Janette Higginson on transparency in the adtech industry

Written by Taro Ishida Published on     5 mins read

Higginson breaks down what’s happening in the adtech field and shares her advice for women chasing a career in the industry.

With ten years of experience in digital marketing and seven years focused on programmatic, Janette has built a solid career in the adtech community, serving as an educator of programmatic advertising for buyers and using her consultative approach to align with customer needs. Janette began her career in journalism before entering the world of digital sales, where she worked for companies like Linkedin, iCumulus, and Yahoo 7. In 2018, she joined Index Exchange — the world’s largest, independent advertising exchange — where she leads all buy-side business endeavors across APAC.

This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity. 

KrASIA (Kr): Adtech is a very fast-paced industry, with a constantly evolving technology that requires a lot of learning, even as a veteran. How have you stayed on top of these changes and adapted throughout your career?

Janette Higginson (JH): I’ve always had a strong thirst for knowledge and ambition to stay on top of trends, no matter the industry. I find that I thrive in fast-paced environments and coincidently, these traits also align very well with the nature of adtech.

The notion of learning has been an underlying theme in my past and current role. My approach with each position I’ve held has been consultative, and I take pride in being a great listener. I learn in every single conversation I have, whether it’s internal, amongst colleagues of all levels, or externally with my clients, who share their challenges and allow me to be critical to providing them solutions.

It’s exciting to think about tomorrow and how quickly the industry is moving. It’s my passion to understand what we can do today to make tomorrow’s innovations more efficient and meaningful.

Kr: What are the key benefits and challenges that will arise from recent changes in the adtech space?

JH: One of the biggest changes that the adtech industry has experienced is the focus on transparency. When we talk about transparency, it pertains to the inner workings of the supply chain and lifting the veil on the practices that players in the ecosystem use to bring value to both sides of the coin, publisher or buyer. In past years, there has been a perception that the ad-tech ecosystem is a “black box,” and advertising dollars were being absorbed by the adtech vendor.

In recent years, there has been a huge focus on educating the marketplace on the premise of adtech, and industry organizations, like the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), continue to play a key role in driving shared industry-level initiatives forward. These organizations have introduced standards that ensure that players in the ecosystem are aware of how the supply chain operates in a holistic way.

The second challenge is Google’s announcement to deprecate third-party cookies. Although this news didn’t come as a surprise, it did raise some questions about the future of addressability in digital marketing. The opportunity that this presents is the chance for the adtech industry to come up with future-proofed strategies that will work for the long-term and keep consumer privacy at their core.

Janette Higginson
Janette Higginson is the APAC Head of Demand at Index Exchange. Photo courtesy of Index Exchange.

Kr: How do you define success in adtech?

JH: Ultimately, it’s all about collaboration and providing value. There has been some consolidation in the adtech industry recently, and this is mainly driven by buyers and publishers looking for differentiation. Success for an adtech vendor is ensuring alignment to clients’ strategic and long-term monetization goals whilst satisfying consumer needs.

Ad technologies work to streamline and automate manual processes whilst working to optimize performance and drive yield for a website. Though the right pipes are essential, the focus of the publisher and the provider should be on the end-user, the customer who at the end of the day is wanting more and more control.

Kr: You have had a long career and built a strong reputation in adtech, which is known to be a very male-dominated industry. What are some of the challenges you’ve had to overcome?

JH: I’ve never let that distracting me, although it is a comment I hear regularly. When I receive an invitation to join a panel in my industry, what I notice first is not that I’m the only female, but it is the level of incredible talent I’m surrounded by, men and women who have coached me and provided the opportunities for my professional growth.

I think we need to be conscious of how we position tech to younger generations. Some of the language about how ‘technical’ you need to be to succeed in tech needs to change. I’m very proud to mentor a few incredible women who are making waves in my industry, and I plan to do everything possible to coach them through the years ahead, with support and great pride. I will do what I can to ensure they feel they belong here. I would like to see diversity celebrated more in my industry.

Kr: What would be your advice for women looking to have a career not only in the adtech, but the tech industry in general?

JH: This is a question that is close to my heart and one I love to answer. There are so many avenues but a few things ring true to me, so here are a few tips:

Build a trusted network inside and outside of your industry:

I would have struggled to navigate my career if I didn’t have a close group of peers and friends helping me to shape my career, make decisions about roles, and have challenging conversations with. This trusted group of people has become a professional family that provides honest feedback and guidance. I remember that when I fell pregnant with my first child, I had a lot of anxiety about what this meant for my career, but this solid network supported me through all stages of my transition to working parenthood. I also make sure to be there for them whenever they ask for it.

Build an open relationship with managers and senior leaders within your business:

A great manager is incredibly important in the early years of your career. Taking the time to build a strong relationship with your boss is extremely rewarding. Sharing your vulnerabilities and asking for direction and feedback takes courage, but makes it easier for your managers and leaders to provide opportunities for growth and elevation when you are ready. You have to be good at receiving feedback and be happy to hear it. In an industry like tech, opportunities come and go and, having a manager that is willing to invest time in your journey and grow your capabilities is a huge advantage.

Be confident, knowledge is power:

Never feel like you don’t deserve a seat at the table. Conquer your imposter syndrome as quickly as possible and do whatever you need to do to control these feelings. Feel free to express your opinion and shift the perspective with every conversation, because ultimately, change drives innovation.


Taro Ishida


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