David A. Steinberg Envisions A Marketing World Before The Metaverse

Sure, we have all heard of the Metaverse, but when exactly will we get there and what will the internet look like before then?

David A. Steinberg

Photo Credit: Nick Garcia

The word “visionary” gets thrown around a lot when addressing business leaders. In David A. Steinberg’s case, the description is not used lightly. Back in 1999, David founded InPhonic, a company that would later become the largest seller of wireless phones and communications products and services on the internet. By 2004, the company topped the Inc. 500 list of fastest-growing companies and was the second-largest tech IPO, only behind Google.

Today, David is at the helm of Zeta Global (NYSE:ZETA) as its CEO and co-founder. Zeta is a data-powered marketing technology company that combines the industry’s third-largest data set (2.4B identities) with results-driven artificial intelligence to unlock consumer intent, personalize experiences and drive customer acquisition, retention, and growth. David leads Zeta with his strategic vision, industry foresight, and acumen.

Additionally, David has served on the board of the Chamber of U.S. commerce and founded the David A. Steinberg Foundation, focusing on helping disadvantaged children with nourishment, education, and caregiving.

David recently took the time to sit down and speak with Haute Living to discuss Zeta’s impact on the digital marketing landscape, the Metaverse, and more.


Haute Living: With consumers having more power than ever, how does Zeta Global use its data set to help its clients, and in turn, consumers worldwide?

David A. Steinberg: Zeta’s big differentiation is, the more a consumer intends to do something, the better a job we can do at getting in front of that. We like to say at Zeta, ‘the more powerful the consumer becomes, the better the Zeta platform operates.’ People understand at this point you’re going to see marketing. That’s just sort of the cost of the content you’re consuming. But people prefer to see marketing about things they’re interested in, not products or services that come from left field. The Zeta platform is able to predict what people intend to do next, better than any other platform on the planet.

One of the frustrating things consumers run into is when they apply for something but are not credit-approved. That becomes a major problem because it creates friction between the enterprise that is trying to sell the product and the consumer who wants to purchase the product. So, another really interesting thing that our platform can do and others cannot, is not only do we predict who is interested in any given product, but who would be credit-approved for said product. So, we can literally remove a huge percentage of the consumer base that would not be credit-approved for that product. It’s just another way we try to empower our clients in a productive manner, as the consumer becomes more powerful.


HL: Let’s switch gears a bit. What do you think has been the greatest impact the pandemic has had on the marketing technology landscape?

DAS: The easy answer is the transition from analog marketing to digital marketing. That has transcended in a way that I don’t think anyone thought possible with the speed at which it has happened. Most would have told you this would have been a five-year shift. But it makes sense, if people are staying home for longer periods of time, they’re online for a greater percentage than they have ever been. Then, considering how much enterprises have focused more and more on return on investment, it’s harder and harder for them to do that offline. If you’re running an ad campaign offline, it’s nearly impossible to do a full attribution model. However, online, we can build attribution models at a level that no one has ever understood possible before.

The other interesting move where I think Haute Living has done an exceptional job is in the super-premium ecosystem, where you’re starting to see a major bifurcation between that sort of middle-market product and that super-premium product. There are not a lot of enterprises out there that get to that super-premium product the way Haute Living does.

Photo Credit: Nick Garcia

HL: That’s kind of you to say. What do you think is the most common error marketers make nowadays?

DAS: There are two that come to mind. The most frustrating thing for a consumer is when they buy a product and then they see the ad for that product for the next two weeks. Most marketers have not yet developed sophisticated enough systems to remove purchasers from that re-targeting flow. Most of the consumers I know find that to be incredibly frustrating. That’s one of the things I think we do really well at Zeta. If you purchase a product from one of our enterprise clients, we don’t show you that offer for that same product. To me, it just doesn’t make sense and it’s a total waste of dollars. You would be shocked at how expensive that is.

The other really big error, is most marketers are still really slow to move to digital. Consider the fact that TV is still the biggest medium. When you buy TV ads today, you’re effectively saying, ‘because this content is running, I want to run alongside it and I want to catch as many fish as I can, but I’m going to catch a lot of dolphins in that net as well.’ To me, the future of television is Connected TV (CTV) and addressable TV and over-the-top TV, essentially all of these streaming platforms. At Zeta, we don’t target just based off content, we target based on who as an individual is watching that content.

So, if I’m watching a football game at home, I might see a beer ad. My next-door neighbor, who is watching the same game, might see a chardonnay ad. Our ability to target TV ads through CTV is going to be a game-changer. But one of the biggest mistakes marketers make today is, ‘oh, we need to buy TV, we’re going to do the up-fronts, we’re going to spend $100M on buying ads next to this TV show…’ It’s nonsensical to me at this point. It’s not targeted and it’s not going to help you get to a place to help your enterprise client.


HL: Let’s stay on this train of thought and continue to look ahead. With rumblings of a Metaverse looming in the back of our minds, what do you think will be the next major transformation of the online consumer landscape before we even get to that point?

DAS: There’s no question the Metaverse is coming, but the question is, how long will it take? What most people don’t understand is, the metaverse will require equipment upgrades. You’re not going to be able to just turn on your iPad and make it work. You’re going to have to get a headset and you’re going to have to upgrade from a processing perspective. By the way, this is going to be a very good thing for the manufacturers because they’re going to get another upgrade cycle.

It’s interesting. Everyone talks about Web 3.0 and the concept of moving the content and moving the ownership of digital assets from corporations to the individual and it’s a very unique idea and it will be interesting to see how it evolves. There’s a lot of tension surrounding this right now and there’s a lot of money flowing into it and it still remains to be seen whether that money will be well-invested or poorly invested. My guess is that you’ll see some assets were incredibly well-invested and some were incredibly over-invested. To me, my concept is different. Between Web 2.0, which is where we are today, and Web 3.0, there’s a Web 2.5, although it’s not in the middle. Because Web 3.0 is not evolving out of Web 2.0, it is the next generation, it’s a quantum leap. Web 2.5 is more of the evolution of Web 2.0.

You’re going to see a hybrid of ownership that will result in what becomes Web 2.5. For example, Instagram owns 100% of its content. If an Instagram influencer wants to make money, they have to effectively sell branded ads, and now Instagram is forcing them to disclose that. Or, they can use Instagram’s eCommerce platform if they qualify and they can sell products directly through their persona. But at the end of the day, if that person is unhappy with Instagram, they’ll have to start a whole new following on TikTok or on Snap.

Now, I remember the days when you could not move your number. If you owned a cell phone through AT&T, you could not move your number to Verizon. AT&T owned your number. You used it, but they owned it. Eventually, phone number portability changed the game in how people could carry their number from one wireless carrier to the other. I think we’re going to see that type of ownership happen within the transition from Web 2.0 to Web 2.5.

As new platforms proliferate, you’re going to see people saying, ‘hey, I want to own my content. I don’t mind showing it on Instagram, but I want to be a partner and I want a percentage of the ad revenue.’ Those kinds of transactions are already happening on YouTube. Think about how much money a YouTuber makes just on the ad-share running alongside their video. A few weeks ago, YouTube surpassed Netflix in revenue. Think about that. YouTube surpassed Netflix in revenue. Why? because they’re empowering the influencers and giving them a meaningful percentage of the ad revenue, which runs next to them. So, you’re going to see influencers shift to platforms that allow them to have this kind of ownership. The key will be to see whether they can court all of their posts to another platform. I think that’s coming too.

A lot of people call me crazy when I say this. ‘Facebook and Instagram are never going to share revenue, they’re never going to allow anyone to own their content.’ But ultimately, if enough of the influencers start moving, they’re going to have to.

Photo Credit: Nick Garcia

HL: What do you have in mind for Zeta’s next 10 years?

DAS: Well, 10 years is a whole lot of time in our world. We have a five-year plan that we embarked on two years ago, which we call ‘Zeta 2025.’ Our goal is to be the world’s largest marketing cloud in that five-year period. The goal is to continue to grow our core business, as well as what I consider to be our massive differentiation, which is owning one of the largest pools of first-party data in the world, combined with a best-of-breed software platform around CDP creation and marketing automation – it’s unparalleled. The 10-year plan is, ‘how do we begin to use our massive data portfolio and our massive AI portfolio in ways that are outside of the marketing ecosystem that exists today?’ We intend to focus more on business intelligence, business process engineering, and competitive analysis tools.

We already own the data and we already own the artificial intelligence to roll out these types of products. My 10-year plan has us being a dominating force in that ecosystem as well.*


The beautiful residence in which the photoshoot for this article was shot, is located at Palazzo Della Luna on Fisher Island and was generously provided by Haute Residence Member Sandra Fiorenza. This exquisite 4 bedroom premium residence is soon to be on the market and is located in Fisher Island’s newest and best full-service building. The residence’s 4,904 SF interior and 1,357 SF terrace include a private entry elevator that leads to extraordinary views of the ocean, South Beach, Fisher Island, and Downtown Miami, courtesy of the 10-foot floor-to-ceiling windows (featured in the images for this article.)

Address: 6834 Fisher Island Dr, Fisher Island, FL 33109

Price: $15,000,000