Scott Meyer is CEO of Better Advertising, a company focused on provide a solution for privacy self-regulation for the online advertising industry.
SM: I've been in the digital media business since 1998, including eight years with The New York Times Company where I was CEO of About.com and also General Manager of NYTimes.com. Before the Times Company, ran the consumer business at Multex, which was a successful IPO and is now owned by Reuters.
So, I know first-hand what some of the pressures are on our industry, including the role privacy concerns play in how major brands allocate their digital media dollars.
What problem is Better Advertising solving?
There is an immediate need for self-regulation to succeed. The Principles put out by the cross-Industry Coalition have to be successfully implemented. Better Advertising simplifies and makes that process scalable. The larger ongoing problem we solve is creating more trust in the online advertising ecosystem between consumers, companies and the government. This current lack of trust leads many brands to stay on the sidelines, missing out on great marketing opportunities, such as Online Behavioral Advertising (OBA). Multiple studies show that many millions of new branding dollars would come online if privacy concerns weren't so severe. A recent study by Forbes found that 77% of brand marketers are worried about the privacy concerns with OBA. That is clearly keeping dollars out of the market.
That is where this is most relevant. The only way buyers can identify people rather than using placement as a proxy is through OBA. If self-regulation fails and data collection and use, principally through cookies and trackers, becomes more restricted, buyers will have very few good options to target people effectively. It will look a lot more like the world of 10 years ago. At the same time, data collection and use need to be made transparent to the user, as well as to the buyer. If it isn't made transparent, self-regulation won't be given another chance to succeed. Without self-regulation, our industry's standards will be left to others in Washington - an eventuality I think we'd rather prevent than predict.
Why buy Ghostery? What is the potential here for BA?
With this acquisition, Better Advertising now brings to bear a new kind of panel that will uniquely enable the company to have a complete view of OBA usage for companies that both do and do not observe the OBA Principles.
More than 2M users have downloaded Ghostery onto their browsers, with 11,000 new downloads each week, all driven solely by word-of-mouth. 300,000 of these users have opted-in to join the GhostRank panel, which has identified more than 200 OBA companies gathering data across more than 4.5M sites. GhostRank is adding 2,500 users per week out of the 11,000 new downloads. GhostRank users actively contribute data on their web behavior and contribute new rules and trackers to Ghostery when they find them. It enables the most privacy-savvy and active 300,000 people online to become an active panel. Through this acquisition, Better Advertising can crowd-source this panel for insights on OBA. The Ghostery acquisition makes the platform we are proposing to the cross-industry coalition truly unique and robust, and will enable us to identify the good and bad actors more readily than anyone else in the business, which will help our industry continue to self-regulate.
AdExchanger.com: What's your view on the ad exchange model? How will it fit with Better Advertising's future?
My co-founder, Ed Kozek, was the 5th employee at Right Media. We both deeply understand and support the role of Exchanges in the digital buying ecosystem. Buyers and sellers will need to make their data use and collection transparent to consumers and to each other. This transparency is a core service of Better Advertising's platform.
AdExchanger.com: What do you see from the brand marketer now or in the future that will speak to the Better Advertising product line?
Our industry's largest and most influential digital agencies (WPP, Omnicom, IPG, Publicis and Havas) are working closely with us as Design Partners.
They see self-regulation as essential to their future and to the future of the brand marketers they serve. Agencies and advertisers will need a service to monitor, deliver and prove their compliance with the Principles. Without effective compliance services, it will be much harder and costlier to take advantage of OBA, and to use agency demand-side platforms to do so. Better Advertising's Assurance Platform is custom-built for this need. These partners are committed to getting this right so that they can utilize this
medium toward its potential.
Any thoughts on how consumer privacy legislation in the U.S. will play out? Or recent legislative efforts in the E.U.?
No - the legislative situation in Congress is still coming into focus. We see the regulatory actions from the FTC, either with or without legislation, as having a more substantial impact. However, the mission of Better Advertising is to keep the effects from either regulatory or legislative efforts from slowing the growth of our industry.
How do you see the large, web publisher evolving in the next few years - especially in regards to transparency?
If that publisher isn't providing simple, clear transparency to each of its users, they will under-perform publishers who do. They will be short on consumer and brand trust, and they will also be limited in taking advantage of exchanges and network advertising to sell their inventory. Consumers and regulatory forces will push them in this direction.
Finally, creativity. How does Better Advertising affect creativity - whether a creative agency or creating compelling advertising?
This is a great question - especially since a major complaint of our industry is that it's impossible to make anyone cry with a banner ad. The promise of interactive advertising resides in its interactivity. If this interactivity with consumers is managed transparently, the sky is the limit for our medium - so I would say that the success of Better Advertising should increase the growth of great creative targeted to the right consumer, in a privacy-safe way. That will drive revenues for marketers and drive growth in digital media.