize the rest of the industry—from everything that Oracle has today and is building in the future—as well as the ability to pull in 1st party data connected to 3rd party data, which is connected to different platforms while still honoring user privacy rights. To me, it normalizes the media landscape on behalf of the publisher and on behalf of the advertiser and the agency.

What do you hope to accomplish in your first year at Oracle?

Marc: My first two responsibilities here are to understand the needs of our team members and to assess the value we provide to our customers. It’s important for us to understand why customers are buying from us, what they would like to see us focus on in the future, and how we can help them solve problems moving forward.

To simplify it, my job is to build great teams and help team members work well together. This applies to the coordination of teams within my organization or across organizations such as Product, Engineering, or otherwise. When teams function as a single unit, great things can happen! I hope to bring some additional industry perspective to help inform the Product team in the interest of our partners.

In the early days, it seems that our client partners were seen as consultants for our partners, so I’d like to continue fostering that mentality and support our teams to provide value to customers in any way possible. Our partners rely on us to bring them insights and intelligence. We can give them an idea of industry trends early enough for them to adjust their respective strategies. Such intelligence will be important because we have so much visibility as far as the way the markets are changing, as well as how shoppers buy and how those shoppers engage in media. These are some of the areas where we can help our customers when they rely on us for insights. I want the CMO for any brand to say, “I’m looking forward to my quarterly call with Oracle.”

Currently, what are the biggest challenges for Oracle Data Cloud’s buy-and-sell-side customers?

Marc: For our customers, I believe one of the biggest challenges is that something they’ve relied on for several years is changing, and they don't know what that future really holds for them. This is, of course, the existing method related to one-to-one advertising, which spans well beyond their relationship with Oracle.

The reality is that our customers’ buyers are still going to be engaging in media. Media consumption time is shifting, and engagement is still increasing, which means that customers or prospects are still reachable—the tools and infrastructures that have been used in the past are changing. The concern from brands has to do with the effectiveness of untested tools vis-à-vis the tools they’re using today. This will change at a rapid pace in 2021, as it will be a year of rapid testing and adoption across all areas of advertising technology. We, as an industry, have built ourselves on building MVPs, testing hypotheses, and scaling workable solutions quickly, so this year will test our mettle, but we’re well prepared for it.

As for publishers, many of them are working feverishly to understand more about the behavior of their users to develop new monetization strategies that will replace cookie-based targeting. At Criteo, my team was responsible for engaging in relationships with thousands of publishers all over the world. We also worked with supply-side platforms, and we spent billions helping to acquire a brand-safe inventory that could fit the needs of our customers. As the shifts with 3rd party cookies and identity have taken shape, many publishers have become concerned about the future of their monetization strategies. The impact for users could be significant, as the tools that we take for granted for communication, community, entertainment, and productivity could be negatively impacted. We saw a bit of this during the late spring and early summer as publishers had to reduce their teams when revenue dipped. We need to help publishers solve their revenue problems before they’re forced to reduce services on a permanent basis. I take this part of my role in supporting our internet ecosystem seriously.

What is something you take from your personal life and apply to business?

Marc: A few years ago I got into running ultramarathons. While I’m not setting any records for speed, I’ve participated in a few successful events, including running a double crossing of the Grand Canyon in one day. I also completed the Leadville 100, where I ran 100 miles in about 28 and a half hours.

To me, ultramarathons are just taking this one big thing like running 100 miles and compartmentalizing it into smaller segments. Some of those things are starting the race slowly enough to avoid burning out early, making sure you’ve got the right clothes and the right gear, and taking in enough calories and thinking ahead a few hours before the race to consider how you can positively impact the way you’ll be feeling later. Getting these small things right along the way can help improve the chances of positive outcomes.

This approach translates well to team building, where I would prefer to hear about many small wins instead of only the big ones. I love to see how we’re moving forward, because you’re either doing so or you’re moving backward. It's those small things together that become something worthwhile, memorable, and impactful. The objective is to get big things done, but to do them one step at a time.

How do you inspire and motivate people during challenging times?

Marc: Motivation usually comes from within each of us, so it’s a leader’s job to help people understand what will motivate them and remove any barriers that get in the way.

2020 was interesting for many reasons, but it definitely generated many leadership lessons. Some things were consistent with prior years, such as the fact that people will work hard if they see a purpose in what they do and can achieve that purpose through autonomy while developing mastery along the way. I’m pretty sure I read that somewhere, so I can’t take credit for it.

In 2020, more than ever before, our personal and work lives ran together. Where there used to be a separation between the two areas, that doesn’t really exist anymore, so it’s that much more important to make sure these two pieces become congruent in order to achieve short-term goals but also feel fulfilled in the long term.

If, as leaders, we all do our jobs right, we’ll reflect back on our years of service knowing that we helped people identify their purpose and achieve their personal definitions of success in the process.

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