Media All Star: David Smith

Recognitions like this frequently throw the word “pioneer” around. But when it comes to pioneering the field of digital media and especially online advertising, Dave Smith is one of the people who helped define it —and he’s still redefining it.

When he founded Mediasmith nearly three decades ago as a fiercely independent media services agency focused on leveraging new and emerging technologies, online advertising didn’t even exist.

And while bigger agencies take much of the credit for helping to shape it, Smith’s neutral, client-centric approach kept it honest and effective, ensuring that it works for the proper stakeholder: Not the agency, or the media, or the litany of ad technology middlemen that emerged over the next several decades, but the advertisers funding the entire food chain.

One of the original "Old Timers," Smith has influenced the industry dialogue by expressing his views and living up to the principles he espouses.

So it was not surprising when "transparency" hit the fan, following the Association of National Advertisers’ report and the American Association of Advertising Agencies' tepid response, Smith pulled Mediasmith’s longtime membership from the ad agency trade group in deference to and support of advertisers.

While Mediasmith was not the first agency to do so, following Empower MediaMarketing by a couple of months, it raised the bar when it did, issuing a "Client Bill of Rights," publishing it for all to see, ideally to incorporate as its own.

The bill may seem to have been crafted as a response to the ANA’s report and own set of recommendations, but the principles precede the ANA initiative, going all the way back to Mediasmith's roots.

"The 4As is fighting a battle that’s not our battle," Smith asserted when he unveiled the bill last September. "It’s the battle of New York mega-agency companies. Our battle is to distance ourselves from those in the industry that are doing arbitrage, doing kickbacks, and literally putting it in writing to the tech companies on when and where to send the money.

"It comes down to whether your feel it’s the client’s money or not. We feel it’s the client's."

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