5Qs: Adnetik’s Timothy Anderson Flink

Timothy Anderson Flink is vp of global data operations for Adnetik, an independent digital media trading desk. Flink spoke to DIGIDAY: Data about the future of data as the Federal Trade Commission and Congress investigate the industry from virtually every angle.
Can the ad industry really convince Washington that it is serious about privacy?
Absolutely. The more business support there is for self-regulation, the more robust it will be for the entire industry. Our industry’s self-regulatory initiative needs to reach critical mass quickly to demonstrate its legitimacy.
What about the FTC?
The FTC has made this clear, that we can come to some sort of common ground, with Commissioner John Leibowitz saying on the record how much he likes the program, and how much he wants its adoption to accelerate. During the Senate Commerce Committee hearings in February, key senators expressed favorable views of the industry self-regulatory effort now advancing under the leadership of the Digital Advertising Alliance, with Senator John Kerry (D-MA) characterizing the DAA’s effort as a “terrific” step forward. Senator Kerry has been among the congressional leaders calling for a consumer privacy “Bill of Rights” with umbrella protections for consumers both online and offline. He and Senator John McCain (R-AZ) have been circulating draft language that may become a Bill they would co-sponsor.
How will privacy issues impact the way data is collected and traded? How will all of these changes impact ad optimization efforts?
What the FTC and Congress both are calling for is increased transparency so that consumers can have some clarity into what’s happening behind the browser. This is what the industry self-regulatory program is all about, with the idea being that once consumers actually can see what’s going on, they will be more comfortable about it. After all, those of us in this industry know that what happens online with regard to tracking is relatively benign. The opt-out rates being realized in the Evidon program we’re part of would suggest that consumers agree, as fewer than one in 50,000 users are choosing to opt out, even though click rates on the icon are running a bit higher than the norm. The takeaway here is that once consumers see what’s actually going on, they realize it’s not something they need to be so worried about.
Are cookies finally dead?
Cookies are not dead. Using platforms that are compliant with DAA privacy standards enables users to have control and choice over their cookie data. It’s a misconception that cookies equal targeting. There are technologies that don’t use cookies at all. For example as on Adnetik’s platform, the quality of a page is evaluated based on 35 proprietary attributes to determine targeting criteria. The key here overall is optimization. Cookies aren’t dead, but I hope we’re not still talking about them a few years from now. They’re one of many tools that exist for marketers and publishers for optimization.
What are the basics in a CMO’s optimization strategy to keep a firm hand on vital data even if third-party data becomes vulnerable to legislation?
First and foremost, a CMO should evaluate all vendors they’re currently working with and assess their current compliance status. Second, marketers have a wealth of their own CRM data that can be utilized. Adnetik can integrate a client’s non-PII information to create targeting models or things such as “like URLs” which is what we do with AIM Index. Lastly, CMOs should ensure that they are transparent with any data they use whether it’s through a compliance partner such as Evidon or through other methods. Whether this pertains to a customer’s online or offline habits, it allows customers to put trust in the brand, knowing how their data is being used, the ability to have control over it, and knowing that it is not being mishandled.