The Horse’s Mouth.

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Having topped the last two Drifts with Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster, respectively, I feel well prepared to explore yet another elusive, almost mythical creature.  Sightings are rare and fleeting and those in our industry often end up speculating wildly about its very nature.  I’m speaking, of course, about the consumer.

The Drift is proudly underwritten this week by PubMatic,which empowers publishers with one holistic platform to sell advertising more intelligently.

Next Tuesday, July 19th, I’ll be moderating a very unique panel at Evidon Empower, a conference all about privacy and data security.  Along with the agency leaders, technologists and government officials we might expect, our closing panel will feature consumers – actual civilians – telling the industry what they think about privacy and the value exchange they get for all that data and targeting.  Over the past week I’ve had phone calls or detailed email exchanges with all six of the consumers who’ll be on stage with me.  I won’t tip what’s coming; I’m not even sure what’s coming myself!  But I’m sure the discussion is going to be nuanced, very candid, and hopefully very challenging to the audience.

I’ve gone on record challenging the idea that we have a right to target ads to the consumer.  This is one of the areas I’ll explore with the panel.  Are they generally OK with the idea that their data and past behaviors will be used to help select ads for them to see?  And how do they feel about the idea that “ads are keeping the internet free?”  Do consumers really think that way or is that just received wisdom and rationalization on our part?  I also intend to play a version of “Who Do You Trust?” to see how comfortable they feel with various online companies.  Who do they think does the best job of caring for their information, Facebook or Google?

Over the years I’ve moderated dozens of panels at industry events.  I get up for them all, but I’m genuinely excited about how different this one promises to be.  When I look at our business, I see an industry that’s still challenged to find a sustainable business model that truly puts consumer interest up front.  Good enough privacy and pretty OK data policies will just never be enough anymore.  I think the people at Evidon get this and that’s why I was happy to throw in on this panel.

What questions would you like to ask if you were in my seat?  And if you’re in New York this coming Tuesday around 5 pm, you should try to cadge an invitation to Evidon Empower.  If nothing else, it’s going to be something different.

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