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#30 - John McNulty: MarTech, Privacy, Social Media, Online Safety, and Internet Security

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Innovate Marketing cover art featuring John McNulty, CEO and Co-Founder of Didgebridge

Since 2007, John has been CEO (Co-Founder) of Didgebridge, a marketing-technology/consulting company, serving the needs of both large & small companies & agencies---offering a unique blend of leading-edge mar-com tech services + increasingly important expertise in Public Internet Marketing-Communication PRIVACY, risk-mitigation & best mar-com practices. (“PRIVATE leads not PUBLIC leads” & “Digital HIPAA Healthcare PRIVACY protection”)

John’s awards and achievements have included the following: The President’s Cup Leadership Award while at Gillette, the Chairman’s Award from Alberto Culver, two Chairman’s Awards from Brunswick, the Consumer Sector’s Photography Category Award at Kodak, Brand Week feature article at Wilson, and two Golf World feature articles while MacGregor’s president.



The following podcast is intended for people who are intent on growing their business. And welcome to Innovate Marketing, where we are bringing you interviews with the people who are making waves in the world of marketing, branding, and business growth. I'm your host, Shawn P Neal. And we are brought to you by MyPodcast.Media. If you're a brand and you're considering podcasting for your marketing and communications efforts, make sure you visit MyPodcast.Media. Now we've got a great interview for you today. So without further ado, let's get into it.


Think for just a minute about all of your online activity for the business that you run every single day. Think about it for your marketing. If you're in marketing, think about it. If you're an agency, think about it for your customers. Think about it for the leads that you acquire. Think about it for your social media. What does security and privacy mean to you? Or better yet, maybe the question is, what does a lack of security and privacy mean to you? That's what we're going to talk about today with John McNulty, CEO and Co-Founder of Didgebridge. So without further ado...


John McNulty his career began with the Gillette company where he ultimately had national responsibility for Gillette's most important global account, Walmart. After Gillette, John served in senior leadership positions, including serving as President of McGregor Golf Worldwide, Senior Vice President of Brunswick, Vice President and General Manager of Kodak, Vice President of Wilson Sporting Goods, and Director of National Accounts at Alberto Culver. Since 2007, John has been CEO and Co-Founder of Didgebridge, a marketing technology and consulting company serving the needs of both large and small companies and agencies.


When you think about security, and today, and you know, everything from AI to, you know, to where we are, I mean, do you think the average person that's using a device right now at this minute is aware of the things that are going on around them? Like what is the level of awareness out there for the average person?

John McNulty 2:27

I think that's a great question because it's beginning to improve. Okay. But I would say overall, people are not aware of what the public internet really is, you know. The DNA of the public Internet- It was always meant to be mineable and shareable. That's the DNA of it. It's not Telecom, like your your, your cell phone and your home phone. That's a different medium. That was never really meant to be mine-able and there was very strong laws put in place early on, you know, by the telecom industry and the FCC to make sure this is not mineable. I mean, unless you want to go get court-ordered subpoenas and wiretaps and all that stuff, right. So along comes the public Internet. It's a medium of communication, but the DNA of it, from day one, was meant for it to be mineable and shareable. So as a starting point, we try to help people understand, whether it's people or whether it's businesses -we speak a lot in college classrooms we speak a lot at in industry events, try to make them understand that any and all communication that flows through the public internet is likely to be mineable. And the capabilities to do that are accelerating exponentially now with this next generation of AI, okay. You know, they're they're firing it up at a rate now - a mineability rate that is beyond comprehension almost. So that's what we try to make people understand. Anything going through the public Internet, it is subjected to mineability, and shareability and weaponization and stigmatization, and all the other nefarious things that go along with it. And marketing, of course. And you know, lead generation. People are beginning to understand it more. And see now you have, to help accelerate this understanding, there's an element of anxiety that's now being entered into the equation. That's coming from the global digital privacy revolution, you know. Laws, you know, launched initially by the European Union, GDPR, privacy protocols. They kind of embarrassed the United States now into launching our own laws here in the US. We have 16 states that The Attorney General's of the states have now launched their own digital privacy laws. And there's many more states following. We have our Justice Department involved. Our Office of Civil Rights, OCR, involved. We have the Securities Exchange Commission involved. The FCC. The FTC. And, you know, you see the front page of the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, and other publications almost every day talking about privacy, you know, and trying to create awareness. So your question, to what extent are people aware? They're becoming more aware, you know, I'll put it that way.


Snd this is all, you know, happening every day while I, you know, pick up my laptop to, you know, read the latest Wall Street Journal or whatever article. Like all of these things are happening in the background. I want to talk for a minute because you had your roots - and I don't want to say necessarily your roots - but your your background is kind of fascinating to me. And you had talked to me about coming from I think it was Kodak. Was that was that right? You were involved with Kodak?

John McNulty 6:06

Yeah, Kodak. Yeah, I was the Vice President and General Manager at Kodak, where we actually were one of the first companies to market through the cloud. Okay, we didn't call it "The Cloud" at that time. We called it "images in the sky." You know, we thought were the first to really create awareness for a so called cloud communication marketing enterprise. And you know, there's nothing more private than your pictures if you think about it, right. And to really go back, if you think of how you used to pick your pictures up, you know, before digital, right. You know, you went into Walgreens or CVS or Walmart or whatever, and you dropped your pictures off, and they had them produced. You brought your film in, your 35 millimeter film, they had them produced. You come back in three days and the pictures were in a little bag right? I don't know how many people can remember this, but the pictures are in a little bag. And beside your pictures, there's your neighbor's pictures. And so think about that. And you could look right down and you can see the name on the little bag, your neighbor's pictures, right. So people all you know, what people were starting to do, is they're looking through their neighbor's pictures. And and so then it became a big privacy concern. And as we moved into the cloud, we're like, "man, this a good way to increase the privacy of these pictures," you know, so they're not sitting out there in public at Walgreens or CVS or, or Walmart and so forth. But see then that that ushered in a new set of challenges. Because now you're in the public Internet, right? Almost now the public internet is coming along, everything is shareable / mineable. So now a whole set of new challenges arises like how do we keep that data private? Now, at that point in time, nobody's even really thinking about this. Okay, but we began to think about it. We use a word called REAR. It's an acronym R.E.A.R. The game is to Reach, Engage, Activate, and Re-communicate. It's a good word for people to remember, because that's kind of how all marketing works, right? So early on, you know, let's say TV or print advertising or out of home advertising, you could reach but you had a very difficult time engaging people. You couldn't measure the extent to which somebody was really engaged in a TV ad, or a print ad, or an out of home ad in Yankee Stadium or something, okay. And you couldn't really measure accurately, to what extent you activated them, got them to take action. And then you couldn't really re-communicate like with who's watching my TV ads or looking at my print ads in Sports Illustrated. Internet marketing now comes along and it begins to solve that problem, which is what caused it to explode. You know, Reach, Engage, Activate and Re-communicate. But you spent a lot of money to do that. Okay, now see, this is where it gets crazy. Those leads, call them leads, you know, brand avids, leads... I'm spending a lot of money to do this, right? This is not these are not private to me. It's dawning on people, everything I'm doing in omni-channel, digital, public internet advertising, it's all being mined and being shared with your competitors, right. And not just your competitors, with anybody who wants to mine the data and use it against you for whatever reason. So that's kind of where we're at today.


Yeah, and I want to think about something there real quick, John, because it reminds me of a Robin Williams movie. I think it was back in like 2002 or 2003. It was called One Hour Photo. And for anybody who's not seeing the movie, the premise is he is behind the counter of a photo development, you know, Walgreens or whatever. I don't want to say a specific name, but that type of environment. And he is looking at people's photos and collecting photos that don't belong to him.

John McNulty 10:07

Right? There you go.


And I think that there is this assumption and correct me if I'm wrong here. But I think that there is this kind of assumption, just like we assumed back in those days that, you know, those photos were private, they were safe when we dropped them off there. We assume that when we get online, when we do collect leads, when we do these things, we're making the assumption that things are just safe. We're trusting the big internet to be safe for us.

John McNulty 10:33

I gotta give you the high fives, you have summed it up.


What I think is really important about what you're talking about here is that, you know, there are so many things... I've got a friend who, and I'll leave the the name of states and whatnot out, but he works with one of the major electric companies in the south. And he is part of a like 15 or 20 member team that spend their days literally battling off all of these bad actors that are trying to penetrate through the grid and wreak havoc on the power. So with that being being said, you come at this from kind of that unique angle with Kodak. How do you kind of bridge that gap as you bring those lessons that we learned early on in the early onset of the internet, 2000/2008 in social media. How do you bridge that gap to where we are finding ourselves right now? The average marketer out there that, you know, is doing the good work of trying to just collect the leads reach out, you know- the engage and re-engage. How do you bridge that gap for somebody?

John McNulty 11:40

Yeah, your analogy is perfect about, you know, trust, right? The trust that existed 20 years ago with how you took pictures, right. And you went into Walgreens and dropped them off and they ended up at, you know, the prints were in the little bag, it sits there on a wide open table with with 100 other little bags and all the people in your neighborhood, right? So... and people, they (don't) give it a second thought until all of a sudden, like the movie that you're talking about comes out. And other people start to ask questions. And they're like, "wait a second, I'm not sure if this is private here." Right? So that's kind of where we're at. That's a great analogy. It's kind of where we're at with the public internet marketing now. Right? So there's- you got to bring awareness to it or people are not gonna do anything about it. What we try to tell people, the root cause of a lot of the privacy is all the tracker codes that are embedded on all the webpages, right? That's really the root cause. And what we try to show people and explain, you don't have to have those tracker codes there. That is not like fundamentally essential to have them. They serve a certain purpose, right? I mean, I'm gonna give you an analogy, right? Because we I've done a lot of background in TV advertising and print and radio and all forms... digital, and you name it, right? With big companies, you know, the Gillette's of the world, and Procter and Gamble's, Unilever, Wilson Sporting Goods. You know, where the marketing departments would report to me and I'd have to manage the budgets, right? So I've got to worry about all this stuff. And so a lot of its ROI, you know, you're looking for ROI. ROI per touch point. Like, I want to know the ROI for every print ad. Every TV ad. Every out of home ad in an airport, train station, everything I want to measure everything right. And I want relationships with consumers. That's what I want, or b2b. So that's what I'm paying for. And to give you a simple analogy that's completely unnecessary, when we talk to, you know, like even pharma companies, you know, or BMW, Mercedes, they run a print ad or they run a TV ad, right? And on the bottom of the TV ad, "go to our website" or "follow us on social media." Right? You see it all the time. The consumer has already found you. They found you. Okay, they've they're not searching for it. They found you. They're staring at your print ad, they're staring your TV and they're staring at your out of home ad- they have found you. That's a lead. That's very valuable. You paid a lot of money for it. Why do you want to? Why do you want to share that lead with the public Internet? Why do you want to do that? So that all of your competitors or bad guys now have the same lead? They can re-communicate with that same person that you paid a lot of money to reach? If anybody listening has ever seen the movie Glengarry Glen Ross. Famous movie Academy Award winning, starring Jack Lemmon and there's a scene in the movie which is easy to find. You know, on the internet. You just punch in "Glengarry Glen Ross the leads discussion." It's used by people like us to prove the point. Because what that little scene's about, it's about a two minute long scene with Jack Lemmon. And he's yelling and screaming at his boss that you got to give me better leads. Like, I have to have better leads- my job, my wife, my marriage, everything is dependent upon me having better leads. And the boss is saying well I get the good leads that I have to pay for them, I go by them, I pay for them. And I give them to my best salespeople... you're not one of my best salespeople. So but if you think of how crazy it is, with the public internet, they're just leads. All these engagements- they're leads and you pay a lot of money for them. Why do you want to share that with your competitors? You know, it's not necessary. You don't have to do that.


Well let's level with people: On a scale of one to five, for the right person for the person who knows how to do this, how easy is it for somebody to gain access to those valuable leads that someone else has?

John McNulty 15:57

Every agency in Chicago or New York; That's how the agency world, the advertising agency world, that is how they operate. And that's how they measure their performance. They measure their performance on the basis of reach. How many people did I reach? Right? How many people did I engaged? And they play with the metrics? And this is what Elon Musk has been talking about with Twitter. It's like, these aren't even real people. These are robots here. You know, it's infested. See, that was the big thing he was talking about when he made the acquisition to by Twitter. And once he got further into it, it was actually too late. He realized that they don't have this many people in their audience; they only may they may only have 30% of the number that they're claiming. What am I buying? The rest are robots. Right? So that's this horrendous world that a lot of the big advertising agencies are perpetuating, right? They're literally perpetuating this and their driving up the metrics. And that's their scorecard. The CFO of Procter and Gamble, okay, the number largest marketer/advertiser, probably most sophisticated in the world, in Wall Street conference call. He said, we are tired of spending our precious advertising dollars to advertise to robots. I mean, he said that in a Wall Street earnings call, you know. And that was the point that he's making. You know, we got to find other ways to do and there are other ways, and you don't have to engage with these tracker codes, you know. The agencies want you to do it, okay, because they're collaborators in the mining of everybody's data, that they're just, they're part of the ecosystem. And that's where the privacy laws are coming in. European Union's privacy laws, US privacy laws. Consumers (are) saying, "Hey, I didn't give you my consent." I did not give them my consent to share that data with the entire public internet ecosystem. Right? Including life insurance companies, health insurance companies, lending institutions may be curious as to what diseases I have, you know, what's my health care privacy risk, in terms of bankruptcy risks? That's the crazy world that is has been used for.


Yeah, you know, so full confession here. Several years ago, I was getting phone calls. Clearly, you know, I'd been targeted on a marketing list. And so I created a false name.

John McNulty 18:38

Good for you.


So here's the funny thing about that. And I, just to your point, that name throughout the years has went through several iterations. So I get phone calls for that name now. I say "No, no, you've not reached that person." But I'll change the last name, you've actually reached this (person). And then sure enough, three or six months later, I get a phone call with the new name and adjustment.

John McNulty 19:05

I love it. That's great.


Let's let's kind of talk a little bit about that and kind of start to work our way to the other side of this now. What are some of the things when we talk about privacy laws and we talked about just, and I know this is a big you know can of worms open here, but privacy laws and our own individual daily practices, whether we're in marketing, whether we're, you know, growing a business, whether we're just using the internet for our own private, you know, uses. What are some of the things that we need to be aware of and be paying attention to so that we can start to become better protected in our own use?

John McNulty 19:43

Yeah, I mean, we tell people when we speak at events or in college classrooms, don't put anything on the internet that you don't want on the scoreboard at Yankee Stadium.


Well said...

John McNulty 19:59

Okay, you know what I mean? Just assume that it's on the scoreboard at Yankee Stadium. So, before you put it ... before you say it on the internet, you know. And it makes people think. They laugh a little bit, but it makes them think. We used to say, you know when I was a kid in the town I lived in, we would say, you know, our families would talk about do not say anything in this town that you don't want on the walls of the post office, you know. Like when you're a kid, right, things would get posted on the walls to the post office. You know, they had like a series of bulletin boards there. So it's kind of the same way. We say you just have to, like- You got to be careful what you say on the internet now. And, you know, so that is the starting point, we also say, I mean, people, a lot of people use VPNs, you know, virtual private networks, that will certainly help. We advocate and encourage people communication wise to use Telecom. The whole world of telecom was not meant to be mineable. There's very strict laws around that from from 25 years ago, right? And like I said, if you want to get somebody's text records, now, you have to get a court ordered subpoena. You know, that's just the law. That's quite different than the internet where you can mine my social media, you know, anybody can at any time.


Well said, All right. So I just want to talk about Didgebridge for a minute because first of all, I think for the past 30 or so minutes, everyone can really get a feel for where your area of expertise is. But now let's take us into Didgebridge. Can you just tell us, you know, in a few minutes, what it is that Didgebridge does and how you all do it there.

John McNulty 21:46

I mean, we're you know, I don't want to turn this into like a pitch for Didgebridge. I won't do that. But you know, we are a privacy focused marketing communication technology and cybersecurity- digital cybersecurity - company. That's really who we are. So we are, we can manage entire omni-channel digital marketing campaigns. We transform all touchpoints. Sounds kind of crazy, but we believe that every touchpoint, TV ad, print, radio, out-of-home brochure, business cards, they're just touch point. They should be opt in, mobile video interactive. And the private channels that are created there by the opting in person should not be mineable. That's the big key. It's a lead and it should not be mineable, You should not be handing off and sharing that lead with your competitors or nefarious enemies of yours, you know.



John McNulty 22:43

So that's what we do.


That's great. Well, John, I want to thank you. I have a feeling that this is only the beginning of conversations that you and I will have. These are huge topics. Today we took a kind of a 30,000 foot view of it. But I hope that we can reconnect at some point and dive in deeper on some of these as well.

John McNulty 23:02

I would love to. I mean, I think I think we could, you know, we really could help a lot of people that are listening, you know. That's my main goal, quite frankly, to create awareness for this challenge. You know, this kind of digital privacy revolution, create awareness for it, and maybe offer some thoughts that would be helpful to people.


Absolutely. And I also want to kind of wrap this up by saying, don't be scared. Don't be scared. The internet is a great place out there. We've got good people like John and his team, and others out there who are working day in and day out to make sure we stay safe. So, John, again, thank you so much for what you do, and for helping to spread some awareness today.

John McNulty 23:40

Yeah, listen, thank you for inviting me to be a guest. It was a pleasure. And let's keep in touch for sure.


That brings us to the close of this edition of Innovate Marketing. We're glad you tuned in. Innovate Marketing is brought to you by MyPodcast.Media . MyPodcast.Media produces podcasts for brands, influencers and nonprofits. Find us online at my MyPodcast.Media. Your producer for innovative marketing is Beth Fried. Executive producer Shawn Neal. We'll see you next time. Be sure to tune in.

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