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The Magniloquent Mark Cuban: An exclusive ad:tech interview

In his many interviews and speaking engagements, Dallas Mavericks owner and all-around mogul Mark Cuban has reliably provided concise yet intently thoughtful analysis on a wide range of issues. Unabashed, unabridged and always uncensored, Mark sets the mold for today's engaged and engaging business leader.

Prior to his keynote appearance at the ad:tech New York conference, which begins tomorrow at the Javits Center, I had the distinct honor of getting to lob a few questions of my own in Mark's direction. As always, his answers--on everything from digital marketing to exhibition booths to politics--were succinct, substantive and consistently surprising.

How useful do you find gathering customer data for business, and how much do you think that data can improve the experience for the user?

It’s becoming far better, but it’s still slow, cumbersome and expensive. I still think it comes down to creating a compelling reason for users to opt in and provide you information. If you give people a good enough reason they will tell you everything.

What responsibilities do companies have to the consumer when tracking information about them? Even when the data is anonymous, are there limits to what is acceptable?

Of course, but it depends on the data and circumstances. I think people will give up privacy if you make their lives easier.

Is there data about the consumer that you wish you had that does not yet exist?

Everything we don't have is data that could make us smarter.

Everyone talks about digital marketing becoming smarter, more mobile, more customer-focused. Where do you see these trends taking us in the near future?

I think we will become more dependent on the mobile devices we carry outside the home for connectivity to the real world, travel, lodging, buying, selling, communicating. We will customize the devices to fit our specific needs so we are more efficient in how we use them.

It’s not efficient to jump from app to app. It's time-consuming and phones are designed to multitask. I expect many more multifunction apps that are integrated fully into the core features of the phone.

What’s the one thing about digital marketing that no one is talking about but should be?

The future of TV as a platform. We are finally starting to get some traction.

You seem attracted to some quirky business ideas (“I Want to Draw a Cat For You” from Shark Tank for example). For startups, do creativity and personal vision outweigh concerns about market viability?

It's all relative to cost. I got to hire someone smart for a $25k investment. That's always a good investment. I just try to always be opportunistic.

On Shark Tank you generally seem to be the quickest to dismiss an investment because you are unfamiliar with the particulars of that market. On a larger scope, do you think it is important for people to “stay in their lane” and concentrate on what they know and what they are good at?

Yes, with the caveat that we all need to always continue learning. NO one can know everything. One of the biggest mistakes everyone makes is overvaluing our knowledge base. We all have to be brutally honest about where we can add value and where we cannot.

Any advice for the exhibitors at ad:tech—or exhibitors everywhere—on how to cut through the noise and reach people on the floor?

No idea. That is harder than figuring out the meaning of life.

You’ve written some very thought-provoking pieces about the election on your blog. As a noted political centrist, what would you say to those undecided voters still out there to help them make up their minds today?

Focus on the facts not the branding. It actually a very cut and dry election if you just listen to what the candidates actually say they are going to do and ignore what they say they are going to try to do.

You also joked about starting a Kickstarter fund to finance a third political party. What would a Mark-Cuban-founded political party look like? Where can I donate?

Our platform would be simple:

1. Don’t ask us about volatile social issues or religion, what any of us believe is up to us and our families; it’s of no concern of politicians and has no place in government.

2. Get rid of ideology and introduce pragmatism. I’m all for a far smaller federal government, but we aren't going to get there from here any time soon. We need to fully evaluate and think through each issue within the context of where we are right now and what is best for the country, as opposed to the starting point for every discussion being party ideology.

3. 100 percent transparency on everything but issues of national security. If it’s said or discussed, it’s published.

That’s enough for now :)

Huge opening win over the Laker! How are you feeling about the upcoming season after the first week?

I never make predictions. I just want to be healthy and playing great basketball come playoff time.

This article is part of Allvoices’ series on ad:tech, the largest digital marketing and technology conferences and expositions. Check out allvoices.com/adtech for more of Allvoices’ ad:tech New York event coverage. This series is supported by ad:tech.