Back in May, Outbrain announced the appointment of Amrita de la Peña to the role of managing director, APAC. Since then, de la Peña has been leading the technology platform‘s expansion across the Asia-Pacific region, including Japan.
Her career spans roles in SaaS, Martech, Ad-tech, Social and Media, and de la Peña has had a front-row seat to the evolution of those sectors. Before joining Outbrain, she served as Sprout Social’s first general manager in the region, and previously spent six years building X (formerly Twitter)’s advertising business, including four years as head of global brands, JAPAC.
Mediaweek caught up with de la Peña to speak about her time with Outbrain so far, and what she’s looking to achieve in her time with the brand.
You’re new to the managing director, APAC role – first of all, what has your time at Outbrain been like so far?
de la Peña: “I feel like I’ve been here already a year, the passage of time is always about how much happens in a short period of time, isn’t it?
“The region is wide, and it’s the first time that Outbrain has consolidated the region under a single leader. Business is done wildly differently in some of these markets, so all the processes have to be defined and structured in a more unified way.
“There is some adjustment from a process and structural perspective, it needs to be built a little bit more efficiently – and everybody needs to be talking the same language, that’s the first thing.”
Outbrain went through a restructure recently. Can you tell me about what impact that change has had?
de la Peña: “In week two of my role, there was a 10% reduction globally of the company – so that’s what my time with Outbrain has felt much quicker than I ever anticipated.
“The broader tech ecosystem has been broadly evolving, and it’s gone from focusing on growth metrics to substantially to a revenue-focused view. What that means is that when you look at revenue, it is very P&L heavy. It moves tech to a more traditional ecosystem, where you only stretch as much as you’re making money and you’re not able to hire in anticipation of growth.
“My focus largely is around the revenue of the business. Once we have the publishing relationships, I ask how we build a business and make money for the company.”
Do you think that shift will be ongoing, or will it turn back around at some point?
de la Peña: “I think it’s the evolution of just businesses and companies in general. Tech is a pretty recent industry – the likes of Facebook and Google have been around for 15 to 20 years. If you compare it to a more traditional industry, let’s say Unilever, they’ve been around for 100 years.
“I’d say it’s a natural course in how industries evolve. At some point, as much as growth is important, revenue is just as important – if not more so.”
When looking at the APAC region, are there any markets that stand out as a priority?
de la Peña: “Markets that have a digital-first lens would be a priority. You have markets like Japan or our export business in China, which tend to be very dominant, digital-first markets. You have markets like Indonesia, which have skipped the entire desktop generation and TV generation completely – it’s a mobile-first market. Also, the share of wallet on digital tends to be much, much larger.
“That’s not to say that the other markets will not have focus, we do need to be a global company, and we will have a presence across the markets in in the region. But in terms of focus, digital-first and mobile-first markets will take priority.”
What are some of Outbrain’s highlights from the last year or so?
de la Peña: “To double down on growth and revenue, we have acquired a number of new publisher partnerships, especially across the Southeast Asia region. We have announced a new two-year partnership with Singapore’s youth-focused news platform, Mothership, and two publisher renewals in Malaysia for Media Works and Malaysiakini.
“While Outbrain’s foundation will always be native advertising, the company will continue to innovate to better match the needs of the market and of our clients. We see ourselves as omnichannel now – we’ve made acquisitions in the past, such as that of vi and Zemanta – to help strengthen the company in areas of increasing importance, such as AI and video. AI in particular is something I see as becoming a priority for the business.
“The launch of Onyx has also been a significant move for Outbrain which is a reflection of how we see our businesses to evolve across our marketeers’ buying funnel. We have launched Onyx across select markets with the rollout in Asia in early 2024.
“We have seen great success across Keystone, our SaaS product for publishers launched in 2022 and will continue to build and innovate to better service our customers
“I am also thrilled to be working alongside Eve Solomon, Outbrain’s newly appointed managing director, publisher business development for the APAC region, including Japan, based out of Australia. She brings great Outbrain internal knowledge and workings to the region. The move has been designed to build greater efficiency within the Outbrain ecosystem and help align the APAC region closer to our global strategies. Eve will be focused on our publisher relationships in the region and I will be partnering with her closely to ensure growth and revenue from the region.”
More broadly, what are your goals for your time at Outbrain, and what are you working towards at the moment?
de la Peña: “There’s been a huge mental shift from growth metrics to revenue as we spoke about before. Both from an industry perspective and also within the company perspective, that was a huge shift.
“I’ve been brought on to be able to help enable that shift as seamlessly as possible. That’s broadly the goal. We want to move the needle of enabling people to get a bit more behind that revenue goal, that’s the broader company goal. Then we want to be able to bring that sort of thinking across each of these markets as well.”
Top Image: Amrita de la Peña