Phil Schraeder of GumGum On The Future Of Artificial Intelligence

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Transparency. The ad tech ecosystem has become enormously complex, with many partners in the supply chain. Advertisers have increasingly less insight into the data associated with transacting programmatically such as how inventory will be utilized or prioritized, with challenges such as ad quality and ad fraud remaining commonplace.

As part of our series about the future of Artificial Intelligence, I had the pleasure of interviewing Phil Schraeder.

Phil Schraeder is a seasoned media industry executive and recognized thought leader in digital advertising and programmatic technologies. As Chief Executive Officer, Schraeder is responsible for GumGum’s success in revolutionizing the digital media and sports marketing industries. He is a regular contributor to Adweek, AdExchanger and Fortune, and a 2017 Los Angeles Business Journal’s CFO of the Year award honoree.

Schraeder, who joined GumGum in 2011, served previously as the company’s President, Chief Operating Officer, and Chief Financial Officer. In those roles, he developed the management, revenue, planning, accounting, controls, and human resources infrastructures that fomented the company’s rapid expansion and growth. Prior to joining GumGum, Schraeder was VP of Finance for Verifi, a full-service provider of global electronic payment and risk management solutions. He has also worked in accounting and finance roles at the 3D technology licensing firm RealD, the film studio New Regency Entertainment and the accounting leader KPMG. Schraeder is an advocate for LGBTQ equality and lives by the mantra, “Don’t spend time with anyone or anywhere you can’t be your authentic self.”

About GumGum

GumGum is a contextual-first global digital advertising platform that captures people’s attention, without the use of personal data. We believe that an advertising ecosystem based on understanding a consumer’s active frame of mind rather than behavior builds a more equitable and safer future for consumers, publishers and advertisers alike. Founded in 2008, GumGum is headquartered in Santa Monica, California and operates in 19 markets worldwide. For more information, please reach out to

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you share with us the ‘backstory” of how you decided to pursue this career path in AI?

Absolutely. When I reflect back I realize that I really didn’t pursue a career path rather focused on work that I enjoyed or skills that would give me options. I enjoyed business, so that I knew. However, I was still dealing with a tremendous amount of self discovery in my personal life, namely my sexuality, so having options within business was paramount. Ultimately, I decided on finance and accounting and see these industries as a great foundation for all types of business as it’s needed in every industry and business around the world. This set me on the path I am on today.

My degree in this area helped give me the confidence to move across the country from Chicago to Los Angeles without a job and knowing no one. Once in LA, I was able to use my skills in finance and accounting to learn about the company environments that worked for me. I learned that smaller teams, specifically “start-up type environments,” that were built on respect, acceptance, and unification, and that had a clear business objective was my happy place. Once I identified that, I quickly realized that these environments also gave me access to so many incredible opportunities outside of finance and accounting. This is how I would say I “stumbled” upon my passion for building a business, operationalizing and scaling businesses, and, now, as a CEO, creating a vision with a purpose and culture based on care, respect, and love.

What lessons can others learn from your story?

This is always such a hard question to answer. The reason is each and every one of us are in unique situations and are in different stages of life. I guess I would say 3 things:

  1. What you study in school does not define your career destiny. It’s the best decision you can make with what you know and as I look back, for me at least, that was not very much. It’s just a foundation necessary to open the door to so many incredible paths you could take.
  2. Culture, culture, culture. Culture is so important and is key. For me it had to align with my personal growth. I wanted an environment where I could meet new friends, was a bit chaotic and intense, kept me challenged, and felt like a team with a strong sense of belonging. Discovering the importance of workplace culture really then helped me unlock my potential. That said, as my personal life continues to evolve so does my assessment of the needs of the right work environment that complements that. Give yourself permission to allow your needs to change because they usually do.
  3. Trust your instincts. Your gut might know before you do so trust your instincts about it all — the role, the environment, the industry, your manager, etc.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

Yes. I moved to Los Angeles looking to find a company where I could thrive in my work and feel comfortable as an openly gay man. Somehow, someway, I was blessed to get a job at a film production company working for an incredibly talented and wonderful gay man. I don’t think he realized at the time what an impact he made on me as he was really my only gay role model in my life up until that time. I saw someone discuss who they were as a person at work and own that. He really taught me so much and is someone I have so much respect and gratitude for.

What are the 5 things that most excite you about the advertising industry? Why?

There are so many things that excite me about this industry, but here are a few:

  1. It’s Personal. Successful advertising — whether it be the past, today, or the future — all boils down to one thing: connection to a person. That premise makes it ever-changing and always requires innovative and creative thinking.
  2. It’s Transformative. The advertising industry is always adapting and evolving to not just what is here today, but what is to come. We are in a digital revolution and the future digital environments like the Metaverse (whether it’s that or something else) will continue to develop and the industry has to be ready.
  3. It’s Creative. When the success of the industry is based on creativity to expand brand awareness and that inherently attracts creative people from all walks of life. That is magic in my opinion. That creativity then lends itself to new ways of approaching not just advertising, but life. See what I mean? Magic.
  4. It’s Global. It’s not global in the cookie-cutter sense. What works in the US is not necessarily going to work in Japan. Culture plays a critical role in the state of the advertising industry as well and it requires me to learn about other cultures, spend time with the team and clients, and strategize on the appropriate ways our solution could be valuable. I love that.
  5. It’s Fun. Out of all of the five, as corny as it sounds, it’s so fun. I just enjoy being a part of the advertising industry.

What are the 5 things that concern you about the advertising industry? Why?

  1. Privacy. The rise of digital has brought with it the rise of personal data abuse and misuse. I get concerned businesses will deploy tactics that have positive business results at the expense of our privacy.
  2. Accuracy. With the rise of the “fake news” era, there is a fear that this will translate into purposeful advertising with the intent to deceive just to drive an outcome. We need to stay vigilant in holding all advertisers accountable for the accuracy and legitimacy of their advertisements.
  3. Inauthenticity. I get concerned that advertisers will start saying and/or representing what they think and know they should versus truly living and owning that truth. It’s clear in the advertising industry. For example, we have advertisers who pull out of Russia, yet don’t want to advertise pro-Ukraine content. Why would you not want to advertise your support around that content and help those people continue to monetize and have their voices live on?
  4. Monopolization. If companies like Google, Facebook, etc. continue to gain a greater percentage of the advertising market share growth than the sector itself, my concern is there will be less external investment into the space which is critical for new technological and creative innovation.
  5. Transparency. The ad tech ecosystem has become enormously complex, with many partners in the supply chain. Advertisers have increasingly less insight into the data associated with transacting programmatically such as how inventory will be utilized or prioritized, with challenges such as ad quality and ad fraud remaining commonplace.

As you know, there is an ongoing debate between prominent scientists, (personified as a debate between Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg) about whether advanced AI has the future potential to pose a danger to humanity. What is your position about this?

Of course it does. All new advancements pose dangers. You can’t run from it. You have to have faith that humanity and our ability to see the good will outweigh the bad — but maybe I’m just an optimist.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world? Can you share a story?

Everyday at GumGum we are working to create and spread messages that resonate with people and we believe it’s our duty to support critical and important causes of our time. We recently announced a partnership with the Ad Council to assist in providing disaster and crisis relief for their Ukraine Crisis Relief Fund through our program GumGum Smile. This program enrolls our clients to contribute a portion of every advertising dollar spent toward the Ad Council’s social impact initiatives and so far we’ve been able to support several Ad Council campaigns for COVID-19, Love Has No Labels, and #GetMyFluShot, and has given up to $700K media valuation and that number is growing. As CEO, I’m committed to ensuring that GumGum is a place where everyone can bring their true authentic-selves to work and help us change the world of digital advertising, and better the world in the process.

What is your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share a story of how that had relevance to your own life?

My favorite life lesson quote is from RuPaul. RuPaul says, “If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell are you going to love someone else.” It really is the story of my life. Once I took a chance on myself and left everything I knew, and started truly loving myself completely…everything fell into place.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Interesting question. I was once asked by someone I work with what was the one thing I couldn’t live without and no one had ever asked me that and my immediate answer was, “hugs.” I think that is so true for me. Whether I am celebrating or mourning, a hug always lets me know I am cared for even if it is a stranger. I like to believe if we had the “Great Global Hug Hour” that moment could change the lives of so many.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

You can find tons of updates, openings at GumGum, and more on our LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram accounts. And don’t forget to check out our blog for insights from myself and other execs, and other members of GumGum, on the company and product and industry news.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

Phil Schraeder of GumGum On The Future Of Artificial Intelligence was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.