The Right Questions

When we convene the Spring 2011 Seller Forum tomorrow morning in New York, we'll be joined by 50 top digital sales leaders all seeking clarity and context for the very important decisions they make every day. But given the complexity and dynamism of the digital, media and advertising landscapes, we're not so much solving a puzzle as framing a set of mysteries. When one solves a puzzle, accumulating data and drilling down to firm answers is the way to go. But when it comes to framing mysteries -- the Middle East, economic trends, our world -- it's really all about asking the right questions. So for public consumption -- and as a focal point for those at the Forum -- here are some of the questions that i hope will help light the path.

The Drift is proudly underwritten this week by PubMatic, which provides one holistic selling platform to protect publishers and increase their online and mobile ad sales.

As Linda Gridley offers her thinking on the crowded digital landscape, I hope we're asking "Beyond which companies are going to win or lose, or which sectors rise or fall, what are the underlying hard trends that will shape the landscape? What's causing all of this?"

As we debate the value and validity of ad verification, we should ask "In embracing -- or at least acquiescing -- to current verification demands, what genie might we be releasing from its bottle? Are we really enabling greater spending or applying a gloss of 'truthiness' to a flawed buying process?"

As we host two top agency executives in a candid discussion, I hope we'll ask "Is there a dramatically different model for the media company/agency relationship that we haven't yet considered? And what would it take for us to move beyond platitudes about 'partnership' and really abolish the processes and roles that serve neither of us?"

In the time we spend talking about the publisher's response to demands for audience buying, I think we should ponder the question of "Is audience buying an innovation that brands are screaming for, or is it fundamentally driven by the needs of the agency for a more profitable transaction model?"

And as we entertain six innovative new companies that serve publishers, I hope we'll be thinking "What is the cost of one more bit of complexity, one more alliance? And should we at this point be thinking about fewer and deeper relationships vs. 'one more interesting opportunity?'"

It's likely there will be no firm or uniform answers to these questions. But I think we'll all be better sales leaders and better business people for having asked them.