Meet Omayra Cruz, SVP Account Management, AAX

“This is an interesting moment for the industry,” says Omayra Cruz.

She’s talking to me over Zoom from her home in Bloomington, Indiana, where she’s lived for seven years with her family. Besides the thoughtfulness with which she speaks about AAX and the ad tech industry, the thing I notice first about Cruz is the fact that she’s wearing a Leeds United training top.

“I’m a Leeds United supporter,” she explains. “I studied at University of Leeds and my husband is a lifelong supporter so it was kind of non-negotiable.”

Omayra Cruz

Leeds was a stop along the interesting, international path that brought Cruz to AAX. After growing up in Florida, she attended graduate school in California and the UK before making her way to New York. This was where she started in the tech world, working first in e-commerce and later in ad tech. Eight years later, she relocated to the Midwest, working remotely even before the era of COVID-19 turned reading nooks into remote offices across the globe.

Earlier this year, she reconnected with AAX CEO Scott Schwanbeck at an industry event, where he mentioned a new role opening up at AAX. And speaking with the larger AAX team, says Cruz, “cemented my interest in the role.” She started as AAX’s SVP Account Manager in mid-June, 2022.

You mention an interesting moment in our industry. Can you expand on that a little?

So what’s top of mind for everyone across our space—publishers and technology companies alike, buyers included, is how exactly our industry is going to function with the shifting conversation around privacy and identity. As new regulation comes into play and as technologies that we’ve been dependent on, for better or for worse (like the ubiquitous cookie) are reconsidered, there’s a big question mark about what things will look like in two years’ time. What will we be doing in two? How will we be doing it? How can we be effective and impactful?

The playbook that we use today is likely not going to be the playbook that we use in the future. That’s not to say that everything will change, but there will be changes. And no one really knows yet how to assess those, and how to respond.

How do you see the industry looking in two years’ time? Any predictions, any hopes? How will things look in 2024?

In 2024, my expectation is that the biggest technology companies will have further consolidated their position, which they’ve been doing and they will likely continue to do, particularly as the larger industry experiences more headwinds based on economic trends.

And then also, in two years’ time, what the CTV space looks like. There’s a massive shift of interest and time spent on those channels and, per conversations I’ve had with colleagues in the space, they’re still very much figuring it out. How that develops will factor for all of us across the industry.

AAX has been very much focused on standard display and native in the desktop environment. But our scope is evolving. At some point, we will have to have a position on convergence as well. I think it’s impossible to not participate. There’s just too much spend headed in that direction. That’s where users go!

What else are you looking forward to? What excites you about the future?

My goal is to continue to develop product that is differentiated and meets a need that the market has.

There are many technology companies out there building product, and there are some questions as to who wants it? What are you building this for? Is it actually solving an issue that your customers have?

So, I think us understanding the landscape, shaping our vision, and being responsive to the real needs is top priority. And then we do the work of evangelizing to make sure that we tell our story well.

Okay, one last thing. What are some other details that really define you? That people really need to know in order to understand Omayra Cruz?

People who are close to me know that I really like to tackle difficult challenges. I’ve been a student of Shotokan Karate under Shihan James Field for over fifteen years and one thing he would always say is that he loves karate because it’s hard. That resonates for me. The challenge is what keeps you coming back!

Can you actually chop through a piece of wood with your bare hands? Or is that a myth?

I think people can do that. But I’ve never had occasion to chop wood with my hand—there are tools for that!

AAX Names Omayra Cruz SVP Account Management

The appointment of Omayra Cruz as SVP Account Management reflects AAX’s increased focus and commitment to customer service excellence

AAX, the leading ad exchange dedicated to recovering revenue lost to ad blockers, strengthens its leadership team with a new Senior Vice President Account Management hire. Omayra Cruz is joining AAX’s leadership team, where she will be responsible for driving success for AAX publishers, reporting to AAX CEO, Scott Schwanbeck. As SVP Account Management, her primary role will be to drive strategic initiatives aimed at giving the best experience to the ever-growing list of AAX publishers.

“We’re working to realize sustainable and impactful publisher revenue that preserves user experience and creates value for brands,” Cruz said. “AAX helps publisher partners derive significant, incremental ad revenue from their content while remaining mindful of the user experience.”

Cruz is an accomplished leader in the ad tech space, with extensive expertise in publisher monetization. She joins AAX from Minute Media, where she served as VP Publisher Business Development, having previously held a senior leadership role at YieldMo. She holds a PhD in Literature from UC San Diego, MA in Cultural Studies from University of Leeds, and a BA in Philosophy from University of Tampa.

“We’re very excited to welcome Omayra to AAX,” says AAX CEO Scott Schwanbeck. “Her deep Publisher experience and her analytical and process-driven approach to customer success make Omayra the perfect fit for AAX and our customers,” continues Schwanbeck.

About AAX

AAX allows publishers, advertisers and users to benefit from a healthy, respectful and balanced ad ecosystem. We’re a programmatic ad exchange dedicated to serving a highly coveted audience of more than 250 million consumers that have consented to see user-friendly, respectful ads designated as “acceptable” by the Acceptable Ads Committee’s criteria. AAX’s mission is to foster a new type of marketplace—an ad exchange capable of reaching users seeking an alternative ad experience, driving significant incremental revenue to Publishers who’ve lost revenue due to ad blocking and offering buyers access to premium inventory and audiences from our direct-to-publisher deals.

AAX Integrates With Amazon Publisher Services To Facilitate Easy Access To Industry Leading Ad-Block Monetization Solution

AAX, the industry leader in permission-based monetization solutions for ad-blocked inventory, now enables media companies and content owners to integrate its solution directly from within the Amazon Publisher Services (APS) platform.

AAX works with ad-blocking companies to reach consumers who deploy ad blockers but who have opted-in to be shown ads they deem acceptable. Using AAX, publishers can monetize valuable audiences which previously represented lost revenue. This new incremental revenue source can now be unlocked in a few simple clicks in the APS Connection Marketplace.
By embedding AAX into APS, customers don’t have to add additional code. They can generate substantial, incremental revenue by converting readers that used to cost them money into readers that make them money,” noted AAX’s CEO, Scott Schwanbeck.

The use of ad blockers remains on the rise as users become increasingly frustrated by intrusive ads, more aware of dubious data collection practices and more sophisticated in leveraging ad-blocking tools. AAX has developed a robust but easy-to-use solution that lets publishers fairly and honestly generate revenue for the content they create while at the same time putting users in control of the ads they see – a win-win in terms of mitigating negative browsing experiences.

Our goal is to make our solution as easy to access as it can be and to build a bridge to users who see and feel the need to deploy ad blockers,” added Schwanbeck. “Our globally distributed team will continue to develop alliances around the world with key industry players like Amazon as part of our larger, overall mission of enabling publishers to use our tech however is most convenient, efficient, and effective for them.

The AAX solution is fully live with-in the APS Connections Marketplace. For more information, please contact your APS Representative or reach out to us directly at:

AAX’s 2021 Roundup!

Let’s be real: 2021 wasn’t exactly smooth sailing. If we’re going with water metaphors, it was more like a stormy ocean than a placid lake—ups and downs, swells and ebbs. There were times when we might have felt a little bit seasick.

But now, with the holidays upon us and the year in the rearview mirror, we can reflect on the ride we took throughout 2021.

Here at AAX, we think it’s important to end the year looking back even as we look forward, and to contemplate our past achievements even as we plan for the future.

In that spirit, here’s a roundup of some of the highlights from our year:

We Added To Our Team

The AAX team is a growing one, and one of our first additions this year was Euan Johnson, our Business Intelligence Manager.

We profiled Euan back in January, when he talked to us about the path that led him to Business Intelligence, the fascinating intricacy and possibility of mathematics, and whether there are strict limits to Business Intelligence or if it can stretch to encompass any number of exciting forms.

Check out our piece on Euan to learn more.

We Continued Studying Ad Blocking Users

You may have noticed that ad blocking users are an especially fascinating demographic—especially ad filterers, or the 95% of people who have ad blockers installed on their devices but consent to be served non-intrusive, respectful ads.

AAX continued our study of these educated, affluent, and highly-engaged users in our new study, “Why Block Ads? Behind User Reasons and Motivations.”

And we learned a lot. You’ll want to check out the entire study (available for free download) but some of the most salient points include:

users concerns and fears surrounding privacy, battery life, and data allowance

how the motivation for ad blocking has changed since 2017

whether men and woman have different motivations for ad blocking…and why that matters

the impact of the generational divide—how Boomers, Zoomers, and everyone in-between, feel about ad blocking

We Made Some Changes—Because Language Matters

We listened and we learned, and we noted that certain outdated and problematic terms needed to be abandoned. AAX announced that we will be using the terms “blocklist” and “allowlist” instead of any words associated with color-related imagery.

We believe, furthermore, that using “blocklist” and “allowlist” will enhance the clarity of our communication.

After all: a blocklist blocks and an allowlist allows. What could be simpler than that?

We Isolated The Top Three Motivations For Ad Blocking

It’s a question that challenges everyone affiliated with the ad space: why do ad blocking users block ads in the first place? What is it about ads that makes people uncomfortable?

Thanks to data gleaned by the ever-helpful GlobalWebIndex, we were able to isolate the three most important and pressing issues for ad blocking users: the trio of attributes that make ads undesirable.

Check out our findings!

And We Wished You A Happy New Year!

We at AAX hope you have a peaceful, stress-free end to 2021. You’ve earned it.

And, on the stroke of midnight on January 1, we look forward to making some noise, throwing some confetti, and ushering in a bright new 2022.

Beyond black and white: welcome to the new listings

AAX is pleased to be revising our vocabulary. In the name of both a) dismantling harmful stereotypes and b) enhancing clarity, we’ll be replacing the term “whitelist” with “allowlist” and “blacklist” with “blocklist.”

These new naming practices reflect a change that’s been occurring industry-wide. The last year has seen a period of sorely-needed cultural consideration regarding racism and prejudice, and how best to dismantle and work against them.

And that includes grappling with terms like “whitelist” and “blacklist.”

When the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) changed their term usage last spring, they explained that:

[…] there’s an issue with the terminology. It only makes sense if you equate white with ‘good, permitted, safe’ and black with ‘bad, dangerous, forbidden’. There are some obvious problems with this. So in the name of helping to stamp out racism in cyber security, we will avoid this casually pejorative wording on our website in the future. (Source)

This issue—of racism embedded in the language we use, often without thinking—is well past due for a reckoning. In a recent piece for AdExchanger, Andrew Kraft harkened back to a famous 1971 interview where Muhammad Ali considered loaded terms that framed “white” as “good” and “black” negatively, writing:

[…] he recalled that all the positive things he grew up with were white, from White Cloud tissue paper to the White House, while all the negative things, from the bad luck of a black cat to the term blackmail, were black. Nearly 50 years later, that linguistic measuring stick is alive and well. (Source)

We think that it’s time to change our vocabulary.

There’s an additional benefit to this terminology change. Terms like “whitelist” and “blacklist,” while understood within the industry, can be confusing to newcomers to the ad space. Replacing these terms with the more explanatory “allowlist” and “blocklist” makes these words instantly accessible: an allowlist allows, and a blocklist…blocks. If doing away with outdated terminology helps us communicate more effectively and succinctly, we consider that to be a bonus.

Because the words we use matter. And AAX is committed to working against racism in all forms, including at the linguistic level.

Meet AAX: Euan Johnston, AAX’s Business Intelligence Manager

For Euan Johnston, business intelligence is a field that works best in a state of perfect balance. It’s mathematically rigorous, but it requires understanding the people affected by the numbers being crunched. It’s all about different human perspectives, but it requires staying grounded in hard data.

Now AAX’s Business Intelligence Manager, Euan explains that he was always drawn to this blend of the logical and the interpersonal. “In BI, and this is what excites me,” he says, “It’s imperative to do both things at once: to put yourself in clients’ shoes and do the analytical work.”

Rikki Decker

Euan joined AAX having held positions in a selection of diverse companies ranging from the arts to the sciences and beyond. This speaks to the far-ranging applicability of not only business intelligence in general, but Euan Johnston’s passionate, curious, and creative approach to business intelligence.

“BI can be whatever you want it to be,” he explains. “If there’s something that needs to be measured, that someone can think of, there are no limits.”

We spoke to Euan about all things BI, the steps that led him to find AAX, and his predictions for the future.


AAX: Why don’t we start off on the subject of business intelligence: how did you find BI?

Euan Johnston: My love of maths really started as the result of studying with a number of fantastic maths teachers. I think these interests often have a lot to do with the kind of mentors you have early in life.

Then, I studied econ and maths at uni. But I wasn’t totally focused on hard skills; my ideal future didn’t involve only being in front of a computer. I wanted to be around a variety of people, learn about a variety of perspectives. I liked the practical side and the methodology, but I also liked the idea of using numbers to tell a story, to sell.

And it turned out that that combo—people and numbers—sits at the heart of business intelligence.


AAX: Was it that combination of right- and left brain thinking that drew you in?

Euan Johnston: That’s part of it! You need to understand different human perspectives even as you’re looking at the numbers. And I enjoy both. I think you need both. You can do all the numbers-crunching you want but if you don’t have an ear inside the company the work is lost. I’ve always been curious about how a company functions, and knowing the work is being used.

But that’s not the only thing that’s exciting about business intelligence. There’s also a sense that, with BI, the possibilities are endless. And this has definitely played a part in my career: I’ve had the opportunity to work with many different kinds of people, see the world through a variety of lenses.

For example, I went from working at a company that worked in flight simulation to what’s essentially the polar opposite: startup ecommerce with a focus on design. It was a similar role in a completely different company, but it afforded a completely different perspective.


AAX: How do you make the necessary switch in perspective when switching between roles?

Euan Johnston: Immersion is key. Deep absorption of the world around you is absolutely invaluable.

That, of course, makes working from home tricky. Or… it would at another company.

At AAX, there’s a real push to keep everyone together. We’re a really close-knit, cohesive team, which is especially amazing considering that we’re working across many time zones. I’m the metrics guy, and seeing how many people are thriving is a testament to how well the team is doing.


AAX: Does that mean you have positive predictions for the future of AAX?

Euan Johnston: The company is on a great path. Things really seem to be flourishing, and there’s a clear, measured plan. I really think Scott is taking the business to the next level.

And from a business intelligence perspective, the adoption of data-driven decision-making for the business is exciting. Normally the first data hire comes later—oftentimes the hundredth hire or so—but I’m joining early on. We’re a lean, streamlined team. That speaks to AAX being an early adopter.

And of course I’m excited that AAX is so keen on metrics. The attitude at AAX is very much ‘We want all the data we can absorb.’ For me, there’s really nothing better than seeing the work being used.


Meet AAX: Rikki Decker, AAX’s VP, Account Management

“Ad tech moves faster than any other industry,” explains Rikki Decker. She’s talking about her deep fascination with all things ad tech, which began soon after graduating from the University of Maryland Robert H. Smith School of Business and shows no signs of abating.

Rikki became the Vice President, Account Management of AAX in October of 2020, a now-famously unprecedented year full of tumultuous change. But for Rikki Decker, expecting the unexpected has always been part of working within the ad tech sphere. In fact, she asserts that the challenges and the sense of discovery are what make ad tech so dynamic.

Rikki Decker

“With ad tech there’s a sense that anything could happen,” she says. “It’s empowering. You can start from scratch; you can come up with new, unheard-of solutions.”

Rikki took time to chat with us about her time so far at AAX, how an interest in analytics has shaped the impressive arc of her career, and what she thinks both ad tech and workplace life in general will look in the latter half of 2021 and beyond.


AAX: Let’s start with your history. Tell us a little bit about how you got interested in ad tech!

Rikki Decker: Rikki Decker: The seeds of my interest were there from the beginning! In college I originally pursued marketing, adding finance because I loved the data side of it. I was always interested in consumer analytics.

My first job after college was outside of ad tech, and I knew immediately that I wanted to move to ad tech. This led to a position in campaign management, which was deeply exciting and contained this sense of continual newness: the feeling in ad tech that follows you every step of the way.


AAX: Was it this aspect of ad tech—the excitement—that you see as steering your career trajectory?

Rikki Decker: That, and an interest in analytics. Because analytics are a way to understand the world. I’ve always been fascinated by a couple of essential questions: what makes people tick on a macro level? What drives humans?

And the answers, I’ve found, can only be understood through data and analytics.


AAX: And what are some other key experiences that you see as leading, ultimately, to your role as VP, Account Management at AAX?

Rikki Decker: It comes down to a combination of autonomy and working within a team. When I look back at another campaign management role—where I was actually the second trader hired—the lessons I learned were primarily how to be autonomous, how to work within uncharted territory, dealing with multiple variables and new challenges.

After that I became more passionate about coaching and training. I started a weekly trader roundtable, sharing resources and mentoring. Then, when I moved into a role as a team lead, I gained more exposure to high-level decision making. This allowed me to scale up the team, and that’s when the training process became even more important. That gives you a sense of how better to move ahead.


AAX: How do you see AAX moving ahead?

Rikki Decker: I’m excited, frankly! AAX is a newer company, and we have this strong, lean team. We’re starting something, and there’s that sense of exploration and creation: we’re going to expand and grow together.


AAX: No conversation of any kind these days is complete without a discussion of how the world is changing post- 2020. What are some of the challenges and opportunities you see ahead?

Rikki DeckerRegulation is definitely a factor. There’s been a ton of regulation, which has led to a number of amazing, innovative solutions. But it also leads to questions: will regulation at the state level in the USA lead to federal regulation? How will companies deal with regulations? Also, I think 2021 is going to see a lot of development around Identity and a unified solution, and it’s going to be interesting to see how things change. Ad tech moves faster than every other industry.

My biggest takeaway from 2020 is that there’s more flexibility coming to the industry. One of those things is: remote work. Last year really opened people’s eyes to the fact that work from home…works. The flexibility is liberating.

It’s a subject that’s especially relevant to me, because I am remote work—I live in Washington DC and 2020’s work from home revolution is what allowed me to be here, in the role as AAX VP, Account Management.

Before 2020, I thought I’d have to move to the ad tech center of New York. I didn’t want to leave DC, but I talked to my husband and said ‘I love ad tech, so we might have to move.’ Now, as it turns out, I can have a job I love in the city I call home.

Another bonus? Working from home has also given me the opportunity to welcome a new puppy, Bailey!

Meet AAX: Hart Gliedman, Director of US Sales

For Hart Gliedman, it all comes down to education. He knows the challenges facing publishers, pays attention to what pain points might be especially acute, and this knowledge gives him certainly: that AAX has the solution they need.

But, he admits, there’s a lot of noise being directed at publishers and it’s invaluable that your information—in this case how revenue can be boosted via Acceptable Ads—make it through what can too often be cluttered with spam and the words of bad actors.

Hart Gliedman

For a native New Yorker like Hart, being heard through the noise is something that comes almost naturally. Especially, as he tells it, since he learned about the AAX solution by seeing it take place in the wild, on a friend’s computer.

That, explains Hart, was the aha! moment, when he realized what Acceptable Ads could actually, as he puts it, “make the pendulum swing.”


AAX: Let’s begin at the beginning. You mentioned that you learned about AAX by seeing it operating in the real world—can you run us through that?

Hart Gliedman: Well, being in the industry I always had a certain view of ad blockers—and I had certainly never installed one. But I certainly knew people who used ad blockers. And, in fact, I was coworking with a friend who had an ad blocker installed, and I looked at his screen and saw…ads being served. And not only that, but there was no annoyance, no frustration.

This was my introduction to ad filtering. My first thought was “Wow, this is a no-brainer. Everyone is searching for that extra revenue boost, but it’s next to impossible to do that without negative impact or downside—except this. I was seeing how Acceptable Ads worked, and understanding it could change the future.


AAX: So you had gotten a sense from working in the industry of what was needed, and the fixes that had been tried already?

Hart Gliedman: Yes, and that history gives you an amazing sense of perspective. When I was working in the past with publishers, I learned all about all the day-to-day pain points—bandwidth, resources, everything going into monetization, etc. And now, with that perspective, I can see what a publisher really needs; I can explain that what AAX is doing really is completely different.

I can say: “Look, AAX is so relevant because it allows publishers looking for that extra revenue boost to add entirely incremental revenue stream with no negative impact. It’s the cleanest, simplest way forward for publishers that might be looking for extra revenue.”

My word of advice to publishers is: don’t fall back into old, bad habits! There’s revenue right under your nose.


AAX: And this seems like especially urgent advice in 2020, I’d imagine. The pandemic is impacting everyone, publishers included.

Hart Gliedman: Absolutely. What we’re offering is value for publishers that need it; what publishers can to tap into in a low maintenance, sustainable way.

But the reality is there’s so much noise about adding value. Publishers are constantly confronted with “double your revenue with a single line of code,” and it’s oversaturated, obnoxious, and intrusive. This was true even before the pandemic, but it’s intensified.

One of the challenges has always been education: separating what you’re saying from what bad actors are promising. And when it comes to AAX, as soon as the publisher hears and understands, they want to get involved. AAX is that unique; and Acceptable Ads users understand the value exchange.


AAX: How does that understanding impact their behavior, exactly?

Hart Gliedman: These users know that not all ads are bad; not all ads are created equal. And when they’re served Acceptable Ads, everyone is suddenly benefiting from that situation. The users feel respected; they’re staying longer on sites; they’re even clicking on ads. And not just by accident.

Acceptable Ads is really hitting the reset button on the entire industry.


AAX: And what does that mean for the future of AAX, looking into the second half of 2020 and into 2021?

Hart GliedmanWe’re going to continue to bring incremental value to publishers that need it in these uncertain times. And I’m excited about the project of educating not just publishers but also DSPs. I think we’ve gone so far and we still have so much potential moving forward.

Meet AAX: Otilia Otlacan, Head of Operations

For the last fifteen years, Otilia Otlacan has worked in both start-ups and well-established tech companies, specializing in content monetization and getting a close look both at what it means to develop in the industry and what it means to keep apace with growth once your company has hit its stride. She also founded Ad Tech Daily in 2008, acting as editor and publisher until 2016.

Now, of course, she’s the Head of Operations at AAX…which means she’s a key ingredient in the glue that holds the Acceptable Ads Exchange together. (She’s also a font of aviation-related knowledge, and the driving force behind keeping the AAX fridge fully stocked with energy drinks.)

Otilia Otlacan in the Berlin Weltballon

We chatted about everything from Otilia’s thoughts on the current, definitely unprecedented historical moment, to living the work-from-home life in Berlin, Germany, to her thoughts on the future.


AAX: 2020 is…quite a year. How are you holding up?

Otilia Otlacan: It’s been an unfortunate couple of months, to put it mildly! But I have to say I’m feeling pretty lucky, all things considered. Not just because of the big issues—health!—but because switching to working from home has been a really smooth transition for us.

We’re a distributed team at AAX and, even pre-COVID, we primarily conducted work through video and messaging and emails. We’ve always blended office and home office. Since the AAX team is so global, we always worked with diverse locations. It’s very much business as usual!


AAX: You have such a wealth of industry experience. How did this prepare you for AAX?

Otilia Otlacan: What I’ve really seen, first hand, is the struggle of publishers to monetize through ads. It’s something that’s been going on for a long time and isn’t even necessarily something to do with the rise of ad blockers…although obviously that makes things more difficult.

What I saw first hand, over many years, is that ads didn’t monetize well in the first place, which led to publishers adding extra ads, which just snowballed. The end result? Ad blocking.

One reason I was drawn to AAX in the first place is because it’s a solution that doesn’t doesn’t disregard the users’ wishes while still helping publishers increase their revenue. Pubs can very easily sell this audience of ad filterers that monetize well and—and this is so, so important—everything is fully consented to. This solution respects the options and the wishes of the users…while keeping the balance between buyers, sellers, and users in check.


AAX: Tell us more about the lessons you learned from engaging so closely with the news that shapes the ad tech industry.

Otilia Otlacan: When you’re curating news constantly you start to notice trends, products, technology, regulations—everything going in and out of favor. You’re aware of what replaces what, and what replaces that replacement. You glean information through the important announcements being made. You’re also aware of how and where people, especially industry veterans, move across the industry.

It’s great to have that kind of big-picture view; if you’re missing the forest for the trees it can be harder to find your place.

And I found my place. This view of the industry and industry players really helped when I joined AAX, when AAX was a brand-new company.


AAX: Let’s move away from the past and talk a little bit about the future. What are your thoughts going forward, into an industry landscape changed by COVID-19?

Otilia Otlacan: Well, at the moment we see a recovery in CPMs and in ad spend from April and May. I think this is seen across the board.

But a big challenge right now is that this industry works well with in-person events. The events are like rituals: they occur every year, you get to see familiar faces. But now, without warning, that’s gone. Of course there are calls and technology, but while those work brilliantly within a team, it’s harder working with people external to your team. There’s always a risk of losing or misreading nuance and nonverbal communication, and that can be an added stressor.

That being said, I think we’ll learn to overcome this. We’ve already learned so much about navigating conferencing technology in the last few months, and I envision training and seminars and events that will help us navigate the growing pains…and get the industry back to a sense of bonding.


AAX: And where do you see AAX? What’s one of your hopes for the immediate future?

Otilia Otlacan: If I have to limit it to just one hope? Besides us existing in a world where 4K video conferencing is everyone’s default!

In that case, I’m particularly keen to see AAX expanding, especially in the EU where our solution is aligned with privacy regulations.

Meet AAX: Chirag Shah, Director of Partnerships

For Chirag Shah, ad tech and programmatic are the future.

Shah has spent almost fifteen years working in the world of tech, working closely with top management, top level partners and managing diverse teams that, despite their size, stay close knit and cohesive. It’s been an immersive experience. And it’s exactly that immersion, more than anything else, that he credits with his success. “What you learn on the job,” he says, “end up being the most valuable lessons.”

Now, as AAX’s Director of Partnerships, Chirag is busy spreading what he’s absorbed over the course of his career. Chirag is a constant source of knowledge and inspiration…and adorable videos and pictures of his ten-month-old daughter, Meher.

Chirag Shah and his daughter Meher

We talked to Chirag—who’s based in Mumbai—about the path that brought him to AAX, his thoughts on our tumultuous global present, and what exactly makes ad tech and programmatic the future.


AAX: You’ve mentioned that so much understanding can be gleaned on the job. What’s one example of this: where you learned something in person, in the workplace?

Chirag Shah: My mind always immediately goes back to a core team I worked with for seven, almost eight, years. I was the main go-to person but the team, as a whole, was responsible for everything it accomplished. We built things from scratch, all together. And that helps you not only become bigger as a person, but evolve as a cohesive unit.

That, I think, is an example of a fundamental learning process that can only be learned through experiencing—it’s impossible to consolidate all of the lessons of working in a team for the better part of a decade into a book or classroom setting—and has changed everyone involved in a significant way.


AAX: That sounds really applicable to working in our industry…

Chirag Shah: Exactly. The online advertising space is continuously evolving and changing and you have to be adapting. If you don’t adapt, you’ll be lost and won’t be able to survive. You need to evolve with the industry.


AAX: Speaking of adaptation—we can’t hold an interview in 2020 without mentioning COVID-19. How are you adapting to the pandemic?

Chirag Shah: It’s hard not being able to go to the office and see your team. But because I’ve always dealt with so many teams internationally, and because we’ve always operated remotely, we’ve always had a work-from-home culture. Having that culture in place already definitely makes it easier: I realized that when talking to friends and family that don’t have that in place.

I think that one of the ways COVID-19 will change things that people are going to understand that working from home is possible. People won’t have to go to the office five days a week—they can be more flexible. It’s going to create new learnings for everyone around. We’ll save on travel time and, here in India, we’ll be happy not to have to go into the office during monsoon season.

And personally, working from home means I get more time with my 10-month-old daughter. During my breaks I’ll play with her and take her up to the rooftop. Not much good has come out of the pandemic, but that’s a silver lining.


AAX: But what will happen in the industry in a post-pandemic world? Do you have any predictions for the future?

Chirag Shah: If I could predict exactly I’d be a millionaire!

The good news for our industry is that online industries are less affected than others. There was some fear, and definitely revenue loss. But things are gradually opening up—maybe not in India, but the internet has no boundaries. It’s a global scene, and countries and businesses opening up in other areas of the world is having a healing effect. Things are looking better in Q3 and we’re seeing signs of life—which is great because it means revenue isn’t going to continue going down. It’s either going to stabilize or get better.


AAX: And how will that impact AAX specifically?

Well, AAX can help.

With AAX, publishers can unlock revenue that already exists; publishers can regain lost revenue. It’s a simple integration but we believe this will help the entire ecosystem: when publishers are helped so are advertisers.

AAX has a very strong supply and demand pipeline, and we have the new presence of Scott Schwanbeck as AAX CEO. And that’s going to get stronger as people realize the ease of meeting targets with AAX—we already see AAX becoming more of a presence and a priority.