Episode 10 Transcript

Marrying the Art and Science of People and Technology w/ Devon DeBlasio

    Brent: Welcome again to the Professional Services Pursuit, a podcast that features expert advice and insights into the professional services industry. My name's Brent Tremble, I'm one of the co-hosts and my guest today is Devon DeBlasio, he is the Senior Director of Product Marketing at Neustar. Devon's also the co-host of the No Hype podcast and you're on the Mute podcast. It's great to have you on the show today.

    Devon: Thanks Brent, great to be here. Appreciate you having me on.

    Brent: Awesome, thank you. So at Mavenlink, the vast majority of our product and customer base is in professional services, fee to service consulting, certainly internal professional services that service large platforms and software. I think they'll have a really great interest in Neustar and some of your roles. And within our customer base, there's also around 30 to 40%, maybe more that are in marketing services and consulting spaces that deal with the concepts of privacy marketing automation, precision targeting, building audiences and insights. And what's interesting is that for those who are more on the support side, they're deploying some platforms like this. For some that are on the marketing services side, they're using these kind of as customers then deploying it on the part of their clients. And what I think is interesting too, is even in the sales orgs they're users of these types of platforms and certainly understand at least nominally kinds of that landscape and the architecture. Talk a little bit about, first of all, your role at Neustar, I’d love to hear about that.

    Devon: Yeah, of course. So I lead the charge for product marketing at Neustar marketing solutions. Neustar is currently a multifaceted information system and identity solution organization and so we have risk and fraud and we have communications organizations. So I think like caller ID or verifying that you are who you are when you make a credit card transaction. But I focus on the marketing end and so it's really harnessing the power of data for our clients to best create the best picture of an individual consumer, household-level consumer, as well as providing the best opportunity to engage with existing customers. And then help them improve their data with various data connections across the ecosystem, execute really high-level relevant communications across every channel, offline, online and then measure the performance. How are you performing at the audience placement platform level and then helping them optimize that? And we also provide data science services and support to actually give our clients greater access control and visibility across their data assets to help them manage things like privacy, security as well as just the fidelity of their overall data set itself.

    Brent: No, that's great. And I think for our listeners, both on the marketing services side, as well as those who are really customers of the platform, even at Mavenlink of course in our marketing services, we use lots of data to target those potential prospects. And those business roles who we think would be interested in our technology. Even if you're just a consumer, you have sort of nominal exposure to the effects of really precise targeting. Shopping for your spouse or your loved one, your children and then maybe an advertisement getting retargeted to you and so forth. That's how most folks are really exposed to that and I think have some knowledge of that.

    Talk to us a little bit maybe about that portfolio within Neustar and maybe the difference between data and precision targeting and then conversely privacy. Because those are pretty interesting topics and I think get a lot of exposure in the press as well as certainly the last election cycles, for instance.

    Devon: Yeah, the way we think of privacy is really two different ways, right? So you have an existing customer, you have a consented engagement with that person, maybe they're a loyalist, someone who's coming to your website, using your mobile app, or even in-store. They're giving a piece of themselves because there's a give and take, there's a transaction that's happening for goods or for services and you're giving a piece of yourself. And then you continually engage with that brand, whether it's a bank, whether it's a home improvement store, whether it's a healthcare provider and you have varying ways in which you engage with them. Also varying expectations in terms of the amount of information you're providing and the level of service you're receiving. And so for existing customers, I think it should be a pretty transparent and pretty obvious relationship exchange of mutually beneficial services for a piece of that information to remain relevant, right? I want my bank to know who I am, so I'm gonna give them more information.

    There's also a heightened sense of security for those organizations to protect that data. How is that data being used outside of the walls of that institution? How is the data being used in context with other data assets that they may be working with across the supply chain or across different partnerships? And so transparency is becoming ever more important for even existing customers in their relationship with brands. And then you have the consumers, right? Not like net new people who have never engaged with that brand that they know of. A net new person, someone who's not yet a loyalist and has not yet purchased anything. And how do you essentially find out who that person is? Relevant triggers, relevant information that they're letting off about themselves based on their browsing habits, their mobile app engagement, even things they’re doing with other relevant or competitive stores.

    And that's where it gets a little bit trickier in terms of knowing what you can use, how you stitch that together. How you follow that individual or household across their customer journey and how you relevantly provide them experiences that are important to them maybe. They're giving off signals about themselves that say that I do wanna buy this car, or this hammer at any given point, but also it can be creepy. And I think the creepy factor of the internet is exactly what I think a lot of people claim onto, but there's also a lot happening with some larger players in the market. Like the Apples and Facebooks and even the government who over the past 18 months, 2 years, have really made privacy top and center for the average news consumer. Any news you turn into, whether it's NPR, Fox, CNN, doesn't matter, they're talking about consumer privacy, talking about Facebook and Google being under the thumb of the government being in court on Capitol hill. And so there's a lot of attention being put onto privacy without any sort of correlation to that average consumer. To like what is actually happening with my data, I just know this is potentially bad, but I still have a good relationship with my brands. So there's a lot of give and take, there's a lot of confusion and it's all really about how and when and also what types of identifiers are used to engage within consumers or existing customers. And all of that is really kind of up for grabs in terms of where that will fall in terms of the privacy and security point of view.

    Brent: And I mean, it's interesting, right? Because you talked about expectations anecdotally and of course being in the business now for many years and seeing kind of the evolution of web experiences. The expectation is a consumer goes to a platform of choice, maybe it's e-commerce, maybe they're a loyalist at a retailer, or to your point, their bank. There's an expectation, there's data that a brand or platform remembers about me that they have captured at some point and it makes the experience better. You're not having to reengage and log back in and go through these steps. Conversely, I think we've all been inundated in the past couple of years with the notion of the cookie and acceptance and what does that mean. And certainly in Europe kind of led the charge there, now we see that come through. So how do you sort of bifurcate that notion of experience benefit to privacy concerns? And the ability of the platform, maybe that's not always as elegantly articulated.

    Devon: It’s not and this is the thing, it really is up to the advertisers to take that first step. Like Neustar is an intermediary, we're someone who supports an advertiser, supports a publisher. We're really the connective glue that stitches that experience together between the data coming in at the customer level and the experience you receive on various platforms or wherever you're gonna see an advertisement. And really the onus is upon the advertisers, always has been right? The security of data, we've seen data breaches happening across the United States and the world forever. As long as there's been data exchanging hands, there's been data leaking. And I think a lot of consumers have become numb, I think, to the idea of data leakage, even the largest institutions and others have had data leakage. So I think everyone expects a certain percentage of their data is out there. And how that really translates to identity fraud, which I think a lot of people are really concerned about at the end of the day, is few and far between compared to a bad ad experience. Which I think we all probably get at least once a day.

    So it is really up to advertisers to just take hold and take the wheel from their technology providers who were really guiding the ship for many years. The invention of cookies was a very long time ago. The early aughts of 2000 when the cookie was started to be used, no one knew what a cookie was. My mom doesn't know what a cookie was until now. I mean, I'm talking about it, I’m in the know, but the average consumer has no idea what that is, other than the fact that the computer's slowing down, they clear their cookies, clear the cache and maybe it works. But then all your passwords are gone and all these other things are gone, which aren't necessarily related to cookies. But there's just a new education that has been brought upon the average consumer and now brands need to be aware of how to treat that, how to handle that. Cookies are still here, they're not going away at least for the next couple of years. But there are a lot of other concerns that advertisers should be focused on because this really opened the floodgate. You should be more focused on driving better experiences with your customers and you're gonna have a better overall result.

    If you're generating that transparency, that level of attention to how you collect information and how you handle that information because it is extremely valuable to that brand. It's the lifeblood of any organization that collects data, any B2C organization, you should respect that. And I think that the more they do, the more they show they're respecting it, the more they're gonna be able to generate more data about an individual. Apple's done a great job at leaning into privacy as their main differentiator in the space. Whether or not that translates to the actual value to a customer at the end of the day, I don't think that matters. I think people see that as a value add and they're gonna lean into that brand. We've seen consumers change brands and change their perceptions of brands due to just how that brand is treated in the market or in the press. And now publishers are on the hook for that as well because publishers without cookies are extremely important. They're the ones who are collecting the information at the point of sale or at the point of content consumption. And they now have to increase their barrier to collect this information because they all rely on our cookies. So everyone on both ends of the spectrum is now just on the hook to be more transparent, more realistic and also more thoughtful when handling customer consumer data. And everyone in between, everyone who works for those publishers or brands has to follow suit in accordance with the data governance rules and expectations that those companies put upon their partners like at Neustar.

    Brent: With things like matching and the models of probabilistic versus deterministic and allowing advertisers to target consumers. And the massive proliferation of both technology, methodology, marketing attribution, partial attribution, full attribution and so forth. There has been this real shift in the business in the past couple of years. And you touched on that of course with Apple and then Google saying eventually it would sunset the cookie, they kind of postponed that decision. But from the vantage point of a data type platform, talk to us a little bit about that shift and what that means for the listeners and the folks in the industry who may be deep into this as well as those who are more on the periphery.

    Devon: Yeah and so Neustar has always taken a hybrid approach to what we call identity resolution or entity resolution, the ability to take information and essentially stitch it together to validate and verify either an individual person or the household. And a household we think is more valuable in the overarching kind of concept of advertising. You want to hit the household, the household you don't really necessarily have to know the individual. You don't have to know the individual ever, from a consumer advertising perspective. I think one-to-one advertising is a misnomer, I think you're doing a one-to-few or one-to-many. But we take a hybrid approach which means that we do both deterministic and probabilistic in the same process. And so we feel balancing both of those is really important to generate both scale and accuracy.

    A lot of people recently have focused on deterministic, deterministic, but how many times are you giving your email address or the wrong email address to any sort of advertiser or content producer? All the time, right? Information shared, information is wrong, information's out of date. You know, the average consumer, how many times do you change your address over the course of your life? Or how many email addresses do you actually have? I don't have that many. A colleague of mine on my other podcast, You're On Mute, creates a new email address for every single brand that he engages with because he has his own domain. And he's a unique individual, tin foil, hat-wearing person who's in the know, but that's the thing, that's all deterministic signal. That's me as a person, giving you information about myself, I'm gonna lie. I'm gonna lie because I don't care or because it's not really important for you to have that or because I am protecting myself. And so you have to balance that with probabilistic, which really looks at time, it looks at the evolution of those identifiers that have been identified at Devon DeBlasio and he is the Senior Director of Product Marketing at Neustar a particular point in time, over a certain amount of time in a particular area.

    It also uses things like IP addresses, it uses things like other digital signals that are not specifically explicitly provided, but can be inferred. And so combining those two together, we feel builds the best possible way to resolve the most accurate depiction of a consumer or a customer. And then allow that to breathe and allow that to essentially maintain its accuracy over time, but also increased scale. Brands want to target more people. The more people, the better, as long as it's relevant and as long as those people are in the right audience bucket and this allows them to do that. And a lot of other individual organizations have either picked a lane. You have people who specifically focus on probabilistic, which is like device graphs, the old tap ads and crosswalks and all those. And then you have people just only focus on deterministic. And we feel like you can’t have your cake and eat it too, you need to use both and that's kind of how we differentiate in the market. And we've been doing that since day one, our data set is based in the offline world. We don't have a purely digital identity graph that we're using to help our clients repair and enrich their data, so we know the value of offline data. But we also know how finicky the digital signal can be, as it comes in across the various ways in which it does. And so using both I think is extremely important to do proper identity or entity resolution.

    Brent: So for the user or for the listener and probably the spectrum of knowledge and proficiency and usage of the platforms like this. Whether they're on the sales side or whether they're a practitioner or strategist or folks in the middle, it sounds like from your vantage point, the sunset of the cookie, which everyone in the industry knew would come eventually, right? It's kind of a blunt instrument and everything. And then Apple’s move and then sort of these bundling and retrenchment of the big platforms really capturing and retaining this first-party data whether it's iOS or Android or Chrome or someone like an Amazon. That shift didn't really obliterate your business model, you've always taken kind of a Sage approach of offline, online, stitching these together to get the view of that household versus that individual. Is that accurate?

    Devon: Yeah, we're not cookie-based. We use cookies, right? Everyone uses cookies. The majority of, let's say the digital supply chain today, the automated way to buy an ad, buy an advertiser, you create an audience of individual households, you translate that to most likely some currency that can be targeted in the open web, that's gonna be a cookie. That's still today, the bulk of 40, 60%, depending on where you live, of your internet traffic running through Chrome and they still use cookies. So cookies are still here, they're gonna be here for 2023 or longer and so that's still a valuable currency to use when performing digital advertising. But again, we don't work just in the digital world, it's an omnichannel view of the customer and consumer. And so for us, we always know that we still have to deliver an email. We have to deliver a direct mail message and we have to deliver something to the call center with a delivery to a mobile phone that doesn't use cookies for the most part. And even out of home or connected TV, which aren't really impacted at all today by this cookie deprecation.

    And so people, I think, forget about advertising and where you see ads. I think people are mostly focused on like the banner-rich media units that I think aren't not as invaluable anymore, in my personal opinion in terms of advertising signal and driving conversions. It's one of the many tools in the toolbox that brands and advertisers need to use. And so for us, we knew the cookie was going away. We were preparing for it in terms of providing different mechanisms for our clients to use, different currency, that's email-based currency. Or it's a contextualize-based currency or it's a cohort, which means it's like a grouping of individuals that can't be identified at all in various ways. And really taking the lead from many of the walled gardens, right? The goal for us is to stitch the experiences across these multiple organizations where consumers are spending the bulk of their time. Whether it's a retail wall garden, or a social wall garden, or a content or entertainment wall garden, they are extremely protective of their data. They're building their walls even higher and they have their own mechanisms for identifying their individuals because they have the logged-in consent permission of those people. And for an average brand, they want access to all of those different touch places or touchpoints where consumers are spending their time.

    So you have to figure out a way as a vendor like Neustar to provide those bridges across all those major players. Every player has a different recipe or a different requirement for how you do that. Some are cookie-based, some are PII or personal identifiable information based and some are privacy protected based. And I think it's changing all the time, but the deprecation of a cookie is a good thing, it is the red herring, I think, for the overarching focus on privacy which is more important. And also people need to understand that Apple's doing a great job that’s not essentially forcing the hand of consumers to opt-in to advertising. And we've seen like 18%, 14%, I forget what the number is today, that we've seen in the United States, of people actually opting into advertising. That's more of a threat today than the cookie, cookie is still here for 60% of the browsers. But mobile devices, we saw what happened with Snapchat, we saw what happened with Facebook in terms of their stock and their ability to actually generate revenue from the decline of the MAID, the Mobile Ad ID. That's more important for us to focus on than the cookie right now that's right in front of us. But overall, I think the focus on privacy needs to be first and foremost and figuring out how to not rely on these identifiers that consumers and customers normally don't have control over is probably for the best.

    Brent: No, that's a great vantage point, I appreciate the perspective. And I think ultimately it'll tie to better experiences, which has been more or less the promise of the web though. It's interesting that we're still navigating popups and opt-ins and so forth. So we've talked about the technology and we've framed that up and it sounds like you've got some great strategic underpinnings and using kind of that hybrid probabilistic versus deterministic and extremely complex modeling to tools and platforms to enable this technology. But this isn't a type of technology that I think an average marketer just sort of logs in, bites into and picks off the shelf. You ultimately need people with profound expertise and probably strategic acumen, as well as technological acumen and certainly mathematical acumen. Talk to us a little bit about what is the service component and your team of strategists, implementation, service level folks that your product looks like?

    Devon: Yeah and just to bridge the gap, obviously the combination of people and technology is extremely important to get, let's say the privacy thing right. And I think that's what the departure was, is that real focus on technology and automation. The human factor was not as included and I think that would've caught a lot of this creepiness, a lot of this misuse of data. So transitioning into where we are today, we still wanna continue the use of automation, to continue the use of these large data sets. Smart data sets that you can analyze and you can extract value from and for us there are two different value points. There's either using it for creating personalized or relevant experiences or for measurement. Analytics, how well did I do? You have to essentially amass this large amount of data and we're stitching that together using that hybrid approach like I talked about before.

    And yeah, there are SaaS-based tools, you log in and there are wiziwig things that can make it easier for you to drop and play and upload things and generate audiences and measure. But the bulk of our client base is really focused on getting access to the raw assets. Let me analyze the data myself, let me get it into my platform, my data science environment and let my data science teams and analysts really comb through the data to create a custom approach to advertising. And that's really what we've seen as a differentiator for many in the space is that they wanna be able to create their own models, they wanna be able to create their own taxonomies. They want to really have control over how fast, how slow or how detailed their measurement or their targeting models are. And that requires a lot of heavy lifting, a lot of smart people that went to a lot of school, know a lot of math that I don't know anything about to comb through the data and actually perform those models. People who can use Sequel, people who can use all these different types of coding languages.

    It's really just parsing through data, that's really what they're doing. That's the first thing they have to do, get access to the data in a centralized environment. Cloud infrastructure's making that easier to do now, but it's still difficult for many organizations to build a really robust and really bespoke data lake for themselves. That requires a lot of managed services to lean on, right? Whether it's another organization like a customer data platform or identity resolution partner that's housing the data for you, putting the labels on the data, making sure the data is accurate, making sure the data is complete. That requires a lot of hands on the keyboard to do that. Whether it's inside the walls of a vendor like Neustar or at the brand, or even the agency. A lot of agencies have increased their spend on talent to support many brands that do not have their own in-house analyst data science teams. And then there's the analysis of the actual data, once it's in the data lake, how do I comb through it? How do I use Sequel and other ways to parse through it and extract some sort of value? Build a model that's gonna allow me to do multi-touch attribution or build a model that's gonna build a dynamic audience that I can update every week or every day, based on some level of a trigger that I see across these audiences.

    There are various ways in which you can pull and extract value, but it requires people to dig through the data. And at Neustar, we've realized that that is potentially a gap or is a gap for many organizations that have not invested historically in their analytics organizations or in their data science teams. And even if they do, they usually don't have enough. They usually don't have enough people to actually understand, or actually go into the mountains of data that their consumers or customers are generating. And I think that's really important that any brand, any marketing enterprise, their investment, analytics and data science is a differentiating factor. Whether it's signing up for their agency to take part in that, whether there's signing up a consultant agency, which we've seen the Accentures, the Deloittes, the McKinseys have jumped into that pool as well.

    We’re relying on Neustar and our own services to provide that value, but we've seen a huge lift in the amount of spend that these brands or organizations are putting into people. People at the organization sit there and look at the data. They are not just looking and combing through the data and performing math, they're actually strategically analyzing and understanding how to extract dynamic value from that. It's not easy because this is something we've never had to do before. So the job role for this is not just a computer science background, you also have to have a background in marketing and you also have to have a background a lot of times in psychology. There's a lot of interesting overlap between a data science for just the general world versus a data science to really kind of comb through the data from an advertising or marketing perspective.

    Brent: That's really interesting. It's almost like you need a kind of human dimension to apply to that and I think of an interesting analogy. I was having a conversation with one of our large advertising agency clients and we were talking about the ongoing challenge to attract and retain talent, but matching talent dimensions to the brand’s challenges. An example might be that an exceptionally talented wiz-bang director of planning and consumer insight is working on launching a new infant diaper with a Proctor and Gamble brand, but has never had kids. You know, maybe it’s early to mid-twenties, but it lacks that sort of dimension and I think is a little bit of a function of the industry a bit.

    But the talent you're describing is different from simply that early career stage person, who's analyzing Google analytics and clicking through rates and impressions. It's a bit of data science, decision science and someone who understands propensity modeling and that type of thing. And has to understand computer science because then you have to generate different types of analyses to parse through it. How do you find those folks? How do you maybe sort that type of talent, understand who has that ability to apply human dimension and then career pathway?

    Devon: It's the hardest it's ever been right now. There is a huge gap, obviously, we all know in any job. The entire world has had a job shortage over the past 18 months and we now are seeing this very clearly in terms of trying to hire engineers, but also trying to hire data scientists for our own team. It's not an easy process and we're even hiring people right out of college. The competitive set of the Amazons, the Googles, the Facebooks that are also competing for the same smart, fresh individuals is overwhelming and I think that's where we're at today. That's also coming back to the concept before, like these individuals are also people, right? Obviously, they have consciousness and a lot of them are focusing on where they wanna land in the tech world, based on, back to what we talked about earlier, of how those organizations have been perceived in the market. And that's a huge factor as well, where it comes back to trusting an organization, even not just from a consumer and revenue standpoint, but from your own staffing. You have to be very cognizant about how your organization is seen by that new generation of data scientists or analysts or engineers.

    But it's been difficult, it's been difficult to find the staffing at breadth. And that's why we've seen a lot of our brands look to an agency or a consulting organization, or someone of the like for help in the short term. And I think that's something where we've seen a lift and they've also been participating in how you select a vendor. Like at Neustar how you select another vendor who's providing data science-enabled services, they have a hand in that process. And so now we're obviously having to work with those consulting organizations, the agencies and the brand to make sure we're meeting all of the relevant criteria. We have to essentially focus on where the data science resources are because that's really who our target market is at Neustar at the end of the day. Where who has the data science resources at scale because we're actually supporting them at the end of the day. But who owns the use cases? That's gonna be the brand and the crosswalks, like you said earlier, it's the art and science combination. Knowing how to apply computer science and data science to an actual use case that's in the advertising and marketing world, it's not an easy thing to do because a lot of times it relies on marrying art and science together. And that is a unique set that’s gonna come with time. I don't think anyone right out of college, maybe they are, I have no idea, is able to do that extremely well. I hope they can, but I think seasoned veterans of the marketing advertising world are starting to see how that's gonna change. If that makes sense.

    Brent: Think of the advertising and the marketing ecosystem, it's very vast, right? You've got your internal marketers and practitioners. You have the folks on the creative side going to the different ad schools; Miami ad school and so forth. You've got everything in between marketing communications, tracks and university. From your vantage point where you sit to your point servicing these big decision science and data science practices within large brands, as well as your own talent and acquisition to get those folks to bridge the gap. Are you seeing the emergence of career tracks or types of curricula coming out of university where new graduates are saying this is an area where I really want to focus? And of course, coming out there's a lack of experience, but at least they have some potency that can be deployed initially.

    Devon: Again, my specific organization doesn't hire new people out of college directly, but a lot of my secondary colleagues do, who are hiring the engineers and the data science people. I'm hiring right now, so hiring product marketers, hiring people in the marketing organization, I like to have them have experience in the field. Whether it's the tried and true practice of product marketing or the industry itself. A lot of times you can't find both which is difficult. Someone who is trying to experience product marketing as an example, but also is from the industry itself that they're gonna be working in. So you kind of have to take one or the other if you can get it. But I have seen curriculum, even at my own school, I went to school for music business, right, I'm been to school for advertising or marketing. I took those classes and those courses, but looking back at Drexel, they have a ton of new sub majors and bifurcated kinds of pathways that really focus on the digital advertising world. But I bet entering college now, I feel like they're still probably not moving fast enough with that curriculum to catch up with where we are.

    Again, they should be focusing on privacy right now, a lot of those courses. If you're in marketing, advertising or technology or data science or law, privacy is gonna be a huge factor. They should be really making sure that they get access to that education and learning because I didn't get that when I was younger. I took law classes, that's part of my business minor, but I think that's a huge thing as well. And philosophy, I think the concept of individual based science, the philosophy and psychology of individuals, that's a huge factor I think we need to start adding to the curriculums as well. But I don't have firsthand knowledge in terms of what's happening at scale to be honest with you.

    Brent: Right, that makes sense. And it's good to hear that there's at least tangentially, some of the tender shoots of that decision science, marketing science, the dimensions being added to some curricula. From a pure sort of raw number you note that everyone's understaffed, everyone's kind of behind in terms of filling roles. For the folks that are extremely talented, there's migration, there's lots of different options. Agency clients have struggled to match, for instance, maybe at least the perception of work-life balance or compensation of a big platform. And then conversely, some folks go to an Apple and say this really isn't for me, I preferred more the consulting side of things.

    I read some tweets from some ad tech investors, I think Eric Franchi posted one noting around 3000 openings. He was looking at some supply-side stuff, you know, the trading desk, the buy side and so forth. But from your vantage point and you don't have to divulge any kind of proprietary numbers, are you 30% under staff, 40%, 20%? Or you're promoting from within and kind of backfilling folks who are ascended in their career? What kind of changes have you made in your own hiring and retention practices to adapt to the emerging…? They say the new normal, but its kind of like coalescing around the normal of this is how things are for a while.

    Devon: Sure, I don’t know the specific percentage, to be honest with you and not that it’s above my pay grade, but it's just not a key focus of mine to be honest. And as we go through obviously an acquisition, that’s all in flux as well. But in terms of our practices, obviously compensation's getting more competitive. So making sure the bonus structure is more competitive, making sure that we are being purchased by a public company, making sure if there are any sort of incentives from an equity standpoint that that's there as well, without talking specifics. But yeah, money's gotten higher, you have to pay people more money, obviously you have to compete with inflation, but have to go above and beyond that. Like I said, you're competing with the other major tech providers that are out there. But also making sure you're flexible, your work from home concepts, right? Your work-from-home policies. My requirement was that as long as you're close to a major airport, that's all that matters. If you gotta hop on a plane, you gotta hop on a train, you can do that. As long as you're not in a very rural area where you gotta drive four or five hours to get to a particular place. It's more so I don't wanna inconvenience that individual.

    If you're more than welcome to do that, that’s fine, but most of the people that I’m looking for are in major cities, close to your airport, but really can be anywhere. Which I think has been a new factor for us, like starting in the metropolitan New York area, it'd be great to have someone there because I can see them as much as I need to see them. But when we started to look at the landscape, it was more difficult to find people in those particular areas. One, because maybe they moved, like you said earlier before we hit record, a lot of people are moving out of New York to New Jersey, making it difficult for me to buy a home in New Jersey, but they may not be there anymore. And that's happening to all new cities or at least it had over the past 18 months. And so being flexible about where they live is extremely important, being flexible about payment and making sure you're competitive. But also being more transparent than I think we ever were about career path, right? Making sure that they have an opportunity to have a clear line of sight through the career path, that's really what we've been doing.

    Also opening up to people outside of the actual roles, so looking at people who are in tangential roles. For my own organization, looking at product marketing, but also looking at people in product, looking at people in customer success and people of client experience. That's important for us to look at the larger landscape because you don't have a huge pool to dig from or to pull from and that's been helpful. I think it's been interesting to hear people who wanna change their career paths and have an interest in new and exciting ways to utilize their skills and expertise. And we've also seen a lot of internal promotions, internal rallying of the troops, so to speak. Getting them to be more emboldened, getting them to be people managers, that's a huge thing as well. Is like making sure you invest in the talent that you have because you don't want to have any sort of migration.

    Brent: Migration, yeah, or just resignation, the great churn.

    Devon: There you go.

    Brent: The notion of being near the major airport hub as being more convenient to those folks. Because no offense to someone who moves to a beautiful bucolic area in Appalachia, but having to be on a plane to a client site, for instance, several times a month and then navigating multiple connections of air travel, that's a really good point.

    Devon: Internet service though, is a huge thing too, right? You gotta be near a good hub. You see the different maps of different types of internet service providers across the United States. Like if you're in an area where it's a dead zone and somewhere in Kansas, like it's gonna be difficult. But I speak from being in the internet and advertising and technology world, I mean obviously your internet connection is your lifeblood to do work, but that’s another factor you have to have signal.

    Brent: No, absolutely.

    Devon: But also climate change has been a big factor as well. I have some people who live in parts of Florida that have been impacted by the hurricanes and flooding.

    Brent: Yeah, the frequency of outages.

    Devon: Not that I'm not gonna hire someone who's in an area that's affected by wildfires or by floodings, you're not gonna be hiring a lot of people in very important areas as this gets crazier, but that's a factor that you have to consider. Sometimes it is like how often they’re gonna be having an outage or how often they have to move because their house is under water. That's like something I never had to think about before. Or people migrating because those things are happening, like after they've been hired, they're actually moving to a different state or a different location. You have to just be cognizant of where your staff is at any given point because of how often people have been changing or have been nomadic over the past year and a half.

    Brent: No, that's a great point. I think one of the benefits I've seen in my role and the ability to talk to lots of talent leaders in services consulting, marketing services, the agency environment, is this move away from hyper-specialization. You brought up a good point. You know, considering folks who might not have been a hundred percent match, maybe they’re 50% match for the role. But the willingness to learn, pivot their career path and sort of breaking that stranglehold of that really hyper-specialization that has been in place for many years. And I think marketing science, someone who's really great at discerning data, but maybe hadn't been exposed to one of the platforms, whether it's Facebook blueprint or Google 360 or something like that. But they're great data scientists and we're taking a look at those types of folks or folks who are moving from data into product marketing and services and they have the rich context to talk to clients about this. Having been practitioners has been a good move. This has been a really great conversation. I'd love you to give sort of a closing remark around that topic of probably audience targeting and privacy. But then talk to us a little bit about your podcast, you've got The No Hype at Neustar and You’re On Mute.

    Devon: Yeah, so the final thoughts on the whole concept of audience targeting and privacy, it's kind of common sense, right? Everyone is a consumer, so treat others as you would like to be treated. I guess the best way of the golden rules is to really think about it. And the more transparent you are and the more respectful you are, the more likely you're going to have repeat customers. And the more likely your customers are going to feel comfortable giving you more information about themselves. As long as you treat that information with the highest regard and highest security. And secondarily, invest in privacy and invest in the ability to use different privacy, preserving methodologies or techniques. There is a lot on the horizon that are coming out right now. A lot of organizations are shifting their focus to privacy and security.

    Try them out, test and learn, that's the only thing I can recommend right now. It's a green pasture in terms of privacy protections, as it relates to marketing and advertising. And I think there's a huge investment need and responsibility for many of these organizations to focus on as they continue to do their jobs. And look, I want to keep the internet as free as possible, I don't want to increase the amount of paywalls that are being used to restrict the use or access to content, but that's kind of where we're headed. If we don't figure out a way to build an ecosystem of trust and transparency that we can all rely on to browse the internet and buy our significant others items that they need, or they want for Christmas without being hit over the head with advertisements or data leakage.

    So that would be my recommendation is trust transparency and investment and privacy-preserving techniques is extremely important. And in terms of the two podcasts, so No Hype is a Neustar podcast, my colleague Allyson Dietz and I, really just interview the smartest people that we know in terms of the advertising and technology ecosystem. We started it this year and it's been a really great discussion in terms of breaking down the concept of hype, all this stuff. Because we're in marketing, we hear the bullshit and stuff all the time and we want to just cut to the chase. Let's talk about what we think is really relevant and really important for the ecosystem.

    And then You're On Mute is really kind of my own pet project with Steve Silver my co-host, talking about the intersection of the internet and technology and advertising and what it means to the average consumer, the average person. So it's a good podcast for people in the know and technology as well as your mom. So we try to cover the breadth and try to break it down and be simplistic about it as well.

    Brent: I love the title of You’re On Mute. When you say that, I've got that now pavlovian response, right? I like reached for my mouse. I was giving a webinar, I don't know, a week or two ago and started enthusiastically doing my intro 30 seconds in and everybody kind of waved their hands and so of course I was on mute. I logged in with a good dad joke, I'm like sorry everybody, I'm really new to Zoom.

    Devon: That's kind of how it started, we started during the beginning of the pandemic and we were all just kind of already burnt out from Zoom and WebEx and all these others. And that was just something that we hear all the time, people yelling at each other. Even before the pandemic started, that’s people in this world.

    Brent: It's great marketing and bravo for coining that. Listen, this has been great, thanks so much for the conversation. I think the listeners and our growing listener base will really enjoy this. A lot of dimensions, very wide-ranging and really appreciate the investment of time. And I encourage listeners to check out the podcast links which are nohype.neustar and youreonmute.com. They sound great and appreciate your little cross-pollination there.

    As always, reach out to us here at the Professional Services Pursuit with any questions, comments, topics you'd like to address or have us address and hear more about it at podcastmavenlink.com. We'd love to hear from listeners, we've been getting some feedback and have this ability to attract kind of wide-ranging guests from all over the ecosystem. So appreciate everyone listening. Thanks again to Devon and we'll wrap for this episode.

    Devon: Great. Thanks Brent, thanks to Mavenlink for having me on.

    Brent: Appreciate it.