“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.”
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!