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Fast Chat: Penry Price on Ad Targeting, Jet Packs

Former Google sales vp discusses joining Media6Degrees

Penry Price

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After seven years leading global agency sales at Google, why leave now?
This is about the next layer of ad targeting. We’ve used these blunt objects of demographics and even psychographics and behaviors, to a degree, and they’ve been successful for the right reasons, and they’re still going to be a part of the equation. Now that you’ve got richer data because the Web has clearly turned out to be a social platform, there are new ways to target ads more effectively. [Media6Degrees] is a pioneer in this.

In a nutshell, what is it?
The social signature is really at the heart of what the company has done. It’s social because it’s people gathering, it’s about people and what people are doing, and it’s a signature because it’s unique to each brand, even sub-brand. The notion of this company is you tell us your brand’s best customers, and we’ll find you your brand’s best new prospects.

How do you do that?
[The company’s] algorithms are made up of a lot of different characteristics and layers, but basically, what they do is understand where the likely best prospects of a brand are. Through just looking at cookies, Media6 can figure out the BMW heat map, if you will, of customers that are interested in BMWs or have already shown, through some kind of engagement online, that they own them or are interested in them. That informs our teams to then target ads obviously appropriate to those various sites and consumers.

That’s not behavioral ad targeting?
There’s a certain element of behavior that informs our clustering and algorithms, that’s clear. But it’s beyond that because I don’t think behavior is an accurate predictor of real purchase patterns going forward and new customers.

Is privacy a concern?
The privacy issue is still an area that we’re all listening to and wanting to be smart about. Media6, from the beginning, said we’re not collecting any personal information. All we’re looking at is cookies to help us build these clusters. It doesn’t really matter what the site context is to us; we just want to know that that cookie and the other cookie went to the same site because then we can correlate interest.

Companies like Google and Facebook have tons of data, why aren’t they pursuing this?
I think Facebook, Google, Twitter, and all the larger companies clearly see the value in this personal data, [but] the privacy issue is very clear too.

What do you think of Facebook’s approach to targeting?
Facebook has a tremendous amount of social data, and it has enough scale where it can target people who are friends with you and me or alums that can work very well because they’re like each other in a very clear way. But I think Facebook is limited. When you target friends or people that are like you, it’s like targeting a table in a restaurant: We all six get targeted because we’re sitting together and obviously know each other. But what Media6 did, instead, is we actually pulled back and said we’re going to target ads to the whole restaurant, because for some reason diners in the whole restaurant chose to go there that night.

Do you miss those famous Google perks?
The personal jet packs to get from meeting to meeting, they came in so handy with our tight schedules.