Evangelos Zirdelis is passionate about the intersection of advertising technology and creatives, as well as unlocking the power of data to optimize traffic.
Now, after five years of hard work at ExoClick, he is leading the charge as director of sales and ad operations.
We are continually launching new features and they need to transmit the benefits and optimization tips to our clients. I think that by empowering your team with knowledge, they feel more confident in their roles, they enjoy each working day and they are able to reach higher goals.
His ambitions first sparked fire in 2014, when he established a business intelligence department to implement deeper learning.
Over the years, he has helped develop new tools and features to improve ROI for a global clientele, with a forward-thinking approach that capitalizes on opportunities cresting the next horizon.
Zirdelis also leverages his international experience to coordinate the efforts of a team comprising 33 different nationalities, balancing automation with human resources to achieve his ambitions.
To unearth the secrets to his success, XBIZ sat down with the ascendant Zirdelis for this exclusive executive suite interview.
XBIZ: With a background in online marketing, what led you to join the ExoClick team in 2013?
Zirdelis: Before joining ExoClick, I was working as a traffic manager and I just fell in love with ad tech. Optimization became a passion for me, so I joined ExoClick as a network manager. My goal was to ensure clients could increase their ROI by optimizing their traffic and their campaign targeting on ExoClick’s platform.
I then moved to head up the performance advertising department. I was (and still am) fascinated with how different creatives and ad formats work together with regards to converting offers, which geos perform better and why, how real-time statistics can be used to reveal data trends and thinking of new ways to use ExoClick’s optimization features.
XBIZ: Since then, you’ve held many roles at ExoClick, ranging from network manager to director of business intelligence. How have these positions helped prepare you for director of sales and ad operations?
Zirdelis: Yes, I am very lucky to have worked in various roles at ExoClick during the last five years. I have grown along with our technology and our business. This, coupled with my fascination with data and what insights it can reveal, has given me the skills to take over the director of sales role.
Back in 2014, I set up the business intelligence department because it was time to implement “deeper learning” and gain true business insights from the huge amount of big data ExoClick’s clients were generating. In order to analyze this data, we have to continually invest in our technology so that we can provide new tools and features for both our advertisers and publishers. These tools allow clients to make the correct business decisions in order to meet their key performance indicators and improve their ROI. In fact, ExoClick processes 2.5 terabytes of data each day.
I have always attended the key trade shows, which has enabled me to build up excellent relationships with clients and others working in the same business field. Plus, I have very strong relationships across all of ExoClick’s different departments, which has created a great level of trust and has helped me immensely with getting the job done.
XBIZ: You’ve studied in quite a few universities and institutes spanning Finland, Greece, Spain and beyond. What unique insights has this international experience given you, which you implement at ExoClick?
Zirdelis: I studied both IT and business at all the universities. I think that my great passion for technology has helped me in my role of bridging tech and business. Studying in various countries has also helped me know how to work with different cultures. ExoClick’s team is made up of 33 different nationalities and with ExoClick’s global network of clients, knowing how different cultures do business is a great asset to have.
XBIZ: What is your management philosophy for inspiring employees to do their very best?
Zirdelis: I think it is important to lead by example and education is key to this. I have experience in lecturing in ad tech and it is very important for me to ensure that the sales, client care and marketing teams really understand how our technology works, because they have to tell the outside world all about it. We are continually launching new features and they need to transmit the benefits and optimization tips to our clients. I think that by empowering your team with knowledge, they feel more confident in their roles, they enjoy each working day and they are able to reach higher goals.
XBIZ: Describe some of the most exciting ad industry technologies being developed, that ExoClick is harnessing?
Zirdelis: Automation is becoming more important as advertisers look to scale up their campaigns. Our latest release is the ExoClick Bidder, which is very exciting! It allows advertisers to automate the optimization of their campaigns by adjusting their bids by ad zone and blocking non-converting ad zones. It also lets advertisers create their own additional algorithms for each campaign to further optimize and block non-performing ad zones.
This saves wasting valuable budgets as well as saving a lot of time because the Bidder works as a smart assistant that optimizes on your behalf. The beauty of it is that advertisers can really scale up because they can have many smart assistants working across all of their campaigns, freeing up time for other business activities. Additionally, our platform API allows clients to automate everything from our admin panel.
Programmatic is something that ExoClick introduced to the adult industry back in January 2017 with Real-time bidding, allowing advertisers to bid on individual impressions. We have since expanded this to include our ad exchange. Integrated with every major agency, network and Demand-side platform, it allows publishers to increase demand for their inventory and gives advertisers more opportunities to access multiple sources of direct quality traffic. This is where industry partnerships are so important in order to integrate other companies programmatically and work with third party tracking systems such as Voluum, Cake, etc., so that advertisers can track their campaigns using various tools on our platform.
XBIZ: When setting short, medium and long-term sales objectives, explain your process for knowing when to push them with firm determination and knowing when to adjust them with adaptive flexibility.
Zirdelis: We set goals for each year and for short-term objectives each quarter. My strategy is not to try to change our medium and long-term objectives, but to use the short-term quarterly goals flexibly. This way, we can keep management and sales motivated in the short-term, but always keep our long-term goals in sight.
XBIZ: How do you balance serving clients with data-driven automation (essential, but impersonal), while still providing that human element of business interaction and development?
Zirdelis: We move in the direction that the ad tech industry is heading, which is more and more automation. But there is still a great need for the human touch with client liaison and interaction. Humans have skills that automation cannot replace, such as communication, creativity, advice, market knowledge, cultural differences, account management, etc. — so the personal touch is a very important strength that adds great value to our business.
XBIZ: What are the most common compliance challenges that you face and how do you overcome them?
Zirdelis: All advertisers and publishers have to be fully compliant with our compliance guidelines or campaigns will not be approved and websites will not be allowed on our network. Google and The Better Ad Coalition pushed through new compliance rules this year that affected the entire ad industry.
We addressed this very quickly by creating new compliant ad formats including: interstitials, additional native formats, in-video banners, our large billboard banner and footer and improvements to our in-stream video format. The end user can easily dismiss all ad formats, so their viewing experience is not interrupted.
Of course, many publishers were thrown into confusion with the new compliance initiatives, so we introduced a one-click system on our platform, which allowed publishers to block any ad format that was not compliant, ensuring they would not be penalized by Google.
XBIZ: Tell us about your approach to delegating responsibilities and ensuring goals are met?
Zirdelis: This year, we introduced a project-based approach that enables us to delegate small and big projects to various managers at ExoClick. Each manager is responsible for leading and developing their project. We have regular follow-ups to address any issues and ensure each project is on track. I think this is strategically important for both the growth of the company and the career path of each manager.
XBIZ: Any exciting features on the horizon, which you can preview for us?
Zirdelis: We are working on more automation features and we have just launched email clicks that target dating site users as an ad format. Previously email clicks were available only as flat deals, but now, advertisers can directly bid for email clicks on our platform and they also optimize with our new Bidder tool!
XBIZ: What do you like to do in your spare time?
Zirdelis: I like getting out into nature and taking road trips to Spain’s Costa Brava, always with our dog, who is a lot of fun. I enjoy climbing and yoga and I have been known to keep people on the dance floor with my DJing skills.