The following is a guest post by Ashtyn Douglas:

Starting 6,000 years ago, people would gather in town squares to collectively discuss and debate critical issues concerning their community.

Now, thousands of years later, marketers have reverted to past customs to talk about the future. And the foretelling of the future.

At the 2014 DMA Annual Exhibition and Conference, marketers have amassed to learn, discuss and act upon the most important issues to contemporary advertising professionals. And over 150 exhibitors and sponsors are making this happen. The industry’s leading names are all here, from the likes of American Express Open, Bizo, Optimizely, Epsilon and other top-notch marketing providers and solutions. All with equally appealing (and colorful) exhibits and displays.

And at the center of this conglomeration of trade show booths are the numerous Town Square Discussions held multiple times daily for short, 25-minute public conversations covering topics such as email segmentation, data governance, elevator pitches, successful marketing campaigns and the Apple Wallet.

The first debate commenced Sunday afternoon, offering quick advice on how use social media to establish a professional identity and career.

Today, we discussed the future of data-driven marketing innovation. Rachel Nyswander Thomas of the Direct Marketing Association, the host of this Town Square meeting, encouraged attendees to move closer toward the center of the assembly. “This is meant to be an interaction, so move in or I’ll ask more questions to those farthest away!” she joked. The group introduced themselves as direct mail specialists, architect solutions managers, marketing and communications leaders. A group of people, she noted, all heavily involved in data-driven marketing.

“In the past few years, we’ve really come to understand the value of data,” opened Thomas, “and the customer understands this too. We all know that data informs smart decision-making.”

“The value of the data-driven market is $156 billion and has created over 675,000 jobs in the US alone,” she continued. “That’s just coming from the analysis and application of data.”

But that statistic reflected the state of data-driven marketing for 2013. So what does the future hold for marketers and consumers?

“Data-driven marketing isn’t just about innovation anymore,” said Thomas. “In 2014 and beyond, companies will be adapting their business models to make sure consumers are better heard and served.”

Thomas continued to explain that data-driven marketing will push broadcast channels forward, along with creating entirely new business models – reviving the old and inventing the new. She also mentioned that online publishing companies will now able to collect data on their customers and segment them appropriately.

Not only will digital entrepreneurs and data-driven marketing play heavy roles in the future of business, but so will consumers. “I truly believe, in the future, the line between marketers and consumers will be blurred,” said Thomas, “We will all be equal market participants, and data will be shared back and forth.”

A mere 25 minutes after her opening line, she ended with this: “The future of data-driven marketing is bright,” she said, “ but with great (data) power comes great (data) responsibility. So I urge you to do the right thing with data. Although this is a challenge for marketers today, we must continue to establish customer trust. We hope you can consult the DMA to help you do that.”

Click here to learn more about DMA2014, the global event for data-driven marketers, Oct. 25-30, 2014 in San Diego.