The move comes less than two months after Hirsch was promoted from chief revenue officer (a role he had held since his start with the company in 2006) to president. "As president, I didn't have responsibilities for our technology and finance operations," Hirsch said. "It was more of an external-facing role. But now I'll be responsible for the company's strategic direction overall and making sure we execute."
Hirsch told Online Media Daily what advertisers could expect from Revenue Science in the coming months, as well as the state of the behavioral targeting industry overall.
OMD: Given the regulatory scrutiny that behavioral targeting has undergone lately--from the Federal Trade Commission to the New York Assembly to consumer privacy groups, how do you see Revenue Science, and the industry as a whole, moving forward?
Hirsch: I think behavioral targeting gets scrutinized largely because there's so much confusion on the part of consumers and the agencies themselves--particularly about whether it's an invasion of privacy. At Revenue Science, we've taken a proactive stance to make sure that we address consumer privacy concerns. We don't collect any personally identifiable info (PII), and we make sure that the companies we have relationships with have rock-solid privacy statements as well. And we've also spearheaded a standards consortium to try to get the dialogue going.
OMD: The Behavioral Targeting Standards Consortium (BTSC) kicked off at OMMA Behavioral in February. How has it progressed so far?
Hirsch: Over 150 people have joined including publishers, advertisers, networks and even manufacturers. We're prepping for our second meeting, and to be honest, just sorting through the tremendous amount of responses we received.
OMD: Do you think that self-imposed standards and organizations like the Network Advertising Initiative (NAI) will be enough to stave off legislation?
Hirsch: I do, once we get consumers to understand what behavioral targeting is about. Take frequency capping, for example. It's just making sure that when people visit a site they don't see two ads in a row. But it's still behavioral targeting, because the behavior you're tracking is seeing the ad once, and it's been around since the inception of online advertising. So it's just about educating them and getting them to understand the practices.
OMD: Revenue Science faces competition from networks like AOL's Tacoda, Yahoo's Blue Lithium, and even ISP-side services like NebuAd. How do you plan to compete in an increasingly crowded market?
Hirsch: Well, we have a highly differentiated technology. It affords us the ability to store massive amounts of data, and it's flexible enough to stretch across many audiences. That's our major advantage, and the challenge is to take our technology and leverage it in meaningful ways. In the coming months, we'll be working on the advertiser side to help them understand and take advantage of the data they can get. We're working toward becoming the fulcrum in the utilization of data in the ad marketplace.