Mark Penn is the CEO and chairman of MDC Partners, the company that owns agencies including 72andSunny, Anomaly and Doner. But his background largely lies in politics: He’s advised both Bill and Hillary Clinton throughout his career as a pollster and strategist. Penn also met with President Trump last year but denies advising him.
Penn consulted Bill Gates 22 years ago when the Microsoft co-founder and former CEO found himself testifying before Congress for antitrust reasons. He thinks Gates faced “much tougher” congressional hearings than the CEOs of Amazon, Alphabet, Amazon and Facebook, all of whom testified virtually before the House Judiciary Committee’s antitrust subcommittee on Wednesday.
“I was surprised by how mild much of the questioning seemed to be,” Penn said during Adweek’s NexTech 2020 Virtual Summit today. “It’s really hard to find people in Congress who really understand technology, how it’s moving and what some of the dangers and problems are.”
During his conversation with Lisa Granatstein, Adweek’s editor and svp of programming, he said the growth of addressable TV could potentially siphon ad dollars away from the likes of Facebook and Google, making the tech giants and their targeting prowess less powerful.
“As TV evolves, you can really expect addressable TV to provide a very significant level of competition and open up the marketplace,” he said. “The money is in addressable TV advertising.”
Discussing Facebook’s advertising boycott, he said social media platforms have found themselves in a no-win situation where they’ve “gotten in the middle of politics.” He called for an industrywide set of standards to solve for this, explaining that “voluntary industry cooperation to set content standards applied fairly and evenly with processes for appeal” is needed.
“There’s no way out of that conundrum in the absence of real standards,” Penn said.
On the topic of the upcoming election, he said he thinks voters will largely have the coronavirus pandemic on their minds when they cast their votes, more so than any other issue. He’s also skeptical that social media has a substantial effect on the outcome of elections. Instead, he thinks voters are swayed by the “big messages” that come out of conventions, speeches and debates.
“The Twittersphere is great, but people have real, everyday concerns here that affect their lives,” he said. “That is what is most likely to determine their vote.”
Listen to the rest of their conversation below.