I’ve recently returned from Beet.TV’s latest Beet Retreat, and I’m feeling . . . optimistic? Pessimistic? Ambivalent?

Ambivalent — I’ll go with ambivalent.

There is so much opportunity for a TV/video advertising industry that finds itself in flux — an explosion of new content, new data sources, new consumer viewing patterns. All of this means more ways to explore how to deliver advertising that brings value to content creators and distributors, to brands, and to consumers themselves.

So why am I ambivalent? Because this year’s conference — held in sunny San Juan, Puerto Rico — was sitting under a pretty big cloud: privacy and the future of consumer data access.

We — as an ad industry — have been aggressively pursuing an audience-driven, data-dependent ad future for the last two decades. But in our efforts to drive more “relevant,” “personalized,” “seamless” advertising (explicitly in the name of good consumer experience but objectively in the name of achieving business performance), we’ve broken many consumers’ trust. And now we must grapple with the real-world effects of this broken trust: ad-avoidant behaviors, browser clampdowns, and meaningful regulatory changes.

So as I listened to the many strident, mostly thoughtful and concerned voices representing — and hashing out — the future of the TV industry at the conference, I was listening for clues that they: 1) understand the very real challenges the industry faces amid all the opportunity and 2) are actively trying to avoid the mistakes of the past while building for a healthy and sustainable future. (And no, the answer is not “TV doesn’t use cookies, so we’re good.”)

What I heard can perhaps be summed up best by quoting one media exec, who said “If each of us continues to innovate individually, we don’t solve the industry’s problems.”

To that end, terms like “interoperability” and “connectivity” and phrases such as “basket of currencies” dominated conversations, just as there was honest acknowledgment that the room was full of competitors.

But let’s dig deeper into this “competitors” questions:

  • If two competitive measurement companies can, at minimum, work toward a more shared understanding of how to derive accurate cross-screen reach and frequency calculations (for example) that advertisers can trust, doesn’t that ultimately benefit all?
  • What if the industry invested in the development and adoption of a shared identity space where consumer privacy and choice are front and center, by design? (Yes, LiveRamp was in attendance, but this is bigger than them, folks.)
  • What about more meaningful conversations about media marketplaces, where big media companies make it easier for buyers to transact within and across valuable, premium publisher partners in a privacy-first way? To me, that feels like a preferable future over one where Google, Facebook, and Amazon get all the ad dollars because they’ve got strong consumer footprints, are data-rich, and are easy to use.

I believe that this group (who spent three days with me in a dim, windowless conference room) wants to make things better. But it takes more than just industry will — money is what will talk.

That’s where you — B2C marketers — come in. You have an opportunity to shape this industry by focusing on the things that matter for a sustainable advertising future. Focusing on being good stewards — not just of the consumer experience but of how you build it; what role the consumer plays; what voice and choice she has; what degree of transparency, quality, and ethical behavior you require in your partners — is both the right thing to do and good business. Because I fear that if we don’t come together as an industry to shape a future that’s more connected, curated, and consumer-first, we’ll be right back in another windowless conference room in five years — with even less consumer goodwill — asking ourselves, “Where did we go wrong?”

See my Beet Retreat interview here, be on the lookout for my upcoming research on the future of advertising, and, in the meantime, please sign up for our February 24 webinar on the future of the cookie and what it means, featuring analysts Fatemeh Khatibloo, Tina Moffett, Stephanie Liu, and myself.

And, if you’re interested in seeing my past Beet Retreat roundups, they are here and here.