Digital Advertising

NAI’s Marc Groman on Setting and Keeping High Standards in Online Advertising


Marc Groman is President and CEO of the Network Advertising Initiative (NAI), the leading self-regulatory association exclusively focused on third-party advertising online and in mobile. As President & CEO of NAI, Marc Groman leads the organization’s growth and ongoing efforts to develop and maintain high standards for Interest-Based Advertising. The Makegood recently spoke with Marc about his past two years at NAI.

The Makegood: Congratulations on making it to two years as CEO and President of the Network Advertising Initiative! Can you think back on the day you signed on? What made you decide to join NAI in the first place?

I joined the NAI because I believe deeply in the value of self-regulation, which is particularly critical in online advertising because of the rapid pace in which Internet technology is evolving. I recognized then, as I do today, that there is no better example of self-regulation than what the NAI has developed to date – a code which encompasses the three more important elements of self-regulatory success: high standards, robust enforcement and accountability for all parties involved.

The Makegood: Now that it’s been two years, how have your goals for the organization changed as you gained more experience with NAI?

My primary objectives are the same today as they were two years ago: to ensure that NAI members honor the highest standards for online advertising, and to lead a team that serves as a partner in compliance, but also as enforcers when necessary. These objectives support the high-level goals of industry self-regulation: to ensure the overall health of the online advertising ecosystem.  One goal that has evolved over time is my increased focus on championing the role of responsible third parties in the policy and privacy dialog taking place across the globe today.  Responsible third parties, like responsible large companies, should have an active voice in debates about consumer privacy.  In addition, coming from the FTC, I have always placed a high value on consumer education. In fact, I have made it a goal to ensure the NAI is providing consumers with the information needed to make effective decisions about online privacy and online advertising. Finally, as the landscape has evolved significantly over the last two years, ensuring our self-regulatory Code of Conduct stays up to date and able to meet today’s technology challenges is a constant point of focus.

The Makegood: During your time at NAI, what have been some of your biggest challenges and how have you overcome them?

Doing everything we can to promote policies that advance the most meaningful solutions is, always, by far the greatest challenge.

The ongoing policy debate around Do-Not-Track is a strong case in point. There are many different stakeholders involved in this debate, and they all have different goals and objectives for the same policy and tools. Further, they all bring a different understanding of the core issues surrounding Do-Not-Track. These differences, combined with some very real technical challenges and the fundamental reality of how the Internet works, has made it difficult to develop a standard that works for all parties. My concern is that in the end, the focus on what’s meaningful has been “lost for the trees.”

Another big challenge and concern at the moment is around the future of the HTTP cookie. It is my personal opinion that eliminating the cookie or irrationally scapegoating it as a larger problem than it is could lead to unintended consequences for the entire ecosystem. The NAI is addressing these challenges by actively participating in debates and discussions that are taking place around these issues in order to ensure the voice of responsible parties is being fairly and accurately represented as we all work toward common solutions.

The Makegood: What would you say are some of your biggest accomplishments as CEO and President?

I consider the biggest accomplishment to be that our members are honoring the highest standards for online advertising, and that our team is helping them to do so. Complying with the NAI Code of Conduct is no easy feat, and I’m extraordinarily proud of the efforts of the NAI team and its members to uphold best practices and act as a shining example of the power of self-regulation. In addition, in 2013 we held the first annual NAI summit, which was an overwhelming success.  In addition to being sold out, our keynoter, FTC Commissioner Maureen Ohlhaussen, gave the NAI and its members high praise. Over the last two years, it’s been clear that there is increased respect for the NAI from a wide variety of stakeholders, even those who have previously criticized the organization. We have a new website, a new consumer education resource hub, we developed a new and updated Code of Conduct and Mobile Code this year, and since I joined, we have increased membership 30 percent.

The Makegood: What do you have in mind for the next two years? How will you take NAI even farther?

In the next two years, the NAI will provide guidance and expand the Code to cover rapidly evolving online advertising technology and changes in policy. We will continue to build our membership and be a strong voice for responsible parties in the online ecosystem. Finally, we will continue to refine and improve our already robust compliance program with new tools to help us monitor and enforce compliance in the mobile space.

The Makegood: Thank you, Marc