Nomad 2 2021: The Wrap Report

A little disclaimer: Last night’s conversation was fast and wild – the discussion was definitely happening faster than I could take notes. Below you will an account according to Lisa … please do add any comments to the bottom if I have missed any key points from the evening.


When we first started talking about topics for the Night Nomads late last year, Nad threw down the idea of ‘RIP Online Advertising’. It felt like one of those “let’s talk about it … but that will never happen” topics.

But as with all Night Nomads events, we like to poke the bear and be a bit dramatic with our topics, so I was very on board.

And then January came around and Google was threatening to leave Australia, and we hit February and Facebook switched off news in our News Feeds … and suddenly this crazy topic started to feel a lot more possible.

Before the evening even started, we kicked things off with a virtual provocation by Justin Hendrix, CEO and Editor of Tech Policy Press (NYC).

Some of the nuggets Justin throws at us include:

  • The maths on what we would need to pay per person to sustain an ad free internet
  • Thoughts on what an ad free internet might look like
  • The reasoning behind why Wikipedia refuse to use ads on their site.

And with a Grade-A panel on hand to guide a sold-out audience through this hot online mess … we knew we were in for some fireworks.

Moderated by all-round digital legend Rob Hudson, Managing Director of SpoutLogic, our panelists included:

  • Kate Cook, Director, SPT Agency
  • Philip Green, Queensland Privacy Commissioner
  • Simone Vrabac, Director, Digital Platforms Branch, Australian Competition and Consumer Commission
  • Sue Johnson, Marketing Director, Spicers Retreats

We kicked off the conversation with a significant discussion on privacy, trust and morals (not where I expected we’d start, to be honest) …

  • Kate raised the question of data daisy chains and whether we really know what happens with the data from the tools we use to better manage our websites
  • Which quickly led us into the topic of trust and Phil commenting that government is often not great with data and algorithms – yet they are a monopoly – we can’t choose to go to another ATO if we don’t like their practices
  • Simone argued that transparency is essential in building trust with our customers to which Sue questioned how anyone can really offer transparency in the re-marketing space …. Whilst, as a marketer you try to make the right modal choices, you will inevitably make mistakes and get stung along the way.

This inevitably took us to the happy place of the privacy terms we all love to hide behind …

  • Phil said that research indicated that 97% of people considered privacy important when choosing a digital service – and the Covid-Safe app was a great example of how people considered privacy so important
  • As a lawyer, Simone argued that companies have privacy policies which are ironically huge and long winded to ensure they are all encompassing and transparent – yet the length is what deters people from reading them in the first place
  • Kate countered that length is probably irrelevant – 94% of people don’t read them (I thought Kate was just being dramatic – turns out the figure is entirely accurate and comes from a CPRC Report)
  • As a marketer, Sue admitted that whilst she doesn’t want to drown people in jibber-jabber, she also doesn’t want to get a call from the ACCC
  • Someone (really can’t remember who) stated that many people believe that “I’m not Kim Kardashian, who cares about me and my data?” … so is it the consumer that doesn’t care or is it the marketer that simply doesn’t care?

This is roughly the point in the evening where the audience started to interject and the conversation really sped up … so in a roughly chronological order some of the excellent points covered included:

The economy of the internet:

  • Isn’t the internet and the economy of the internet screwed if we don’t have ad revenue?
  • Could we offer the power to the people to pay for the internet – is the way forward allowing consumers to vote with their $$$?
  • An audience member asked whether the internet be funded by taxpayers?
    • That is a horribly scary concept
    • Phil is terrified by an ABC style search engine – it will be horrible
    • Rob argued that would be called government-controlled internet (a terrifying concept if you consider another country in the world working under this concept…)
  • Firefox and Mozilla are trying to bring out a better internet
    • When it comes to Australia it will cost about $7 a month
    • For sites who are part of the program, it removes the advertising and, ironically, content owners are receiving about 40% more revenue
  • Rob asked the audience – what would they be willing to pay per month for an ad-free internet – starting at $1 (most were okay with that). Hands started dropping at $10 a month, some were okay with paying $30, one person said $100 – the justification being it’s about equal to what we pay collectively across Stan, Netflix, etc…
  • So … do we hand the control to the browsers???

This morphed into what an adore internet might look like:

  • Display ads will go
  • But advertisers will just game the system
  • There was some audience heckling that argued this is what Murdoch does now anyway?
  • Back in the days when we used to watch free to air TV (remember those days) there used to be shows on the “best ads in the world”
  • There is no TV show called best banner ads in the world
  • Would the end of online ads potentially set the return of creativity and ads that people want to spend time with?
  • What about newer businesses that are highly dependent on digital marketing mediums?
  • The top of the funnel has been ignored for way too long
  • Will brands collaborate more in this brave new world and share the audiences?

And finally … with zero time left on the clock … we managed to get onto Alexa, Siri and human rights.

  • Is the end of advertising really the problem?
  • What about the fact that we are opening our homes to surveillance with Alexa or Google Home?
  • There is a reason those devices are so cheap … they’re listening!
  • And with our homes under constant surveillance, are we going to look back at 2021 and think that banner ads really aren’t all that bad?

And just like this we were well into overtime and our Nomad #2 wrap up complete. Which means we are headed towards our final Nomad event for 2021: Moving beyond our digital addictions into the promise of technology.

1 Comment

  • Well done Lisa, not an easy panel discussion to summarise. We covered a lot in a short time, and that included at least six disclaimers delivered by Simone before passing comments on a wealth of subjects. I am pretty sure we didn't solve the economy of the internet, content and advertising, but I know we kicked the conversation on a notch.

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