It’s bizarre to think Matt Hunt is not a digital native. His upbringing was internet-free, his bachelor of business devoid of digital and his entry into the industry an experiment.
“I entered the digital industry in 2000 when the internet took off,” says Hunt, who would have been about 25 at the time.
“My rationale was the obvious opportunity of what the internet was going to do to change consumer behaviour. I blagged my way through my first interview after taking a friend out for dinner and learning digital in one night.”
In 13 years he’s managed to bag one of the most technical, data-centric digital leadership roles on offer, at multi-platform ad network, Adconion.
His first industry job was in sales at CNET, which was purchased by CBS Interactive in 2008. He spent eight years there, rising to the role of commercial director before making the “unpopular decision” to join the ad technology company.
He began as Australian managing director a year ago, at the start of a tumultuous 12 months.
“I can’t remember a more turbulent year than 2012,” says Hunt. “It was a hugely disruptive and extremely fast paced year.”
Why? Because programmatic buying took off in the Australian market place.
“We talk about the year of mobile and what have you. Really, 2012 was the year of programmatic buying,” he says.
Since programmatic buying launched, the traditional media buying model has front-flipped. Advertisers have gone from buying space on sites, to buying audiences. Companies like Adconion, Komli, The TV Network and Tribal Fusion now specialise in aggregating these audiences.
Adconion boasts 80 Australian employees and 700 worldwide. Not bad for having launched in 2005. Its mission is to simplify advertising across multiple platforms. Its digital distribution platform enables advertisers to serve advertising on connected TVs, mobile devices, PCs, laptops. It supports video, social, email, display and rich media advertising.
According to Hunt, the company’s point of difference is the $50m investment it has made in creating a single platform. “Whereas other companies are competitive in the space they’re not running off a single platform – they’re bolting five different platforms together to support five different objectives and we believe that has some inherent breaks on what you’re able to do and the solutions you’re able to provide your advertisers.
“Unless you are prepared to invest heavily, you’re not going to be able to solve the challenges marketers face in the next five to 10 years.”
The explosion of data is something which preoccupies the network, and its MD, constantly. It promises to give advertisers better opportunities to target the right users and generate better ROI.
Adconion generates 50 billion ad ‘events’ each day (an ‘event’ meaning each time a person clicks, hovers over, or requests an ad), which create mountains of data that need to be stored, mined and understood.
“I’ve got a four-stage process for thinking about data. You’ve got to turn data into information. This allows you to get knowledge, which allows you to create wisdom. It’s a long way from data to wisdom,” he says. ‘Wisdom’ refers to the ability to make predictable decisions in the future on behalf of advertisers, according to Hunt.
The network is dealing with the storage challenge by investing in a deep technology stack called the Hadoop Cluster. But when it comes to mining and making sense of that data, Hunt sees the solution in hiring bright young mathematical minds.
“We believe maths is the new marketing major,” he explains. “Never before has media been so accountable and so analytically driven. The success of our business is largely due to technology but more to do with people. Data is data – it’s the insights and decisioning of people that’s generating results off the back of it.”
Hunt buzzes with enthusiasm. He has a wife, three kids and thousands of life mantras which may one day wind up in a book, he says, but his key values are passion, transparency and directness.
Outside of work that passion manifests itself in surfing. If he’s not in the office, he’s in the green room engaging in maritime meditation.
But it’s not just escapism. Battling the elements is also training for life back in the concrete jungle.
“Surfing has a lot of interesting analogies for work and life. Sometimes identifying the biggest opportunity means catching the biggest wave, taking you out of your comfort zone. There’s a real risk of major repercussions but it can be the most exhilarating thing,” he says.
In July he’ll wetsuit-up for a surf trip to the coast of Sumatra. But for now it’s head down, bum up in a job he’s fanatical about.