Yuling Ma: Engineering a Smarter Approach to Buying and Selling TV Advertising
As Chief Technology Officer at FreeWheel, Yuling Ma is leading a team of engineers that is transforming the way TV advertising is bought and sold.
Q: What is your role at FreeWheel?
A: I am the chief technology officer at FreeWheel, which is part of Comcast Advertising. In this role, I lead the development and operation of FreeWheel’s technology platform and network operations. This includes overseeing the company’s global engineering team across the United States, Europe and China as they develop industry-changing technology solutions for advertising buyers and sellers. Because FreeWheel is an advertising technology company, the engineering group is essential to ensuring the best products are getting into the hands of our sales teams and, ultimately, our clients.
Q: What was your path to becoming a CTO?
A: I love math and any subject related to science. When I applied for college in Beijing, computer science was a new field, and it was not a choice many girls were making. But it’s where my passion lies, so I pursued it, and have loved every minute of it. From start-ups to big companies, I truly believe that with the right people and the right technology, anything is possible. That’s what brought me to FreeWheel – the company is made up of an amazing group of people who are working every day to fundamentally improve the TV advertising industry – an industry that is greatly changing every year.
Q: How is TV advertising changing?
A: As television viewing fragments across screens, it has become more difficult for advertisers to reach their audiences, and then measure their success. Advertisers today can’t rely on solutions that were built for traditional TV buying and selling. Today, they are looking for more efficient and automated ways of working – this is what we refer to as programmatic buying and selling. The challenge is that the form of programmatic born in the digital space is not to designed to work for premium video content providers with constrained inventory, nor for TV advertisers and brands who require guaranteed delivery, at a fixed cost, within a given timeframe. This is where FreeWheel comes in.
Q: What role does FreeWheel play in the evolving TV advertising landscape?
A: In the same way e-commerce was changed by Amazon, transportation was changed by Uber and lodging was changed by Airbnb, FreeWheel is changing TV advertising. We are building technology that can connect nearly all major publishers with agencies, bringing automation, efficiency and scaled data to TV advertising like never before. We like to say we are combining the targeting and measurement of digital with the scale and quality of linear TV. Our engineering team isn’t trying to just move the needle with the solutions they build – they are truly changing the industry by connecting buyers and sellers in smarter ways. We are building a marketplace that can connect nearly all major publishers with agencies, bringing automation, efficiency and scaled data to TV advertising like never before.
Q: What’s to come in the year ahead?
A: This is a big year for the FreeWheel engineering team as we continue to build the technology to fuel the television advertising marketplace of the future, designed specifically for premium sellers and advertisers. For me personally, this is also a big year because I’ll be moving from Beijing to New York! I’ve spent a lot of time in the New York area, but never lived right in the city. I’m looking forward to Broadway shows and concerts when they open up, and to running in Central Park.