AMA with Luke Mulks

by | Nov 26, 2018 | Community

Welcome to the eighth post in our series of BAT Community-run AMAs.

The ongoing AMA series on Reddit is a seven-month-long event that features various guests from the Brave and BAT teams. The goal of the series is twofold: to give fans of the project an opportunity to interact directly with team members, and to give team members—especially those who operate largely behind the scenes—a chance to share their insights and offer the community a window into their work.

The most recent AMA took place on November 21st and featured Luke Mulks, Director of Business Development (and ad tech expert) at Brave. Over the course of the AMA, Luke fielded both pre-submitted and live questions from Redditors concerning an array of topics, including the specifics of Brave’s highly anticipated ads platform, the differences between Google’s and Brave’s advertising models, and the various challenges faced by the Business Development team. Luke’s matter-of-fact responses offered readers a new perspective on BAT’s place in the future of digital advertising, and its role in reshaping the way we understand the web itself. Indeed, in light of such lofty goals, Luke remained confident that “the cream will rise to the top,” and that Brave’s product will speak for itself. With Brave, he said, “you get faster load times, a cleaner experience, and a reminder of how enjoyable it was to browse the internet before the internet began to browse you.”

Highlights can be found below, with a link to the full AMA at the bottom of this post.

The next AMA will take place on Wednesday, November 28th, and will feature Alex Wykoff, User Research at Brave.

For the full list of upcoming BAT Community AMAs through February 2019, see below.

dcwj: What's the most exciting thing to you about Brave's vision for the future of the web?

Having spent many years in the middle of digital advertising, integrating products in ad servers that tracked millions of users, I can easily say that the most exciting thing to me about what we're doing is the simple fact that we're aiming to create an alternative to allow business to function online without having to require an array of NSA-like data warehouses that suck up all the data from all the people and all the devices.

People are understandably pretty unaware of the scale and degree in which they're tracked online. When I began working in advertising, mobile was just catching on, and endpoints were in majority desktop and relatively static. You'd add a pixel for tracking and you could reasonably protect your privacy pretty easily if you wanted to.

By the time I left to join Brave, the situation had become so off the rails that I really had some major issues with being a part of it. I loved the people I worked with, but the amount of tracking taking place is insane. It should be regulated. There shouldn't be this much data collection taking place. Whatever the biggest breaches are to date are a fraction of what's really being collected out there, and people don't even know the names of the companies brokering and holding all this data.

I flighted thousands of campaigns, integrated ad products across all the major ad stacks, and provided level two support for ad servers.... I cannot tell you with any degree of confidence where the data trail stops once the tracking begins. Challenge voices that tell you otherwise. Even if these vendors toss data they never actually toss, the data ends up being copied or retagged and stored elsewhere. Data is shared. Other vendors pattern match the data. It's a dumpster fire. It needs to stop.

This is also why companies like Drawbridge pulled their business out of the EU before GDPR took hold.

The entire system rewards data collection at scale.

If you think the Snowden revelations were big, imagine you have an NSA that can approach data warehouses, Demand Side Platforms and Data Management Platforms with a National Security Letter, and correlate data from those sources against their own. There are some serious risks to humans out there if we let this surveillance consumerism continue. It's a fight worth having.

investorpatrick: Hi Luke, what is the current sentiment of advertisers towards Brave & the BAT ad model? Are they cynical? Curious? Desperate to jump aboard? How has advertiser sentiment changed since you joined Brave and what reasons are advertisers giving for their sentiment shift (if it has indeed shifted)?

Agencies are tasked with innovating, and we're definitely an innovation play.

If you look at the macro privacy movement taking hold, Brave and BAT are positioned really well as a new approach to advertise that's private by design.

There's also an element of certainty with Brave Ads that the industry rarely gets elsewhere.

Users will will opt-in to Brave Ads, so they're signaling to brands that they want to see ads.

Further, the users are being rewarded for their attention, which is something that hasn't been taking place at the scale we aim to deliver on.

Fundamentally, what does an advertiser want to do? Remove the data warehousing and acronyms, the advertiser wants their brand to connect with the user, with the hope of engagement and eventual transaction.

What does the industry have today? A mess. Agencies track publishers. Publishers track agencies. Vendors track vendors. Everyone tracks users.

Brave Ads are offering advertisers an opportunity to re-engage with a user that may have blocked ads, and form a long term, direct relationship with the user. We remove the noise. The user can directly provide as much/little data to the advertiser as they like, and the advertiser can use the blank canvas of an Ad Tab to create an engaging and compelling experience.

There's a lot of BS in advertising, and the industry is pretty tired of the same dog and pony show. I would bet that agencies and brands would rather spend time putting together compelling messages and ads than figuring out the best way to track and profile users. So far, the reception has been good.

Niels001: What is the difference between BAT ads and Google ads?

Google has made a business off of your data.

Brave has made a business that operates without requiring the collection of your data.

Google Ads increase the load time of the web pages you browse, obstruct the content you aim to view, and follow you from page to page across the web.

Brave Ads will reward the user for their attention (70% rev share for our User Ads, 15% rev share for our Publisher Ads), respect the user's privacy by not requiring data collection for relevancy, and are matched locally on the device, as opposed to being auctioned from the cloud.

Users also see a lot fewer Brave Ads, by design. By default, a user will see a max of 10 ads per day, which can be manually increased to 20 ads. 20 ads is the hard limit, which compared to the existing ad space, would be the rough equivalent of 4-6 page loads.

Because Brave blocks 3rd party ad networks, the malware and malvertising surface is greatly reduced as well.

Karub1n: I discussed a similar concept with a friend years ago so for me, it's fantastic to see this idea as a reality. I would like to ask, how do you plan on captivating the audience with your product? I feel as though utility and technical superiority is not the only factor that determines success of technology such as Brave. Like Apple captivated users with its sleek designs and imagination, I would like to see Brave also do this. My question is, how do you plan to do this? I truly believe Brave is revolutionary but as we know, many potential revolutions have died with those who attempted such. Thanks.

With the User Ads as our first ad product that we're going to market with, we're going to be providing the user with 70% of the revenue share for their attention. That's a significant incentive over time.

Beyond simply contributing that BAT to publishers and creators, we are tooling on different options for users to utilize the token.

Users could convert accumulated BAT to gift cards, purchase or gift content, or receive BAT as a reward for achieving goals in an experience. For example, open the trunk to get 5 BAT. Look under the hood for 10 BAT. Get 100 BAT for test driving the car, etc.

What gets me excited though, is the potential for an advertiser to run an ad for a product in Brave, have the user see the product advertised, pin the product to their dashboard, and apply accumulated BAT as a discount toward the product purchase price. You could imagine this being something similar to an Amazon Prime in the browser. I see things like this as steps in a holistic direction that helps brands achieve their goals, while also providing a direct material benefit to the end user.

ivequeries: Curious how advertiser relationships are coming along. Have any advertisers/agencies committed budget to brave’s network? How many have signed up for access? Can you share any prominent examples?

This area is where I've been spending a significant amount of my time lately.

  • We have agencies that are bringing ads to market with us.
  • I'm unable to disclose the relationships at the moment, but they're well known.
  • Additionally, we have several brands that we are working with directly.
  • We're bringing Brave Ads to 5 different regions: US, UK, Canada, France and Germany, so some agencies have brands that are participating across all 5, and others that are testing regionally.
  • We're structuring long-term deals, which include initial "test and learn" phases in the early months.
  • Interest is high among agencies. We're doing something new here, and it's not the typical acronym-of-the-season flavor.

StrosPartisan: How would you describe the readiness of the BAT "plumbing" for v 1.0 release and for ads to go live (ie is the software infrastructure ready for a high volume of transactions)? What is Brave telling potential advertisers when they ask about this? Thx

We've been ramping up in staff and infrastructure as we move forward toward 1.0.

Having our UGP giveaways and referral program (https://brave.com/refer) have been good primers for dealing with big spikes in activity.

We're also only initially rolling Brave Ads out to 5

regions: US, UK, Canada, France, Germany, which makes the volume less significant than if we were to deploy globally.

u/secretmission404: What makes Brave capable of taking on the giant that is Google? What stops google from being able to outspend and outfund you and what stops them from taking the brave model and implementing it themselves?

If Google were to copy what we're doing, they'd be admitting that the services they charge a premium for are problematic. They are unable to speak truth to privacy invasion, because their entire model depends on invading your privacy.

If Google were to copy our model, block 3rd party ads, or block tracking and data collection in a meaningful way, they'd be disrupting their own model, and would likely be sued by their investors.

If Google and Facebook wanted to move to zero knowledge attribution, that would be amazing for privacy, and a welcome sight. They are not even at the phase of admitting there is a problem at this point, which is the first step required for taking a new direction.

TidyGate1: Hi Luke - On the client side, the browser will have better accuracy and insight given the whole set of user data signals it will accumulate over time.

If I’m shopping for Christmas gifts for example and enter a few searches on google, how would I avoid having ads delivered to me similar that are similar to these gifts? Is there a specific mode I could switch on to for this?

I like how on twitter it uses my search history and likes to try and slot similar ads on my feed. It gives me the option to hit “see more like these” or “see less like these.”

Will Brave ads have a similar feature on either on-site publisher ads or separate tab ads?

For point 1:

Initially, the platform is basically curating suggestions with the ads that are matched. You'll be able to engage and say "don't show me this", and with time, users will be able to select categories and even curate brands in their own catalog that they wish to see ads for. The aim for what we're doing here is to give control back to the user of their data and the experience, and a user knows what they like. Brands like to have more certainty over uncertainty, so if we're doing our job, we're providing those opportunities to brands and providing control for users to avoid annoyances.

Also, users will by default get a max of 10 ads per day, adjustable up to 20, but no more than that. The platform sees every ad opportunity as a high value opportunity, and we'll be optimizing to remove less desirable behavior once we get this in the wild and get feedback from users at scale.

For point 2:

Yep - maybe not in the initial release, but this is something we're aiming to do over time.

investorpatrick: Hi Luke, recently Brian Bondy mentioned that V 1.0 was targeted for "around February". I understand this is to give Brave/BAT the best opportunity to succeed.

What milestone do you feel Brave/BAT must achieve before you would be comfortable thinking, "Woah, this thing we've worked so hard on has legs". Is it 10 mill MAU? 100 mill MAU? 5 million downloads a week? A partnership with a top 10 Alexa website?

To be honest, I had my aha moment on this in early September.

We had made the partnership announcement in Paris with Qwant, and I was on the train from Paris to London. I was running our Brave Dev channel that uses the Chromium front-end.

Loyal Brave users will know that google docs in Brave on desktop came with challenges. Copy paste never quite worked properly for me.

Well, I was on the train, running our new version of Brave, using Google Docs without issue. I was able to also install the offline extension so I could continue to work on the train without disruption. I was never able to do that before.

People are really focused on 1.0 releases, but to be quite honest, when we made the new version of Brave for desktop available I thought "wow, this is how we're going to get people off Chrome."

Partnerships and features will continue to ship. Ads will be great and valuable for getting users to stick around, but having a fast, easy to use browser that delivers on privacy by design is the key. I daily drive with the new Brave for desktop, and would encourage folks who maybe bailed before to give it another spin now.

Also, the tipping feature is amazing and going to be a game changer when it lands in social media.

Streetride: Do we have an idea on what type of conversion rates ads are getting in ad trials? We haven't seen the ads in the wild, and i'm curious as to whether there is any information you can spill. Are the first ads going to have a limited ad creative that will advance over time? With traditional ads we just get impressions and conversion rates basically. Are the BAT ads more robust? For example could we see something like 4.3 seconds spent viewing ad and that the user scrolled below the fold?

Engagement levels were high in our user testing, but we're waiting to release in the wild before we put any of the stats out. There's a "shiny new thing" factor with ad products that are this new that will likely skew the smaller scale results.

Our User Ads that we're going to market with display a call to action in a push notification. This provides a baseline attention metric (notification view), and baseline engagement metric (click through for call to action).

When a user clicks on the notification, a new private Ad Tab opens where the advertiser can provide an ad experience that ranges from a product landing page, lead gen form, subscription sign-up, embedded video, rich media, or even an article.

The idea is that we setup some core metrics for attention and engagement, reward the attention metrics, and still report other engagement data. Advertisers will see a dashboard and reporting that's similar to what they currently observe in DoubleClick Campaign Manager for Publishers or other ad platforms. We can't make this something that requires a new education, or no one will participate, so the idea is to find the right points to measure and the right metrics to reward so marketers don't just think we're paying people for clicking on things.

We're raising the bar. Baseline attention is from the notification view, 5 second post-click attention event in the active ad tab, 10 second post-click attention event in the active ad tab. We're intentionally rewarding at a higher attention duration than the MRC guidelines, because they're not too great. 1 to 2 seconds in view is a pretty weak way of determining whether a user is paying attention.

InhumanWhaleShark: Hey Luke, thanks for doing this AMA. What’s the biggest challenge Brave's BD team faces? And how are you planning on solving it?

Biggest challenge is around taking something complicated like privacy invasion and blockchain, and breaking it down into a message that resonates with businesses and users.

When someone explains how this stuff works, you can expect eyes to glaze over quickly. Balancing explaining how it works with not going overboard on the technicals is a challenge.

Businesses and people tend to think of what we're doing as so disruptive that we're claiming it'll completely uproot the existing way that business is being done. That can be a challenge. The reality is that what we're doing is simply proving that we have new alternatives for accounting, attribution and advertising that are complementary with what agencies are spending out in the world.

I'd love it if we could say shift 100% of spend to us tomorrow, but that's unicorn country. We'll get there with time, but have much to prove in the months ahead.

InhumanWhaleShark: Really appreciate such a thoughtful response. I'm imagining explaining Brave to my mother. I wouldn't get into cookies and distributed ledgers. It's much easier to just say "Hey, this will protect your privacy, speed up your browsing, and help support websites you enjoy". Obviously your business partners will need more technical answers but user adoption will be greatly assisted by efficient messaging.

It feels like Brave is coming into the world at exactly the right time given the public's increasing desire for privacy. Love what you guys are doing.

Thanks. We aim to prove, no doubt. That said, you've nailed it. If we are winning, the browser just works, is fast, easy and provides deals and rewards that they don't see elsewhere.

The results become evident when users browse with Brave. You get faster load times, a cleaner experience, and a reminder of how enjoyable it was to browse the internet before the internet began to browse you.

Read the full AMA here.

Read Brian Brown’s AMA from November 14th, 2018 here.

Follow the BAT Community’s Updates here: https://www.reddit.com/r/BATProject/

Upcoming BAT Community AMAs:

December 2018
Ryan Watson and Kamil Jozwiak, DevOps and QA
Jan Piotrowski, Brad Flora and Des Martin from the Business Development team

January 2019
Tom Lowenthal, Security and Privacy Coordinator

February 2019
Holli Bohren, Chief Financial Officer
Ben Livshits, Chief Scientist

March 2019
Marshall Rose, Senior Software Engineer

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