Being Grateful.

It’s a short week at the close of a busy, hectic year.  It’s also the time when many of us take our last breath before the sprint to make Q4 numbers while simultaneously shopping for the holidays.  So during this all too short breather, a quick note about the people, ideas and values for which I’m really grateful. Thanks go out to…

The 3-4 sales people in every workshop I teach who are truly dedicated to the profession of media sales.  I recognize your ambition and commitment, and they inspire me to keep doing what I do.

Those who read, comment on and forward The Drift to others in their companies.  Because of you, meeting this weekly deadline has become something I look forward to.

Ad:tech and the past recipients of the Industry Achievement Award.  To be recognized by such an amazing group last spring was humbling and inspiring.  I feel like it’s something I have to continue to live up to in the years ahead.

My wife Sharon and my daughters, Lucy and Madeline.  I’m grateful that such amazing women choose to keep me around so that I can see  the great things you each do for the world.

The people at iMedia, ad:tech, the IAB, AdMonsters, Evidon and Business Insider who’ve all given me the chance to speak or moderate at their events this year.  I hope everyone who ascends your stages feels the same gratitude and commitment that I do.

Enduring, enriching friendships with people like Wenda Harris Millard, Scot McLernon, John Durham, Dave Morgan, Larry Kramer, Rick Parkhill, Tom Deierlein, Charlie Thomas and Mark McLaughlin.  Through inspiration, support  and advice, you’ve all contributed so much to what I do.

The advisors who continue to guide The Seller Forum into its tenth year, and the sponsors — Collective/Amp, PubMatic and Mojiva — who continue their commitment to this unique and valuable environment.

Tamara Clarke and Christina Ross who work hard every day making sure the experience of working with Upstream Group continues to be a great one.  None of this would work without you.

All the companies who’ve been our customers this year  — for training workshops, Seller Forum events, Drift sponsorships, consulting and more.  33 Across, A&E, About.com, AccuWeather, Adap.tv, Adara Media, Adconion, Adobe, AdoTube, ad:tech, Amazon, AOL, AT&T AdWorks, BabyCenter, bizjournals, Bizo, Blue Kai, Bonnier Corp., Brand.net, Burda, Burst Media, Business Insider, Buysight, BuzzLogic, Cars.com, CBS, Centro, Collective, Comcast Interactive, comScore, Condé Nast, ContextWeb (PulsePoint), D&B Digital, deviantART, Discovery Communications, Disney, DMG WorldMedia, eHarmony, ESPN, Everyday Health, eXelate, Facebook, Fairchild, FOX News, FOX Sports, Gawker, Google, Grab Networks, Halogen, Healthline, Hearst Digital Media, IAB, IGN Entertainment, iMedia, InflectionPointMedia, Interclick, ITN Digital, Jingle Networks, Jumpstart Automotive, Kontera, Krux Digital, Lotame, LucidMedia, Martini Media, Meebo, Meredith, Microsoft, Mojiva, Monster Media Networks, Move, Inc., MTV, MyWebGrocer, Nature Publishing Group, Navteq, NBC Universal, NCC Media, The New York Times, Newspaper National Network, Orbitz, PubMatic, quadrantONE, Quantcast, Reader’s Digest, Remedy Health Media, Resonate, RMM Online, RTL Netherlands, Seeking Alpha, Sojern, Sugar Inc., TechMediaNetwork, The Daily, Hollywood Reporter, Weather Channel, TheStreet.com, Thomson Reuters, Travel Ad Network (Travora), Tremor Video, Triad Digital, Turner, TVGuide, Us Magazine, Undertone, Upromise Inc., Vertical Acuity, Washington Post, Weatherbug, WebMD, WhitePages.com, Yahoo! and YuMe.

And last but not least, I’m grateful that none of this is even close to being finished.  That there are so many ideas yet to be conceived, so many mysteries yet to be framed, so much of the future left to be invented.  Here’s to being grateful for what this year has brought us, and to remaining excited about what the years ahead will offer.  Happy Thanksgiving.

Civilians Say the Darnedest Things!

The unthinkable happened yesterday in New York.  Right in the middle of conference about consumer privacy and data policy, someone invited – get this! – a bunch of consumers! And while the earth didn’t change orbit and frogs didn’t fly, a window did open and shafts of sunlight and bursts of fresh air penetrated a discussion that’s become all too cloistered and stodgy.

I’m talking about “Evidon Empower,” the gathering I referenced in last week’s Drift.  Thanks to the folks at Evidon, I got the chance to lead the concluding discussion in which Omar, Pam, John, Art and Michael (five civilians from the greater New York area) told the agency, publishing, technology and trade organization leaders what they really thought about the whole ad technology and privacy conundrum.  Here, a few of my observations:

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

1.       Civilians don’t compartmentalize things like we do. To us, browser settings, cookies, computer performance, and the pervasiveness of advertising all fit into separate compartments of the brain.  Not so much with these folks.  To them, they’re all strands of the same giant hairball.  You ad people are flooding me with advertising, making my computer crash, compromising my data and creeping me out.  Solutions that approach data privacy in a vacuum are going to be a tough sell.

2.       They don’t agree with each other on panels as much as we do. None of that “I agree with Jim and here’s how” for this group.  They have unique and iconoclastic opinions, and they can be pretty passionate about them.  Perhaps we should stop saying “The Consumer” in the same way we stopped saying “Asia.”  Simple archetypes will make us blind in this discussion.

3.       They don’t like reading the crap our lawyers write. As Art put it so succinctly, “It’s like I have to learn your business if I want to opt out.”   No question that giving consumers tools and choices is a good thing.  But let’s remember that they’ve gotten pretty jaded over the years by privacy policies that may as well be in Sanskrit and interfaces right out of a Monty Python sketch.  They don’t hold out much hope that future options will be much more helpful.  We’re going to have to reinvent our definitions of simple, fast and easy to satisfy them.

4.       They’re pretty much just tolerating us. One panelist (Michael) opined that getting ads about stuff he’d be interested in was better than random ads, and another (John) said that getting recommendations for music he’d like was a good thing.  That largely exhausted the positive comments.  Online advertising is still seen as a benign cost at best, a persistent source of irritation at worst.  While they may grudgingly see some truth to the idea that “advertising is keeping the free internet alive,” on a bad day it can seem more like a threat than a service. Those who’ve reached the end of the rope – like Pam – just delete their cookies every single night.

5.       ‘Targeting’ is not a good word to use. As Omar put it, “No offense, but I’d rather not be targeted at all.” Unraveling the hairball of consumer attitudes on digital advertising is a huge job, but it seems to me that the first step is to clean up the language.  As I’ve said many times, ‘targeting’  is one term we ought to 86 right away.  It’s loaded and it’s dangerous.

I applaud the people at Evidon; not only for the conference but for the work they’re doing on consumer empowerment and control.  It won’t be easy, but as Omar said himself, “Maybe there’s a chance that this conference might be the start of things getting better.”


The Horse’s Mouth.

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.