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Randall Rothenberg Previews the 2012 IAB Annual Leadership Meeting

The Internet Advertising Bureau’s (IAB) Annual Leadership Meeting kicks off on Sunday in Miami and is one of the most important industry events of the year. We recently spoke to Randall Rothenberg, President and CEO of the IAB, about the association’s initiatives and the upcoming annual event.

The Makegood: Randall, you spent much of your career working as an editor for The New York Times, Wired Magazine and Ad Age. What skills and knowledge learned in those roles do you apply today in leading the IAB?

The essence of my time as a journalist was learning to take in enormous amounts of information quickly, determine and put order to its component parts, identify the important elements, and then tell a compelling story based on it. That’s very relevant to the craft of organizational leadership, where you must take in lots of information, separate the important elements from the white noise, and use storytelling and other mechanisms to get a team to follow your lead.

The Makegood: As part of the DAA, the IAB participated in putting together Your AdChoices, an ad campaign aimed at educating U.S. consumers about online advertising and privacy. Can you tell us about other initiatives from the IAB that work towards creating a better place for Internet users and advertisers? 

In 2009, IAB led the charge for educating consumers with a campaign called “Privacy Matters.” The campaign was a critical first step in helping consumers better understand their own power in controlling the ads they see in their digital lives. With the help of our members, we were able to secure 600 million impressions for the campaign, and I think we did a good job empowering consumers to demystify the Web. We were thrilled to be part of DAA’s “Your AdChoices” campaign, because it represents the next logical step in how we educate consumers. This campaign focuses on how they can “let the right ad” find them, and emphasizes that behaviorally targeted advertising does, in fact, enhance their digital lives. We’re working with DAA to make sure we surpass the reach of the original campaign by a sizeable amount.

Also, we are partners with Association of National Advertisers and the 4A’s in one of the largest projects ever undertaken in the field of media measurement, the “Making Measurement Make Sense” initiative, or 3MS. We are trying to develop consensus standards to determine how brand advertising can be measured, bought and sold in digital environments, in ways that will enable effective and efficient cross-platform media planning.

A third initiative very much worth mentioning is the “IAB Rising Stars,” through which we are seeding the online environment with new, brand-hospitable ad formats. These new units, which utilize the full canvas and full palette of digital, will enable scalable and highly creative advertising to flourish.

The Makegood: This year’s sold-out IAB Annual Leadership Meeting in February focuses on how digital media has changed the advertising industry from the traditional “two-dimensional physical products—time-and-space sales—to the multidimensional building of immersive, holistic experiences.” What can attendees expect to see?

There was a time when advertising meant inserting ads into time slots in broadcast media, or into spaces in print or outdoor media. Digital changed the dimensionality of marketing opportunity–hence our theme for this year’s Annual Leadership Meeting, “Beyond Time and Space.” What it implies is that between the expansion of the kinds of devices people are using—tablets, mobile handsets, PCs, and now even interactive TVs—and the kinds of dynamic experiences marketers are able to create through social media, customization, rich media, sponsorships, and the like, what you’re able to see is more exciting, more involving, and more creative than the marketing and advertising that came before. Attendees at the meeting will hear about visions on how to build better digital brands, and they’ll see examples of who’s doing it well.

The Makegood: In 2011, the IAB focused much of its efforts on the rapidly evolving area of mobile media, including the First Tablet Buyer’s Guide, Standard Methodology for Measuring Mobile Web Ads, and Guidelines for Creating In-App Ads. As mobile advertising is expected to grow significantly over the next few years, how does the IAB plan to continue to keep up with this quickly changing advertising landscape? 

We proudly launched the IAB Mobile Marketing Center for Excellence at the end of 2010. It’s headed by Anna Bager, a fantastic leader in the mobile space who came to us from Ericsson, and it aims to pull all of the various needs together for the mobile marketing field. In particular, the Mobile Center is working to augment advocacy for self-regulation in Washington, D.C., and producing guidelines and research to help inform and standardize the industry, to make it as easy as possible to buy and sell in the mobile marketplace. The Center also introduced technical standards to enable rich media ads to run across different mobile device environments, the so-called MRAID standards. Perhaps most interesting, we expect to introduce the winners from our Mobile Rising Stars contest at the 2012 IAB Annual Leadership Meeting. These brand-friendly mobile ad units will help establish new ad standards to promote brand advertising and dynamic creative on mobile devices.

The Makegood: Where the Suckers Moon: The Life and Death of an Advertising Campaign, the book you wrote about the pitch for the Subaru ad business, is an industry classic. Would you ever consider writing a follow up book about the digital ad business?

I’m under a permanent NDA, so all the interesting stories will die with me. I’ll probably write a Broadway musical instead.

The Makegood: Thanks, Randall.

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