We’re so excited to introduce you to Don Marti, our new VP of Ecosystem Innovation!

Don joined our team in October 2020 to represent the future of content creation and give a voice to AdThrive publishers across the advertising ecosystem, as multiple players propose solutions to replace third-party cookie technology, redesigning the ad industry from the ground up.

One of the major risks with this massive reimagining of our industry is that tech giants, who have big resources, influence, and representation, dominate the decisions. This can lead to further centralization of the open web, squeezing out other players — including the independent publishers who are the ones creating the content that users actually want, making the internet a better place.

It’s more vital than ever that independent publishers have strong representation within key groups like the W3C and other organizations making decisions driving the future of the advertising industry. 

So we created this brand new position to further expand our industry advocacy!

Don is a proven advocate, storyteller, and problem-solver who is deeply familiar with all sides of the industry. His background gives him the unique ability to see this puzzle from all sides.

He’s the only person we know who has:

  • worked on the ad servers of a major ad network
  • purchased advertising on the brand side of things
  • worked for a web browser company
  • written an ad blocker
  • edited an ad-supported publication

Don is able to bring all of these perspectives together to work toward a future where the web serves the needs of internet users, publishers, brands, and ad tech alike!

How do you feel your unique experience working within web technology from so many different angles helps you serve AdThrive publishers?

I like working in the middle of rapid technological changes, and I have been through enough of them that I think I’m capable of seeing change from a realistic point of view, not just the positive or negative version. 

A privacy advocate might be concerned about the tracking of users from one site to another, when from the publisher point of view, that extra data is helping to enable the placement of an ad that a small publisher might not otherwise be able to get. Meanwhile, a marketer in an affluent San Francisco bubble might look at ad tech practices and wonder what’s wrong with showing surfboards to people who like surfing and mountain bikes to people who like biking… not realizing that the same data practices might be preventing someone else from seeing a job or housing ad.  

The California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) is a great example of the kind of collaboration that’s necessary to create a win for everyone involved. The CCPA and laws like it are very popular with voters, but people find it hard to apply their privacy rights in a way that actually gets companies to handle their data the way they want. 

Recently, I started a project at Consumer Reports to test some ways to most efficiently apply CCPA. Our project created an experimental “authorized agent” service to exercise CCPA rights with respect to the data brokers where they can have the most influence, while minimizing negative impacts on legitimate publishers and on data-sharing programs that the user actually wants to participate in. People don’t want to find that their privacy tool has opted them out of the “buy 9 sandwiches, get 1 free” offer when they were on their 8th sandwich!

We have to apply the best ideas from the privacy scene and from the worlds of publishing and marketing to make the best experience for web users.

We have to apply the best ideas from the privacy scene and from the worlds of publishing and marketing to make the best experience for web users.

Don Marti

Can you give us a peek into what this industry advocacy and engagement looks like on a day-to-day basis?

I spend a lot of time reading and processing proposed post-cookie technologies, so I can prepare for industry group meetings about the impact on real-world publishers. 

Engaging in those meetings is a huge focus of my time — participating on calls with browser development teams (like Chrome, Firefox, Safari, etc.), ad technology companies, large publishing firms, privacy nonprofits, and even government entities, putting together proposals and talks on new standards, and weighing in on hotly-debated topics.

Working within the W3C and Privacy Sandbox initiatives, sometimes a proposal for replacing cookies will come with a lot of details, and sometimes it’s mostly “cryptographic magic goes here.”

Today there are a few extremely large companies that are capable of participating in the web standards process in a large, ostentatious fashion. They have the ability to produce complete implementations of complex proposals, demonstrating their power to drive consolidation of the web business. And some proposals would impose complex development and testing requirements on small sites.

As a person who maintains my own website and blog (and even the mail server), I strive to bring the conversation to a realistic level and keep options open for independent sites. 

With many pivotal decisions on the horizon, I’m working to bring “what’s good for content creators” to life as a key stakeholder in industry changes — and make sure that our own technology is always cutting edge on the standards-setting front.

We’d love to hear three fun things about yourself!

  1. My ambition is to come to New York City and get a good corned beef sandwich and finally get a good selfie in front of a Madison Avenue street sign.
  2. I live in a house with some animals that appear to be either very small pigs or very large rodents. I asked one and she said “squoink” which is not especially helpful.
  3. I can prepare a few foods, but I’m learning more from all of our amazing publishers now that I’m at AdThrive/CafeMedia and exposed to so much good content. I’ll include a photo of first-party cookies I made myself!
a plate of peanut butter cookies on a floral tablecloth
Don’s first-party cookies