Sailing the Small, Flat Marketing World by Jeff Green, The Trade Desk

Stream Asia 2015

In 1492, the queen and king of Spain sent Columbus in search of a better trade route to Asia. He discovered a new world and reported back, “the world is round.”

Last week I set flight for Asia to the WPP unconference hosted in Phuket, Thailand. I was hoping to deepen The Trade Desk’s relationships in the various Asian and Australian markets with more than 300 people from three segments — tech executives from the region, WPP leaders and execs, and some of WPP’s biggest clients. We did that, but like Columbus, we found much more than we were looking for. In fact, we reached at least one conclusion that was different than Columbus. With a nod to Thomas Friedman, I’m here to say that the marketing world is very small and very flat.

It was only days earlier that I was in Tokyo in a hotel lobby heading to my fifth or sixth meeting of the day when I heard someone shout my name from across the room. I turned to find the CEOs of a Canadian-based search platform on the opposite end of the massive lobby. Since I’m based in Los Angeles and he’s based in Montreal, I was stunned that we were meeting then and there. The world is small, I thought over and over.

With similar surprise, I went to Thailand only to see many friends and familiar faces in a place I’d never been.

Committing Locally, Leading Globally

In the first discussion block for Stream, we started a conversation about how different every market is in Asia. Stakeholders from Indonesia, Australia, Japan, China, Vietnam, Korea, Singapore, and Malaysia all expressed some frustration about dealing with those based in the US when it came to growing the digital advertising ecosystem in APAC. The region too often doesn’t get the resources, the attention, or even the understanding needed to capture the opportunity. I started to understand how easy it is as an outsider to not fully understand the nuances of each of these individual markets.

At about the time, someone pointed out that I was perhaps the only American CEO in the group and asked if I might comment or give guidance on to how to navigate the gap between North American priorities and APAC opportunities. Too often the perception is simply that in market size and technology adoption the APAC market is 2–5 years behind the US, so American companies simply choose to wait until they have to be in market to address the opportunities. With all of the time demands on the global digital transition, people naturally look for reasons to move anything on the to-do list to the do-later list.

In the course of the discussion, I became convinced that we were right to fully commit to the region two years ago, and that we should look for more ways to invest in the region. Instead of withholding resources, or putting a bare minimum number of people in the region, or dropping an American off in an office in Singapore and ‘checking the APAC box’, we’ve established offices in Seoul, Tokyo, Singapore, and Sydney with a commitment to growing the markets over the long term.

The group convinced me that we continue to invest in each of the individual APAC markets, and the clients in the room made very clear that their global brands need worldwide reach. They require global technology companies with local-market expertise to guide them. I found myself convinced that Asia maybe the biggest regional opportunity in the world.

The Big Question: Should we enter China?

As we were addressing this question in the group, the words of Sir Martin Sorrell were resonating in my mind from the day before: “I’m extremely bullish on China.”

American companies haven’t had a ton of success in China. As airport bookshelves stock titles such as Shaun Rein’s recent book “The End of Copycat China,” the market in evolving. China’s consumer market has until recently been led by Chinese companies copying the great companies of the world.’ The Chinese-led copies have thrived, but the foreign companies too often have not.

For B2B companies, outcomes are shaping up differently. Global clients are leading companies such as The Trade Desk and WPP to China. The economic growth in China makes it an unavoidable market that global players must soon address wholeheartedly.

I’ve learned from spending time in each of these markets how well the governments have specifically structured to welcome economic growth. I’m blown away the by the comparison of tax rates of the biggest Asian markets with Europe. The growth of the middle class in markets such as Indonesia and Singapore coupled with economic incentives prime the market for growth.

So the world is getting smaller. Cultures are melding. Economic walls are falling. And people are getting closer. As economic opportunity is spreading, the world is becoming flat.

And I can tell you that I expect the growth rates of programmatic advertising in Asia to again surpass the rest of the world in 2015. The world is smaller and flatter — and that is an opportunity for all great global companies.


Jeff Green is CEO and cofounder of The Trade Desk, Inc., a global demand-side platform in the $20B programmatic advertising space. The Trade Desk was recently recognized among the top ten on Forbes Magazine’s list of America’s Most Promising Companies 2015.

In 2004, Jeff created the first online ad network, AdECN, which Microsoft acquired in 2007. Jeff’s passion for creating successful technology continues at The Trade Desk, which was recognized in late 2014 by Outside Magazine as one of the best places to work in America, and earned the same recognition for its New York office by Crain’s New York Business.

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