I’ve been waiting to write this for a really long time.

first started railing on the evils of surveillance marketing here way back in February B.C. Last October, I mentioned a new business we were exploring to do something about it. I beat the hell out of a dead horse on the subject again this past February.

Now it’s real. On Thursday, we announced the launch of a new startup that will build the first privacy-centric digital ad platform for the open web and make things safer and more virtuous for advertisers and, most importantly, people.

It all relies on a simple concept. Over 100 million Americans (and growing) have answered our polls inside the content of hundreds of premium publishers. They do it in a permissioned and anonymized way. 

Because they answer so many questions about so many different things, we don’t need to stitch it to a bunch of other creepy third-party data. It has the potential to not only strengthen publishers’ understanding of their audience, but to deliver high-performing ads. 

People who answer our polls will actively participate in the process, rather than being a victim of it. Imagine that.  

We’re initially putting $15M behind the new business and building a new team to run it (because it’s way over my head). The funding was spearheaded by two of my newest friends and mentors – Thomas Tull, the founder of Legendary Entertainment (think Batman, The Hangover, 300, and basically all my favorite movies), and Jeff Wilke, the former CEO of Worldwide Consumer at Amazon. 

I met Jeff and Thomas because they read this email. And that’s not the only thing they have in common. 

They’re both from Pittsburgh. 

Jeff bleeds black and gold. Thomas is a part-owner of the Steelers. 

Make no mistake, CivicScience is a Pittsburgh story.

Thomas and Jeff join Mark Cuban, Kevin McClatchy (former owner of the Pirates), and a long list of partners, advisors, and earlier investors from the 412. I met our board chairman, Tod Johnson from NPD, because he’s vice-chairman of the board of trustees at Carnegie Mellon. 

We definitely wouldn’t be here without CMU.

And you definitely wouldn’t have this email to read with your Saturday morning coffee if it wasn’t for Pittsburgh. We’ve had endless support from our elected officials, economic development leaders, and countless bartenders.  

Which means I just gave you a really good reason to be a Steelers fan, which is way better than rooting for whatever second-tier team you’re cursed with. 

You’re welcome.

Here’s what we’re seeing: 

In less celebratory news, COVID concerns have regressed to pre-vaccine levels. All that progress just pissed away. People are more concerned about being in public places, shopping in stores, eating in restaurants, and traveling than they were back in April. It’s too early to tell if this is going to impact spending in various categories, but it’s a safe bet it will. Keep in mind though, as I tell you all the time, different consumer segments react differently to these kinds of things – and political tribalism is still very much alive and well. 

One in four people have never used Amazon Prime and we might as well live on different planets. Few things in this world are certain other than death, taxes, and an Amazon delivery truck showing up at our house at least once a day. Wilson doesn’t even bark at them anymore. Still, about one-quarter of Americans have never made the Prime leap. This week, we published a comprehensive study on who these laggards are. Surprising to me, it doesn’t matter where they live. They do over-index as 55+, which should come as no surprise. Hang on. Someone’s at the door.

 
Parents have been limiting their kids’ screen time with impunity since the peak of the pandemic. The percentage of U.S. moms and dads who say they put restrictions on their children’s device usage is back to pre-COVID levels this quarter, as people (for now) are leaving the house again. Over half of American parents allow their kids 3+ hours of screen time every day. Interestingly, higher income families (and remote workers) are the most likely to handcuff their kids when it comes to screens – perhaps because they can simply afford to put them in a bunch of non-screen activities. 

Understanding the differences between introverts and extroverts might be one of the most important things marketers need to figure out post-pandemic. We’ve started a big internal initiative (no pressure, Brian) to track and analyze the nuances of “outwardliness” among Americans, because few things prove to be more predictive of everything from media consumption to brand preferences to health. Spoiler for a future study, but introverts have struggled more throughout the pandemic than extroverts – which might be counterintuitive – and that has all kinds of implications. For now, here’s a light little infographic to whet your appetite. Stay tuned on this. And pay close attention. 

DoorDash seems to be winning the restaurant delivery sweepstakes, especially among young people. In my perpetual two-person focus group of teen daughters, I can 100% confirm this insight. Food delivery apps are huge among Gen Z – over half of them use one app or another at least once a month. Twenty percent pay for a premium membership. And, since the beginning of the pandemic, DoorDash has driven users away from GrubHub in a major way. I don’t expect this trend (the usage or the brand loyalty) to slow, regardless of how the pandemic unfolds from here. 

Some people don’t use any kind of soap when they shower. Huh? We published another study about soap habits in America and it’s a fun read. Apparently, 7% of people rarely or never use any kind of soap when they bathe, I guess to preserve their “body’s natural oils” or whatever. The trend toward shower gel is evident among younger age groups. I’m a bar soap zealot – also old, I guess. 

And what week would be complete without some frivolous poll questions to answer?

Answer Key: No, but as an adult, yes; Bacon; They fucking better, assholes; Maybe the worst ever; It pains me to say, but DJ.

Hoping you’re well.

JD