MarTech360 Interview with Arnaud Créput, CEO at Equativ

“Stay open to alternative viewpoints. It can be easy to slip into one-track thinking, especially if certain strategies or techniques have proved effective time and again. But while one way of doing things might deliver good results, there is always another approach that could deliver greater outcomes. Listen to the experts you have hired to help you see past the norm.”

Arnaud, can you tell us about your professional background and your current role at Equativ. Also tell us how does Equativ differentiate itself from other companies in the same space?

My career has followed a series of natural transitions. I started out in Corporate Finance at BNP Paribas and Deutsche Bank — specializing in mergers, acquisitions, and equity capital markets. ​​This experience inspired me, as I was captivated by the ambition and energy of the entrepreneurs I met. Soon after that, I joined a mid-sized Euronext-listed internet company as a Finance Business Partner, before being appointed as CFO aged 27. This shift led to several C-level roles that refined my ability to optimize operational efficiency and business growth while enabling me to gradually pivot from software publishing to ad tech.

Since joining Equativ nine years ago, I have been able to bring these various areas of expertise together: connecting deep analytical thinking with financial know-how, and a business-driven and tech understanding to become an effective CEO.

One of the key factors that drew me to the company is its strong focus on enabling media buyers and sellers to gain maximum, equal value from advertising transactions, by providing flexible, transparent, and independent solutions in a fast growing and fast changing environment.

Equativ is committed to continually evolving its range of end-to-end solutions in line with market needs. I believe Equativ’s success today isn’t just about our platform, technology, service quality, processes, tools, back office, marketing, or sales organization–all of which are strong. It’s the people I work with who truly make a difference. Their shared values, engagement, team spirit, initiatives, ambitions, and pride in being part of a thriving organization are what drive us forward.

What strategies have you found most effective in driving growth acceleration and international expansion for mid-sized high-tech companies, and how do you manage and motivate a skilled and multicultural team across various functions to achieve these goals?

Mid-sized tech companies can choose one of two paths when defining growth strategy: either the company decides to grow organically amidst increased pressure and competition from tech giants, or they unify strengths with another industry leader to ensure they are well-equipped to win. We chose the first option until 2020, including building our footprint organically in 15 new countries, and then catalyzed this development with targeted mergers and acquisitions that reinforced our local presence and market share.

Our recent merger with Sharethrough recognises that blending both companies’ exceptional and complementary solutions will accelerate shared growth. This enables us to rapidly expand our presence in North America, effectively removing entry barriers in one of the most competitive markets.

Mergers and acquisitions are risky endeavors and should aim for more than just combining businesses. In practical terms, the effectiveness of such expansion initiatives depends heavily on how well different companies are able to blend together. Successful M&A begins with making fast, clear and transparent decisions for the combined organization.

As part of that, companies need to ensure areas of positive variation are embraced; including enabling global teams to retain practices that have been carefully developed for their region, instead of imposing blanket rules for the sake of consistency. People tend to be happier and more productive when they feel trusted to do their job in the way they know generates the best results.

For example, it’s crucial to involve top management from the acquired company in a well-balanced or even overrepresented manner, which often requires making tough calls and careful arbitrations. In essence, it’s all about enabling cultural cross-pollination or achieving what’s now dubbed “tropicalisation”. This means going far beyond just wiring new systems to work efficiently with existing tech; businesses must cultivate a new, unified identity that accommodates diverse cultures, procedures, and viewpoints.

Recently, Equativ has been recognized by joining the Next 40 index in France. Could you elaborate on the significance of this achievement and what it means for the company’s future, considering the criteria for selection and the category Equativ falls under?

For starters, Equativ’s foundational layer—Smart AdServer—was born in France, and our European roots remain an essential component of the organization. So, accolades related to French tech excellence feel extremely meaningful to us, especially those with prestigious government backing. The tailored support that comes with being listed will help cement Equativ’s position as both a French and global technology leader.

Additionally, this particular listing is a clear illustration of Equativ’s fast development. The French Tech Next40/120 programme was only established in 2019 and Equativ has already featured in the 120 index twice. Our latest place in the top 40 shows that esteemed external forces see the hard work we’re putting into ensuring demand and supply-side partners can access cutting-edge advertising solutions outside of restrictive walled gardens, in addition to the financials: such as recent revenue growth that has quadrupled in the last four years and exceeds the €100 million threshold.

Also Read: MarTech360 Interview with Ed King, Founder and CEO at Openprise

Can you tell us on how your media solutions maintain high performance in a cookieless environment while offering customizable engagement options for campaigns?

By now, it’s apparent there won’t be a single one-size-fits-all solution to fuel post-cookie ad operations. Serving persistently relevant, well-targeted messages across environments is going to call for a mix of approaches. That’s why we’ve invested significantly in bringing even greater versatility to the Equativ Buyer Connect (EBC) platform. It is currently driving 25% of our revenues, following YOY growth of over 100% YoY in H1 2024. This curation platform enables first and third-party data activation, audience segment targeting, offsite retail media, clean room, and supply path optimization (SPO) for simpler and more direct cookieless programmatic advertising transactions.

Our Research and Development roadmap is also heavily focused on a very strong in-house CTV/video contextual (i.e. cookie-free) engine, which contributes to 30% of our revenues and is on track to grow by above 50% YoY in 2024.

Our unique CTV ad-serving and Server-Side Ad Insertion platform enables targeted direct and programmatic advertising campaigns on CTV, OTT, and linear TV (Advanced TV). This is the fastest-growing vertical in a 100% cookie-free environment and already contributes to 15% of our revenues, with 100% growth YoY in H1 2024 as well.

What are the primary strategic goals for Equativ and Sharethrough following their recent merger? How do you envision the combined entity’s role in the global ad tech landscape? Specifically, how will this merger benefit current and prospective clients in terms of optimizing programmatic value and scaling ad campaigns?

The adtech landscape is still very fragmented, and the Open Web is still struggling to establish its fair value against social media platforms and walled gardens.

The strategic push behind this partnership was about combining the capabilities and robust market presence of two independent tech players. In terms of regionality, some of that includes layering Sharethrough’s US stronghold over Equativ’s European reach to offer an enhanced global remit.

When it comes to tech, this union has created a super-sized ad marketplace which makes it easier for media buyers to manage advertising activities that achieve multiple objectives at the same time, across channels and devices.

For instance, Sharethrough’s clients will benefit from the capacity our solutions offer to apply streamlined supply path optimisation that improves performance and cuts wasted ad spend, as well as driving efficiency that helps meet sustainability goals. Meanwhile, Equativ’s users can instantly adjust ad creative for better impact among specific audiences using attention data and craft curated omnichannel inventory selections according to their campaign, business, and environmental goals.

Our combined mission is to provide buyers and sellers with a trusted and independent global platform that brings scale, transparency, and simplicity to digital advertising in the Open Web.

Can you share a pivotal moment or lesson from your career that has shaped your approach as a leader, and also how do you maintain a work-life balance, especially in a demanding role like CEO?

When I became CEO in 2018, the company was undergoing a period of significant change that resulted in uncertainty among internal employees and external partners. Hitting the ground running in this environment wasn’t easy, but I had the huge benefit of support from top talent. My close management team was crucial in helping me find my feet, enabling us to focus on growth rather than cost-cutting. Sixty employees, representing 30% of our team, had invested their own money in the project. This commitment drove me to transition fully from CFO to CEO, with a mission to make everyone proud and successful. Additionally, having an exceptional Executive Assistant has been invaluable in helping me maintain a healthy work-life balance, ultimately ensuring I can lead effectively.

What advice would you give to other leaders which helped you personally?

Stay open to alternative viewpoints. It can be easy to slip into one-track thinking, especially if certain strategies or techniques have proved effective time and again. But while one way of doing things might deliver good results, there is always another approach that could deliver greater outcomes. Listen to the experts you have hired to help you see past the norm.

Finally, cultivate deep trust in yourself, your colleagues, and your team. Empower rather than dictate, stay focused on the big picture, seize opportunities, learn from failures, and prioritize team goals. Show appreciation to all.

Thanks, Arnaud!

Arnaud Créput is an accomplished executive with over a decade of experience as a CFO, board member, and CEO in the high-tech industry. With a strong focus on achieving goals, Arnaud excels in driving strategic projects, including growth acceleration, international expansion, transformation initiatives, strategic partnerships, mergers and acquisitions (M&A), and refinancing.

As a CEO, Arnaud leads skilled and multicultural teams across sales, operations, engineering, and support functions. He is known for his entrepreneurial spirit, trustworthiness, data-driven approach, and business-oriented mindset. Arnaud consistently leverages his expertise to propose impactful strategies and solutions, driving success and innovation within mid-sized companies.

Equativ is the new single name for Smart Adserver, DynAdmic and LiquidM — three proven innovators in advertising technology. Our vertically integrated company provides brand and privacy-safe solutions that empower our clients to achieve maximum impact while respecting the rights of consumers. The union combines client expertise and engineering excellence to serve the interests of both the supply-side and demand-side with equal professionalism and technical sophistication.

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