Episode 88 features a great conversation with Tameka Kee, Head of Content at AdMonsters. Tameka takes us through her career journey which includes Mediapost, Digiday, eMarketer, Rubicon Project, and launching her own business, The In.Fux Lab. We also discuss the great community that is AdMonsters, content strategy, dealing with discrimination, and a lot more.
We want to welcome all of our listeners to another episode of Minority Report Podcast with Erik and Kerel. Each episode we talk with leaders in business, tech, and media and today joining us is Tameka Kee. Who is the head of content, AdMonsters. Let's jump in and get to know Tameka. Tameka. Welcome. How are you?
Well, hello there. How are you?
We are super happy. You're here to hang with us.
Mm hmm. I'm excited that I finally get to be on the podcast as a longtime listener and fan. I was wondering when I was gonna have
you're here now in here now. You're here. Now Tameka. We know you. For those that don't know you. Can you tell us a little bit about you. Tell us about where you were born and where you're raised?
Oh, wow. Yeah. Wow. I am actually from Queens. And Long Island, New York. Originally, actually. Long Island on the boarder of Queens and Long Island. I actually grew up in a couple of different parts of Queens. But Far Rockaway which is I tell people like I grew up on the beach in New York. And I always like what I was like, yeah, people served where, you know, where I was where I live. But yeah, so I'm from Queens, and definitely around the way girl who moved to California about 13 years ago. And so now I say, I'm a California girl from New York, because it's beautiful and sunny. And there's nature here. And whenever I go back to New York, I'm like, why is everybody so angry?
Haha. You're growing up there and then spending some time in California. But it's kind of different, right? Very different talks about your family.
My family is still in New York. Actually. I joke that I lived in the hood burbs because it was like the last stop on the train. The last stop on the train than the last stop on a bus and then a 10 block walk to my parents house and we had a pool. You know, we had a yard but then like two blocks over people got shot and stuff. So it was like the hood burbs, you know, it was as great a childhood, I think as you can have in New York with the, "inner city stuff" that that you deal with. But I mean, like, I went to a high school for sort of like gifted and talented people. So we got to go to we got to go to Broadway plays, we got to do all of these things. So I I joke and say it's the hood burbs, but that's sort of what it was right? Like, I got some of the street education that comes from that comes from being in New York and kind of learning how to hold yourself in the street and kind of the toughness that comes along with that. Right, which I think is a good thing, I think, I think you need a little bit of toughness to kind of deal with the world, including the business world, but then sort of the softness of, of being in a program that sort of encouraged your brain to grow in a very specific way.
Yeah, no, that's, that's really cool. It's amazing. When you think about those experiences now too, right? Like, you're going through them at that age, you don't always sort of make that connection about how that's gonna sort of impact you later, you know, so it's kind of fun to think about, right? No, and,
you know, it's, it's a thing I talk with, I talk with my boyfriend about it, I talk with other people, it is just sort of like, there's nature and nurture, right. And like, again, we were getting into this already, but like, obviously, systemic racism and all these issues, there are lots of issues that impact people and their ability to grow and earn money and think creatively, if you will. But at a certain point, there's also a choice, right? Like, you have to choose, perhaps to want something better. But if you maybe if you have examples of other things that you can want, you can actually choose them. Absolutely.
exposure, right. The just sort of being able to see things firsthand is really powerful. Mm hmm. You know, like you mentioned business earlier, and you've worked with some great companies. Yeah. And you founded some companies too, now your at AdMonsters. Tell us a little bit about what's going on there. It's exciting.
Yeah, AdMonsters is crazy and awesome. And it was sort of like, I was not looking for a job at all. As you mentioned, yeah. I've worked for myself for quite some time. So at the end of 2018, I launched a company called The in.flux Lab, and we were producing events. And I produced our first event and produced our first event in 2018. It was amazing what's called the reality mixer. And then I spent 2019, sort of, you know, working on content, stuff like that with a goal of producing a bigger series of events in 2020.
And then you've done some big events. I've been I've been amazed. I was like, wow,
but you know what happened in 2020. And so there were no, there were no events in 2020, let alone from like an independent company. Right. And so thankfully, I got a PPP loan, among other things last year and was able and I had some content marketing clients, I was able to kind of pull it together. But at the beginning of the year, Gavin, who you guys know, Gavin left AdMonsters, and there was just this sort of void. And Lynne D Johnson, who's the editor who I've known for years sent me a note was like, Hey, would you be interested in this? And I was like, there was a job. That was right for me. It's about Adtech. And it's about events. And I get to travel and have fun and sort of nerd out about Adtech. This is probably the job I should take. I should probably take this job, you know, I will not take it I should probably apply for this job.
Shout out to Gavin. I want to ask you about your career path. How did you get started? Tell us about sort of getting started though.
And God. You know, it's funny, I had to do this for I had to do this to get to get the job. It's top of mine, because I was one of the questions that that for the team asked. They were like, so what do you do? And how did you get here? And I think the core thread of my career has been, you know, I'm, I'm a nerd, right? I am an advertising and media nerd. Like I used to videotape commercials, like my mom was like, I don't understand what's wrong with you. You taped commercials and not the TV shows. And I listened to jingles and that kind of stuff. And I went to school for communications. And so I like envisioned, working at like an advertising agency like that was 20 something years ago, that was your path. If you're going to work in advertising, right? It's like, you're going to go work at an agency and work on commercials. So I went to school for that. And then that wasn't what happened. I went to school, got a scholarship, I lost my scholarship, because I learned how to party. And so I had to come home, I had to come home and work part of the time that I was in college. And so I had a bunch of different odd jobs. One of my last Jobs was as an executive assistant for a gentleman named Bob de Sena, who at the time was running, the econometric modeling division of media edge CIA, and his job at that time, and I feel like it was 07, maybe 06. His job at that time, was to define what engagement meant for this media agency. This is 07 when nobody's talking about engagement. And he's talking about click to anything, right. So his job was to define engagement. And I got hired as his executive assistant. And he was just kind of like, you're super smart. You can book my meetings, you can do all of these things he's like, but that's gonna take like 20% of your time, I want you to go to the meetings, I want you to listen to stuff, I want you to pay attention. And I also want you to help create this repository of articles about online advertising, because our team needs to be educated about this. So I kind of got to work building like our intranet, at media edge CIA, our sort of deep dive of articles, and it was media post at the time. And yeah, a lot of things media post and like oma magazine, print, right? So
we just talked about that, like, there used to be this part in the back, that would like list the best ad servers, or the best ad networks to use
It's crazy, right? And I'd read media posts and stuff like that. And then he got canned, not surprisingly, at the time, because he got canned and then the person who became my boss after him was like, internet wouldn't be here, my admin get me coffee, and I was like, man what am I gonna do? And so, you know, I was like, I gotta get out of here. And I think it was maybe a couple of months after that media post had put out that they were hiring for a reporter. And so I sent Bob to send a note, I knew, and I know, this is these are the things that, you know, admins know, and learn, which, which is one reason why I'm always extremely nice to people's admins, because it's also like, they hold the keys to everything, also, because I'm just a decent person. But like, I'd remembered from emails with Bob and Joe, that like, Bob knew Joe directly. And so I sent Bob and note and I said, Bob, I would love to get this. This job. I have writing samples, could you just like shoot my resume to Joe? And he's like, of course. And he shot my resume to Joe And like a week later, my editor, Laurie Peterson, sent me a note and was like, Hi, we got your resume. Can you write up this article? And I feel like it was like about some company that was doing. I think it was like search metrics or somebody like that, like before the SEO before all of that stuff. She's like, Can you write up this story? And I literally remember, like, trembling so hard as I was like, writing this, like, 300 word piece about this company that got funding, and they sent it to her. And she was like, This is good. We want you to start next week, and like, that was it. And so I started writing about search. And as you know that I was covering search engine marketing And this is, this is when Yahoo and Microsoft still had search engines. And so I learned about advertising about the sort of weird nerdy nuts and bolts side of advertising from early on. And so it kind of continued from there. So I started as a reporter at media post, I started as an executive assistant at media edge, and then became a reporter at media post. I think I spent about two years at media posts before I made the move to paid content, which doesn't exist anymore. And I got to cover video games among other things and digital media. And then I left paid content for Digiday. Before Digiday was Digiday, when Digiday was was just a young little cub in the industry. And we were doing like seven events a year and burning ourselves out and just crazy. And then after, Digiday, after I left Digiday, I was the first time I worked for myself. And my first client was Rubicon project. And I wrote their very first white paper ever should be be in some archives somewhere. And then kind of From then on, it's like, once I became known as a writer, and the kind of public profile that being a journalist gives you it was easy to continue to have my own business because people just come to me, but I go, you know how to do this. And then sort of being specialized in adtech. You know, I joked with Lynne when she sent me the, you know, the job description about, you know, ad monsters, and I was just like, Dude, it's like the trap again, they keep pulling me back, like I try to get out of adtech. I try to get out of adtech. And the money is good, right? I like the people are good. We're just like me. It's like the best trap game I've ever been in so far.
Tameka, like many in the industry, Erik and I grew up within the AdMonsters community. So curious to hear from you as the head of content. What do you love about your job at AdMonsters?
I love being able to nerd out about adtech, right? Like it's, it's nerdy. And it's technical, which is a thing. Not everybody likes talking about tags and ad servers. Not everybody knows what an ad server is, like, before I got this job. I was moonlighting. I was doing some PR for a company for an agency here in LA. And we're doing this deep dive. And they're like, Yeah, well, you know, we built this thing called an ad server. And I was like, what you built. And so like, I'm talking, I'm talking to their CTO. This was years ago, and they were doing this thing. And they wanted to run these ads that could not run. And they're like, so we had to, we kind of built our own ad and they built an ad server, do you not know, like, I do not know how innovative that was at the time. But not everybody understands what an ad server is, or why an ad server is important. And so that's the part that I love about AdMonsters is it's nerdy. And it's technical, but it's also about media and content. And it's also about the money, right? It's this beautiful intersection of those three things that I feel like is unique. And a lot of people said to me, before I took the gig, you know, the biggest thing about AdMonsters is it's community. And I think a lot of people say community, and it's air quotes, you know, but as I've learned, in the two months that I've been there, it's really as a community, like, it's, it's a legit community. And, and I am excited to, to kind of be a brand steward for the community to make sure that the content we create and the events that we create, serve the community as it is, but also kind of as the community shifts and evolves, right. Like the business of Ad Ops, is so different than it used to be. Right. Like, it's, it's not just about ads on pages, it's about revenue, it's about Okay, now, do I have to... Kerel the point of what we're talking to your team about later, right? How do I manage my subscriptions? How do I manage? How do I manage all of these revenue facing aspects of the business? And so I want to, you know, while making sure that we keep the community that we have happy, but also, as the community changes and evolves like, Erik, you, you were part of the community in one role, right, and now you're in a different role. How do we serve you in that? Kerel, you as the CMO.. How do we keep up with AdWeek? Right, in terms of getting your attention, right? And with the understanding that there's no publication, that's going to be all things to all people. Like, I totally get that. But how do we sort of keep the audience that we have while expanding to meet the needs of publishers because the needs of publishers are evolving?
And I want to ask you about representation with respect to the content within AdMonster's, right because, obviously, that's one of the reasons why Erik and I started this podcast is so that we can highlight diverse people And show more representation. And so I'm curious to know, how does that factor into the content strategy and recruiting people in either for interviews or speaking opportunities, so on and so forth?
That's a very good question. You know, it's funny, it's not a soundbite answer is I have a little bit of liberty. So I would say, it's really funny because the team is very cognizant of it now, which I may be because of the time maybe because maybe because of whatever. But we had a at the end of our last pub forum, there was a panel and Chairman, Rob Beeler. Come to Lynne and I. And he goes, look, I don't want this to be a manel. I don't want this to be a manel. I don't want this to be a manel with all white men. What are we going to do here? And I was like, Huh, okay. I said, Well, I think we get a free pass, because Lynne and I are both black women, and we're the hosts. So I think it's I think it's okay, for one of the panels to be a manel with white men. It's only three of you. I think it's okay. So I think the team is very conscious of that. You know, and I think that that that may be partly why, in addition to being extremely qualified for this gig, I think that might also be why the team picked me over who some of the other candidates that they could have picked, right? Because they're like, Hey, is this person indicative of who we perhaps want our community to be as well? Right? So two, is, you know, even before D&I was a thing, like I personally, whether it was at adtech, whether it was at MMS, whether it was at Digiday I've always sort of looked for diverse people for conversations. It wasn't always like, Oh, I need a black dude, or a Spanish person or a woman. But I was always like, how do I have different job titles in these in these sessions? Because that's gonna, that's gonna at least give me diverse perspectives. So I don't know if it's just a default, because I am a black woman, I look for something I don't look for white men, I just look for, like, I would never think to make a panel or conversation with just with all of anyone, if that makes sense. Right.
And that's why I phrased the question around representation, right? Because Yeah, yeah, definitely a shout out to to Rob Beeler to who is very intentional about his allyship as well, too, and does an awesome job.
Absolutely. And I think the other piece that and it's something that he ever said to me the other day was, he was like, yeah, we're doing good with our virtual events. He's like, but you know, as you talk to our speakers, or as you talk, as we talk to our sponsors, who are going to come to the real world events, because it's a it's a three day thing. It's a whole shabang. people might call it a boondoggle, which we're going to get away from, but they have to send diverse people to the events as well. Right? So does that on a personal standpoint, you know, one of my missions this year, is to get us either, I'm trying to stay off clubhouse because I am an Android user, so whatever. But to get us a either I want us to do a twitch stream, or something like a Twitter spaces / clubhouse, because I think that the younger, sort of, not just younger in age, but sort of, I think that there are different ways that we can reach our audience, and different mediums than just video chats and zoom calls and stuff like that. And I think like, why wouldn't we have an AdMonster's twitch stream? Like, why? Why not? Like, I'm not saying we got to do it every week. But once a month, let's get on there. I don't know. Maybe we play video games together? Maybe we don't. But like, I don't know, that answered the question. We are conscious of diversity, I think it's sort of not to say that I get a free pass. But it's almost like by default, my I am going to be looking for more diverse voices. And we're also going to try some different platforms to get different voices into the conversation.
Gotcha. Okay. Love that. Love that. So we've talked a lot about sort of the state of the industry representation, what excites you about the future of our industry and where we're going and adtech?
A joke and say, it's the fact that we'll be able to serve ads in VR at some point. But that's a lie. I think. You know, we've talked a lot, not we I think our industry has talked a lot about sort of the democratization of content. But I think the first wave of that was probably the democratization of the creation of content. And now we're at this place where the monetization of that content is democratized. Right? That's what's exciting to me that like if I wanted to go and Well, I do have a visual podcast with a girlfriend of mine. It's all about astrology, and the whole nine And, like, we can go direct to sponsors with this podcast. At a certain point, like, it doesn't need to be, I don't need a million dollar IO for me to be happy with monetizing my side hustle podcast, I'm like, Okay, if we, if I can make an extra, I don't know, an extra grand a month and extra over the year cover the hosting costs are like, allow us to sort of do these cool things. And that's going to make me happy. And I think that we are much closer to being able to do that now than even two years ago. And so the way that more people can make money through the content that they create, and the fact that adtech sort of empowers that is really exciting to me.
Tameka, you know, I want to ask you about some of your experiences in life and at work. And I have to imagine that you've handled issues at some point of discrimination.
You know, it's funny, I've never directly sort of had to address anything. And that's not to say that things didn't happen. But I just think by existing and by being in the room, a lot of times and sort of being unabashedly who I am like, I mean, I've had dreads for a very long time, I have half of a shaved head, I even remember very clearly a black woman. And so I think that sometimes just being in the room has been enough. I mean, so I guess what I would say is, it's almost like, I'm happy that the issues of diversity inclusion are taking center stage, and being focused on, but it's been what I've, what I've experienced, like I I'm used to being at places and being the only black woman, I'm used to being at places and oh, and then seeing someone like Kerel and be and we do the Black nod and we go Okay, and then just kind of and then just kind of sort of move on. And so it's not to say that I haven't been discriminated against. I just, I've been lucky enough that the roles that I've had have been prominent and sort of gatekeeper ish, and so that you're not gonna come speak at a conference, because because a black woman invited you, alright, that's your own. You don't I mean, you've just made your own stupid choice and decision, right? I think that the younger me probably got paid less than I would have gotten paid, because I was a black woman. And because I didn't ask for things in a specific way. But that, but I very quickly, working for myself, I had to learn how to advocate for myself and get to a point where it's like, Oh, you think it's too expensive? Well, then I guess you're not my client, right, it's okay. You know, I don't know that. That answered.
Yeah. Everybody's experiences are unique, you know, and I think what's what's fascinating Kerel and I, as we've talked with so many people, you know, there's a sometimes a side of us that, as you mentioned, sort of sees recognize what's happened, but then also quickly adapt to a part where you just move on. And, you know, like you, you had so many experiences, where they're microaggressions, or they just say, you know, people just don't sort of think about as they're happening, but then for us as a mechanism to get beyond it to not bring us down to not have it affect us, you almost don't even recognize it. You say know what, I'm like Teflon, it's off, right? And you move forward,
you know, and it's funny. So now that you say that I'm like, Oh, yeah, the microaggressions there's, of course, the little things where, especially because it's adtech, right, and especially because it's nerdy, people don't think I could get into the weeds. And but then very quickly, what happens is I ask them a question. And then, and then they're like, you know, and I'm like, Yeah, no, no, I think of a recent example, where I was working with someone who does some web copy for a company that was launching a CTV product, and they were just like, Yeah, well, you know, it's cookieless based attribution. And, and I was like, Okay, so then how are you tracking people? And the guy goes, Oh, no, it's not cookies. And I said, Okay, it's not cookie, but how are you? As it Okay, so where does the data go? That you are appending to this piece of info? He goes, Oh, a tag. That's it. Okay. Thank you. So it's tag based. Right. And so I think, I mean, I guess I'm too smart for you to discriminate against me. You know, what I mean by this was like, you can't, but I am grateful for organizations like the adtech collective. I am grateful for podcasts like, Minority Report. I am, you know, I think that not everybody handles things the same way. Not everybody has that New Yorker inside of them, right, that has made you have the Teflon. And so, the microaggressions are, you know, they happen often I can think of another example. Have another video, these video companies are definitely problematic. There's another video company I worked with. And they had like a town hall thing, their whole team. And I just remember, there was one gentleman of color. And he was facility staff, right, like, so he was, you know, helping to keep the place clean. And, you know, one of the guys who I don't think I've worked with the marketing team, and he was on that dev team, or whoever knows, or whatever, he was, like, going into the frigerator. And he was like, Oh, do you know, like, which day the recycling comes are done or not? And I looked at him, and I was like, no, not part of your team. And no, I don't have the facilities team, you know, and I just do I think that he was attempting to put me down or say you are a facilities person? No, but I think that the only the only brown people on their team worked to clean the facility. Right. And so, but again, I think having been the only chip in the cookie, as a friend of mine likes to call us having been the only chip on a cookie for a long time. I guess. A lot of that has not fazed me.
Yeah. Thank you for sharing your experiences. You know, I'm curious to know you have maybe some folks in your life you've you've encountered, you know, I don't want to just say mentors, but helpful. Oh,
Yeah. Talk about some of those folks.
Yeah, you know, I just did this post. I was like International Women's Day. And I did this post of these women that have empowered my career. Like my first mentor was a woman named Jean Sagara Rosa. She's an amazing artist based out of Brooklyn, like a visual artist, and she was the director of this teen arts learning arts intensive program, we got to do pottery, and we got to do drama. We got to do illustrations and stuff. Again, one of the perks of going to sort of a gifted school, right, we had money to go do these other things. And she bought me my first book that that sort of made me realize I could be a writer is called Bone Black by Bell Hooks. And she just, she always listened. And she always encouraged and she was just empowering before empowering was a word. And so Jean Sagara Rosa was has been an amazing mentor, my career, the woman, Janssen, she was my first in addition to Rubicon project. She was my first other client, we worked with a company called MLG Pro, which was eSports way before eSports was a thing. And my editor Laurie Peterson, media post kind of helped groom me. And then Krista Thomas, who is at inMobi now worked with her for a number of years. Shout out to Krista. Rebecca Lieb. I don't know if you guys know Rebecca Lieb. Yep, she's my mentor. So it's like I've had, I've been lucky enough to have lots of women, empowering me in my career, not to say that men have it. But Doug Weaver from Upstream Group, when I left adtech, and went to go live in Spain for a couple of months, Doug Weaver was like you want a job, I was like, not a job. But I'll take a client. And so that worked with Doug at the seller forum. And actually Nick Friese from Digiday, although we parted ways, in a combustive way. He kind of gave me my first shot on the event side of things. So I've definitely been lucky enough to have, you know, people who believed in me, people who encouraged me, people who helped kind of hone my expertise and like, to kind of get me to be clear about what I'm good at. And to advocate for myself. I've been really lucky to have people like that.
Is that something you sought out early on in your career? Or did it just sort of naturally happen?
I think it actually happened. You know, again, I think being a journalist, right, was probably one of the best things that I could have done, the best careers that I could have taken, because it gave me visibility in a way. And it gave my talents visibility in a way that other people could see them and go, Hey, this person is really good at what they do. I want to help this person I want to, you know, I think sometimes people just need room to shine. And then someone can see them and go, you're a rock star, like, let's go do this.
You raise a good point, I think you're right, people do need room to shine. But at the same time, when you are given that room to shine, or that opportunity or a door opens, it's super important that you take advantage of that right to as an individual.
You have to it's a combination, right? It's that nature and that nurture, right? There's this, there's this environment and this opportunity, what are you going to do to take advantage of it? What are you going to Do to, you know, to make the best of it? And especially now with? Like, there's no reas? Well, there are lots of reasons you could be mentally burnt out from the pandemic, a lot of things, right. There's no reason to not pursue something that that you want to pursue, right? Like, you don't have to quit your job to make a music career. You don't have to do this to do this. You can you can do these things at the same time, right?
Absolutely. Absolutely. What advice would you give to anyone that is looking to enter adtech and have a career in adtech?
Good question. You know, I would say, one would be find that area of adtech that interests you the most, I know, it sounds cliche, right. But like, not everybody wants to, you don't have to be an engineer, right? Like, you don't have to build the products, you can help sell the products, you can help market the products, you can be the customer success team that helps solve people's problems. Right. So I think it's figuring out kind of which piece of the ad tech industry you're interested in. And then also, I would definitely say, read, like there are so many playbooks, not just from adMonster books, there's websites, there's like you, I don't think you can coast in adtech, in the same way that you can in some other parts of advertising, just because it does get into the weeds, and it does get a little nitty gritty, and you're dealing with the other smart people, right? Like you're dealing with these people that are nerdy enough to like, code a little something, don't want to do the whole don't want to be an entire engineer. Right? And so it's like, you can't fake it. I think. I mean, I don't know, what do you guys think? Can you fake it? I don't think you can fake it.
No, no, you can't, you can't fake it. And I think, also to our industry is always changing, always evolving. I mean, going back to your earlier point about how adops mean something completely different today than it did, you know, 10-15 years ago, right. And so I totally agree with you. Reading, staying informed, challenging yourself, knowing that no one has all the answers in our industry as well to a is super important to recognize and being self aware.
And I think I would add to that, I would say probably one of the first sort of ways to get into our industry would be in like a customer success, or like a customer onboarding role, because it's going to expose you to the product itself, it's also going to expose you to your cost to the customers of the product and their needs. And then as you kind of want to roll up for the industry, I think there would work. I also think I can speak specifically from the marketing perspective, right? Like if you are a marketer in another industry, and you understand how to tell a story, you understand what the customer journey is, if you were a solid marketer in another industry, you can probably get transitioned into a marketing role in adtech. You may not go be the VP of Marketing instantly, but I think marketing is a good entree as well.
I of course would agree with that. Definitely, definitely. Alright, Tameka a fun question. We like asking every guest that we have on the podcast, which is to give us the top three apps that you use on your phone, you cannot name email, calendar or text messaging.
I was ready for this. All right. All right.
We know clubhouses and one yeah.
SoundCloud is my jam. IG as much as I would like for it to not be it's
it just sucks you in doesn't it?
And I buy stuff now. and Reddit Cuz I'm a true nerd. I'm a true nerd. Those are my three.
Thanks for hanging out with us. Thank you guys. where can our audience connect with this true nerd?
So you can find me on Twitter @geekychic because I'm chic. And geek. And then also you can find my astrology podcast at spiritual-geeks.com you can follow us on intransitshow on IG and on Twitch. Or can email me firstname.lastname@example.org
Excellent. Thanks so much for hanging with us. And thanks again for listening everyone. You can find more episodes where you find all of your audio and video just search Minority Report Podcast. Thanks.