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Observing my father dealing with electrical devices throughout my childhood years helped cultivate my characters that have no hurdle to making and assembling things. One of the anecdotes representative of such boldness is about the electrical fans back in my old house. Out of curiosity over why the two single electrical wires were attached together, I removed the coating and intertwined them, making them into one single wire. Immersed in the excitement of my first invention, I didn’t hesitate to plug that in and could see flames out of the outlets with my naked eyes. I’m now a grown-up who is no more reckless enough to set the outlets on fire, but my strong curiosity and initiative are still here. Such qualities have served me to propel my career assuming different roles at several competitive companies in the advertising industry.
Back in 2009 when I worked at KT, I made the country’s first attempt to introduce targeting advertisements to the Korean market, only to encounter severe public backlash. DPi devices automatically extract users’ keywords and URL and project the ads that best suit their needs or interests. However, they accused it of unlawfully accessing personal information. The backlash grew so severe that press started to spotlight that accusation and finally Korea Communications Commission, a government organization, called me for investigation.
In the investigation, I put a coffee coupon and a credit card on the table to help an intuitive understanding. “Let’s say I get sufficient amount of stamps on this coffee coupon. Then I can get a complimentary coffee. But even if I lose this coupon, it can’t either be traced back to me or indicate any of my information. What it can tell is no more than that whoever the original holder can be, that guy is a customer of this coffee shop. But when I have my credit card lost, it can surely be traced back to me and tell a lot of information with my personal information attached. Simply put, online targeting advertisements work with such coffee coupons.”
This led them to figure out that their accusation was ungrounded and convene a special board for targeting ads. I also joined the board, taking part in settingup guidelines for operating targeting ads which even hadn’t been in existence in Korea before. My attempt to commercialize this service nationwide failed and I could only glimpse at actual retargeting ads in a pilot project in Songpa area.
Despite setbacks and frustrations, my attempt to introduce brand-new ad techniques to the local market ignited my explosive interest in them. Later in 2012, the Korea head of Criteo, a global retargeting ad tech company, which were engaging in a similar retargeting ad business, contacted me. I shared with him my past experiences and my unquenched thirst for the business to be asked to join the company. Strong opposition from my family couldn’t curb my thirst for a new challenge — I couldn’t stand my curiosity over what targeting ads would look like when commercialized nationwide.
At Criteo, I explosively expanded partnerships with publishers, largely contributing to more than a ten-fold increase in revenue. Despite such a remarkable performance, I started to long for another challenge. Then I left the company with the determination to build a “next generation” portal to find out such a work can’t be managed only by myself. I got another job offer from Vizury, an Indian retargeting ad company, for a sales position engaged with advertisers, which constitute another half of this two-sided ad industry. Thanks to taking on several job positions at different companies across the advertising industry, I could experience businesses with both of the two major players: advertisers and publishers.
When I was at Criteo, I declined John’s first job offer at Buzzvil since at that time I found the lockscreen ad model distracting and unpleasant. However, I became a strong advocate of this business model after I have observed Buzzvil successfully and innovatively establish the value of lockscreens and the concept of business on them. This stimulated my innate thirst for new challenges enough to bring me here.
What’s more attractive is that our Buzzscreen’s idea is not to dominate all the opportunities from this brand-new, untouched layer of lockscreens, but rather to share all those opportunities with our partners. From the users’ point of view, in return for lending their lockscreens to us, which is not a big deal for them, they are offered personalized, useful content and advertisements and other useful services, which is a big deal. I found this closest thing to what I had dreamed as the “next generation” mobile portal service, back in my Criteo days.
Officially speaking, I’m the Chief Business Officer in charge of building partnerships of Buzzscreen. But my own understanding of my job is to promote and further grow the value of lockscreens with partnerships being the means. Whenever I discuss partnerships with potential partners, I put a great emphasis on presenting what values Buzzscreen can earn our partners. Rather than taking partnerships as a means to secure more venues to place the ads, which is in our interests, I take them as a way to present greater values to our partners, thus improving and optimizing their performance. This way of doing business has greatly helped me expand our partner networks.
Few other monetization opportunities sound more tempting than ads displaying. Especially for startups whose expenses have not yet been offset by revenues, ads are considered a quick and effortless way to monetize their services. Although such a short-sighted approach may be effective in increasing short-term revenues, it rather undermines companies’ long-term profitability and thus its growth.
Even in dire need of immediate monetization, companies should think hard about what value their products can give their customers. Especially, in the two-sided ad industry where advertisers and publishers each play a huge role with different orientations, keeping their individual orientations in a stable harmony is key to the success of the business. Adding to this complexity, especially for us, is that our business model has another party involved: users. Failing to meet the needs of any of these three different parties will mean the failure of the entire business. So ads-dependent startups including us should put themselves in the shoes of each of the parties concerned once they decide to involve ads in their business models.
Before the recent advent of mobile applications, no one had ever imagined this novel concept of user interface. But once Apple innovatively adopted the form of mobile applications, everyone learned them and took them for granted as if they had been in use all along. Similarly, Buzzvil is uniqulely positioned to surely invent a new concept of user experiences on lockscreens. Lockscreen already exists but its existence is readily ignored. Establishing this as a given part of our daily life is my goal and further creating value and opportunities never imagined before is my so close but yet so far goal. I will devote all my enthusiasm to this business until everyone is attracted to the idea of having ads on the lockscreens — including those who disapprove of the lockscreen ads just as I did before.