Doug Weaver

The New Code.

Code. It’s the Swiss army knife of words. It can be the hidden formula behind computing, the combination to unlock a secure setting, a body of law, the rules by which something is built, or a highly personal set of standards. However you interpret the term code, one thing is pretty clear: the business of digital advertising and marketing needs a new one.

Through our peer-to-peer Seller Forum events, our coaching practice and the dozens of workshops we do each year, we get a pretty broad perspective on the industry. What no one seems to dispute is that we’re in recovery from the excesses of the “scale at all costs” approach of the last few years… which I’ve heard described as our inventory and data version of the sub-prime mortgage crisis. Marketers complain about supply chain pollution and fraud and governments are legislating consumer privacy firewalls. Clearly, we are struggling for a new basis on which to plan and build and operate. But the need goes even deeper than technology specs and business standards.

This week’s Drift is proudly underwritten by Bionic for Ad Sales, a free app that helps you reach media planners at exactly the right time and place – in their media planning system when they start a new media plan (with a fresh budget!). To learn more, go to

Business leaders and people managers are looking for a new code as well. They’re looking to unlock engagement, loyalty and determination in employees who’ve come to expect never-ending growth, a regular cycle of paradigm shifts, constant promotion and ultimate wealth. How do we build truly great teams and organizations to last? Our past approaches to career growth, diversity and lifestyle support was never built to code… and it cannot continue to stand. If we’re to define what it means to build a satisfying, meaningful career in our profession over the decades ahead, we better start now.

In 2020, we’ll be devoting our Seller Forum series to The New Code: Embracing Values. Achieving Balance. Mastering Change. In this our 18th year producing Seller Forum, we’re doubling down on the value of people-driven ideas and process; of value-driven cultures and decision making; of a balanced, sustainable approach to business building. As we recruit speakers, plan discussions, design our poll questions and host the events, we’ll lean on our own list of core values: Gratitude, Service, Clarity, Invention, Optimism, Connectedness and Grit.

Today happens to be the day we’re announcing our 2020 theme and schedule, but our commitment to our customers, our values and the contribution Seller Forum continues to make to the industry is 24/7/365. We look forward to continuing this important conversation with you.

Seller Forum will be held on Wednesday March 18th, Wednesday July 15th and Wednesday October 21st at the Reuters Building on Times Square. If you’re a qualified media sales leader, reach out now for your invitation or to discuss your company’s Season Pass planning. Or visit us at


As noted by the title of this post, today is Giving Tuesday — the nobler offspring of Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Among the many worthy options that will reach your inbox today, I hope you’ll consider supporting the work of the TD Foundation.

I’ve been a board member with TD (named for good friend, digital pioneer and purple heart recipient Tom Deierlein) since its work began 13 years ago. Briefly, the foundation is often the safety net for the families of wounded veterans and Gold Star families – those whose husband, wife, father or mother has made the ultimate sacrifice. You would think and hope that our government would have the backs of our service members, but in practice it doesn’t always work that way.

Working as a connector and a source of funds to other veteran assistance groups, the TD Foundation will write the checks that keep a car from being repossessed; that provide needed medical equipment; that prevent a veteran’s family from slipping into homelessness; that allow a child to attend summer camp or pay the fees to compete in a sport. No red tape. Zero overhead. Just immediate help that sustains the often-fragile lives and support systems of our veterans… one check at a time.

This week’s Drift is proudly underwritten by Bionic for Ad Sales, a free app that helps you reach media planners at exactly the right time and place – in their media planning system when they start a new media plan (with a fresh budget!). To learn more, go to

What can you do? One or more of three things.

Attend the TD Foundation Annual holiday gathering in New York next week. $200 buys you some great networking with scores of the best people in the New York digital ad community. Wednesday December 11th, 6-9 PM at Xandr HQ, 28 West 23rd Street. It is seriously the best night of the year. Buy that ticket now. In fact, buy two and make someone else’s night as well.

Make a direct donation to the TD Foundation. We’re a 501 (c)(3) organization, so tax exempt. Aside from a credit card transaction fee, 100 percent of what you give will go to veteran families in crisis. 100 percent.

Forward this post. Whether you’re seeing this in your inbox, on Linked In, on Facebook or somewhere else, spread the word.

There’s nothing wrong with saying Thank you for your service to a veteran. But wouldn’t it mean more to say How can I help you? This is how.

Thank you for your thoughtful generosity to TD Foundation, and for your comments and social support as well. Happy holidays.


This is traditionally the time one would write a post that details all the things he’s grateful for.  This is not that post. The concept of gratitude deserves more than that.

In recent months I’ve gotten the opportunity to build formal coaching relationships with managers at several client companies in our space. Among many other topics, we often discuss the adoption and application of core team values: those qualities that become the basis for your strategies and decisions, and with which your team most strongly identifies – now and when they look back on their work with you. We discuss core values like resiliency, adaptability, action, curiosity and pride. Ideas like joy, empathy, respect and passion also find their way into the discussions. All are hugely powerful and useful in crafting culture and shaping behavior. But perhaps the most powerful value is one that’s often overlooked.

Yes, gratitude.

This week’s Drift is proudly underwritten by Bionic for Ad Sales, a free app that helps you reach media planners at exactly the right time and place – in their media planning system when they start a new media plan (with a fresh budget!). To learn more, go to

In far too many organizations, being grateful is something we need to remember to do… it’s the seasoning we add at the end of a project, a sale, a quarter. Gratitude is something we summon and put on display on special occasions. But imagine the powerful change that occurs when gratitude is embraced as a core value…when it becomes part of who you are as a team and as individuals.

In life and business, gratitude is the fuel that makes us work harder and be more committed than we otherwise might. It’s the nourishment that helps us rise to the occasion and overcome cynicism in the face of big, hairy, audacious goals. If one of your first active thoughts in a day is about being grateful, it’s almost impossible to have a bad day.

Imagine your team living up to the following statement: We will live, work and act gratefully in all we do. Just having this as a vision would change how you address customer service, interdepartmental work and collaboration and the sales process itself. If you started with, I’m really grateful to have this account, your work, approach and commitment would all shift dramatically.

Gratitude is the most human of superpowers. We can all decide to embrace it on a deeply personal level, and you can choose to make it core to your team’s values first thing tomorrow.

Being grateful is not something to remember. It’s something to live up to.

The Watering Hole.

Occasionally someone asks about the origin of our company name – Upstream. I could go on about its deeper meanings, spiritual implications and more. But for purposes of today’s post, there’s a simpler meaning: Upstream is the opposite of the watering hole.

In any mature industry, the watering hole is the agreed upon place where we all drink. It’s the settled, transactional hub. It may be crowded, noisy, smelly and dangerous, but it’s the place we know and feel we understand. The upfront buying season is a watering hole.  So is the established advertising campaign and its most transactional component, the RFP. Today we have a new watering hole in the establishment of an ongoing programmatic marketplace. We have in turn complained about all of these watering holes: the levels are too low… the quality of the water is suspect… some members of the herd are getting unfair advantages. But we largely accept that our only options are to make incremental improvements to the watering hole experience: to clean it up a little… set up rules for consumption… better organize the herd.

This week’s Drift is proudly underwritten by Bionic for Ad Sales, which automates ad sales lead generation with software that pitches your ad inventory to hundreds of media planning teams while they are making media buying decisions. To learn more, go to

But today there are significant questions around the future of the watering hole and the survival of the average member of the herd.  Larger beasts that have never historically belonged to the advertising species (FB, G, A) have set up their own private watering holes, diverting much of the water before it ever gets downstream, to the place we traditionally drink. And those who have always been the source and tributaries – marketers and brands – are questioning the necessity and wisdom of even filling the watering hole anymore. The noisy, crowded, confusing spectacle downstream can seem increasingly disconnected from the intricate and timely work of brand marketing and product sales.

Upstream it’s different. The conversations there are not about spending the budget, they’re about creating new opportunity and wealth. Upstream we have specific business conversations and speak the language of the brand. We aim to solve problems and accelerate business success. And we’re rewarded with our own fresh water supply for doing so. Upstream we don’t spend time and energy cursing the darkness or arguing with the refs. It’s a place for doing. It can get lonely and treacherous upstream because the herd isn’t there and there are no established maps or rulebooks.

Upstream isn’t completely separate from the rest of world; the watering holes and herds still exist, on the periphery. It takes hard work and discipline to start spending time upstream, but individuals and companies make the journey every day. We help them.

Living and operating upstream from the watering hole and the herd is also a decision…a choice you make if you want to impact policy and strategy.  If you need motivation to make that choice, take a hard look at the watering hole that’s rapidly drying up right before your eyes.

We’ve just announced the schedule for the 2020 Seller Forum Series.  We’ll be gathering on March 18th, July 15th and October 21st, all in the beautiful Reuters space overlooking Times Square.  If you’re a qualified media sales leader, reach out today to request your invitation and learn more about setting up a season pass for your company.


The world has already changed. The scientists have invented, the consumers have decided, the marketers are voting with their checkbooks. It’s only us – those who sell and buy advertising – who cling to anachronistic systems and practices.

Reading that first paragraph you may think I missed the programmatic decade. I didn’t.

Programmatic automation of commodity media buying was the asteroid that struck our genteel, structured world, forever changing the climate for agencies and publishers alike. But a dozen years after the big programmatic strike, most agencies and publishers still have the automation walled off and operating in its own island ecosystem. Meanwhile, the principal members of the tribe – the expensive sellers, buyers, creatives, account managers and others – have resisted the kind of radical species adaptation that the altered world demands.

This week’s Drift is proudly underwritten by Bionic for Ad Sales, which automates ad sales lead generation with software that pitches your ad inventory to hundreds of media planning teams while they are making media buying decisions. To learn more, go to

For one thing, we still – for the most part – rely on the anachronistic rhythms of a rapidly disappearing business. Languid planning cycles, RFPs, campaigns and annual upfronts were relevant in a world of closing dates, air dates, a fixed number of media providers and a predictable pool of available inventory. Today, everything that’s standard, known or predictable is transacted by machines – or soon will be.

Challenged to now manage more strategic and complicated marketing services – content creation, influencers, content marketing, events – many media shops have simply gone back to the much-maligned RFP. And while simultaneously railing against it, many publishers build their entire strategy – a strategy of waiting and responding – around this archaic system. Add to this our collective failure of imagination about how to integrate programmatic and high-touch solutions into harmonious programs. It’s not a pretty picture.

To radically adapt our professions as buyers and sellers would be to abandon the campaign mentality and embrace a perpetual cycle of problem solving and iteration. It would lead us to dismiss the illusion of budget stability and the silos and swim lanes it fosters. It would drive us to create and commit to new processes and structures for operating in what’s now a mostly-unstructured world. Our professional lives will be spent proactively, left of budget and in service to marketers, the products they sell, and the customers they serve.

Adaptation is hard. But extinction is permanent.

We are currently booking a limited number of team workshops for late Q4 and Q1 2020. To discuss what you might want for your team, reach out to us today. The consult is free.