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Privacy, Trust and Mobile Advertising, How I Define My Company.

October 6, 2015|CEO Talks

My most recent visit to the U.S. has been very eventful. From attending President Xi’s U.S. events, to a panel discussion with Ashton Kutcher (who’s famous for playing Steve Jobs in the film ‘Jobs’), to most recently speaking at the GMIC Silicon Valley event.

During my conversation with Kutcher, he raised a hard question, he said, “As a Chinese company looking to get penetration in the United States, one of the biggest perceptions of people in the U.S. of China is that China is consistently hacking private companies in the U.S. Why should I trust you with my mobile data?” He added, “How do you build a brand of trust in the United States?”

Here’s my answer: first, we’re actually a global company. Although our headquarter is in Beijing, we registered in British Virgin Island, and we went public on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE). All the information of our company is open to the public. Our investors come from all over the world. When we did our IPO, two biggest government funds were from Norway and Singapore.

Most importantly, I believe, in a mobile age, any company from any country enjoys the same right to acquire users all over the world. I also said on stage: “I just learnt a vocabulary word from my English teacher, ‘prejudgment.’ You can’t have prejudgments on Chinese company.” It’s a universal rule, I insist, that towards any company it’s unfair to prejudge.

SVIEF 2015 Ashton Kutcher

Cheetah Mobile started our globalization adventure three years ago from only 40 million monthly active users (MAUs). Today, we have 500 million MAUs, and 70% of them come from outside of China. In these 3 years, I got that question about privacy a lot, because we are a Chinese company.

Our privacy terms and standards are as strict as any big international corporation and Silicon Valley tech companies. A bank is a metaphor to explain this: consumers put their money in banks and banks know all your financial data and your savings. But with the joint efforts made by banks, regulation institutions, and people involved with consumers’ privacy is believed to be in a good hand under protection. Consumers have basic trusts in banks.

There are always some risks people trade for conveniences in modern life which are unavoidable, but for every company, we need to do everything we can to protect privacy, to let users know that their mobile data is under good protection.

You also have to ask whether the conveniences your company is offering meet the users’ needs.

Beyond Kutcher’s tough question, another one many reporters asked me this month is how I see mobile ads?

With the arrival of mobile, it’s less likely that users spend the same amount of time actively searching on mobile devices as they did in the PC age. Using ten fingers to type in keywords and click links is replaced by what we refer to as “the thumb rule,” refreshing content on mobile devices only by a thumb.

In fact, seeing the mobile age from a positive perspective, mobile ads are, instead, a new information distribution channel. Imagine that precisely screened, useful information gets pushed into a user’s information feed, such as the weather info, which actually saves the user’s time from switching apps, typing keywords and searching. The mobile ad turns itself into a piece of effective, useful information.

Ashton Kutcher agrees with me on this point. Ad blocking is about lacking “good ads that are content aware.” Ashton Kutcher used Facebook as an example. He said, “I don’t have problem with ads on Facebook because it’s good, and it’s relative. It helps me find new stuff that I’m actually interested in, that I intentionally click on the thing.”

It’s a very important insight we learnt from Facebook. Cheetah Mobile is Facebook’s top partner for its Audience Network, and our teams closely work with them to research on native ads.

Advertisers are no longer in the center of ads distribution in mobile age. There is no such thing as holding ad columns for advertisers as it was in print age. Mobile ads are all about building contents around user experience. To push information that is highly relevant to users, we need tons of advertisers and new ad formats.

An ideal scenario for me would be: during lunchtime users would receive nearby restaurants’ coupon based on their geo-info, or a gamer would receive new game suggestions when he had deleted an out-of-date game. All the recommendations would be based on users’ preference and saving them time from searching.

All these require the big data technology running at the backend. We’re building a team that’s strong enough to support the Cheetah Ad Platform. Earlier, during the layoff in Yahoo Beijing R&D center, we scooped a team of 40 members specialized in Advertising and big data. Another R&D center in Silicon Valley is an on-going project. We plan to recruit professionals in ad technology and big data in Silicon Valley too. Once we figured out our strategy, we’re executing it as fast as we can.

Later, deputy tech editor of the New York Times, Quentin Hardy, asked me that question again in a one-on-one interview—how I define my company. Is it a Chinese company? A U.S. company? Or a Silicon Valley company? I said, My goal is to build a great company, a global company.

 

 
 
 

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