Great to Be Back!
On June 20th, I returned to the NAI as Counsel & Senior Director of Technology. (As many of you know, I previously worked for the NAI, but left last year for a job at AppNexus.) People keep asking why I came back. I was in a great position at an exciting, fast-growing company that, like many NAI members, was innovating and growing like crazy. , Why would I give that up? It was an incredibly tough decision. However, I realized I couldn’t pass up this opportunity to take a leading role in charting the industry’s course through the very tricky policy waters ahead. So, I didn’t want to leave AppNexus – but I did want to rejoin the NAI and help shape the future of our industry.
When I left the NAI just over a year ago, we’d come a long way and we were celebrating several successes wed worked day and night to achieve with our members and industry partners. We had completed another successful review of members’ compliance, and had used the opportunity to raise the bar on requirements and best practices. We had also navigated a number of policy challenges during a time of heightened interest in online privacy. Not surprisingly, the NAI membership was growing at a steady rate. The NAIs small and uber- talented team, was hard at work developing the compliance program, as well as new policies and best practices. We had also recently helped the DAA to launch its new web site and opt-out page on AboutAds.info. The DAA’s program was on a good trajectory. Use of the icon was growing fast. It felt like our efforts were paying off and, from a policy perspective, the industry was moving in a very positive direction.
Things are different in 2012! Due to a variety of developments and lot of FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) that has been confusing those that try to follow the issues we address, scrutiny of our industry is at an all time high. This has enabled and emboldened a DNT process that potentially threatens NAI members’ businesses without delivering a net privacy benefit to users. That’s a huge problem, and ensuring that a browser-based choice mechanism is developed and implemented in a way that is balanced and does not intentionally or unintentionally destroy the third-party advertising ecosystem will be my primary focus for the next several months.
Beyond DNT, the plate of policy issues the NAI must tackle has also grown. The NAI continues to add more diverse business models — SSPs, DMPs, exchanges, mobile — with more on the way. (We are approaching 100 members!) This is requiring us to address policy issues across a much broader range of data-driven business models than the NAI ever has in the past. And we’re not just talking about the U.S. We now have members based in Canada and Europe, with applications arriving from as far away as Asia and member companies operating across all continents. I may be biased. However, I do not think there is any other organization that is as well equipped to handle these issues.
To that point, it was more than just my interest in these issues that lured me back to the NAI. When Marc Groman, the NAI’s new, and highly dynamic, Executive Director, started describing everything he’s done and everything he plans to do at the NAI, I was monumentally impressed. He has added impressive new staff, greatly expanded the NAI’s capabilities, and is laser focused on ensuring that our mission is clear, integrity-based, executed and well communicated. Under Marcs leadership, the NAI has already built a technical compliance tool that scans the web to detect possible compliance issues; that’s a huge step. In addition, we just launched our new web site, we are rewriting the NAI Code, and much more. Marc has a compelling vision and strategy for serving the NAI members, and the energy to pull it off.
He couldn’t do it without the staff, though. Veterans and new recruits across the NAI are the best, brightest and most likeable because their passion is impossible to miss. The proof is in the product. When you look at what this team has done and will do, you’ll be equally impressed.
One last bit of praise for Marc and the entire NAI team. I learned a ton from working at AppNexus. And I gained a much deeper appreciation of the concerns and challenges of third-party ad businesses — the NAI’s member companies. I can tell you that Marc and the rest of the NAI team really believe in the value of what they’re doing. They care deeply about privacy. And they care deeply about the success of the NAI member companies.
So, it really is great to be back. The NAI of 2012 is better, faster and stronger than ever. I’m thankful for this opportunity, and I’m incredibly proud and excited to be a part of this organization. I hope our members all agree. And if you’re not a member, I strongly encourage you to join our effort to promote industry best practices across the online advertising ecosystem. The stakes are too high for any of us to sit on the sidelines.