4 posts categorized "IAB"

10/22/2009 What If the IAB Ran the Government?

IAB CEO Randall Rothenberg didn't like government intrusion into the blogosphere. He didn't like them placing guidelines with teeth on the Internet. His organization makes guidelines without teeth. The FTC guidelines focus on content and intent. IAB guidelines focus on size, shape and weight.

And it got me thinking: What if the IAB ran things instead of the Fed?

Imaginary Issue 1: Hate Crimes
The Fed plans to strengthen current hate crime laws, with clearer guidelines and stronger sentencing for crimes targeting those of other gender, religion, race ethnicity or political belief.

In response to the new hate crime laws the IAB has instead released its guidelines and recommendations to curb violence against those with different gender, religion, race ethnicity or political belief. The IAB is recommending clothing guidelines so each group can recognize each other to either join them or stay away from them.

"If gays wear purple, tea baggers brown, anti-abortionists stripes and socialists pink, we all know who to avoid. If we see a spot of pink in sea of brown, we'll know something's wrong," said one spokesman. "We may not know what to do about it, but we'll know."

Imaginary Issue 2: Seat Belts

The federal government plans to make wearing seatbelts mandatory in both the front and back seats, in all 50 states and territories. It points to research showing that seatbelt use significantly reduces traffic death and plans to increase penalties for non-use.

In response to the new seat belt laws, the IAB has released alternative guidelines for car safety. From now on it recommends that all cars come in three standard sizes: Big, medium and small.

"We don't think someone should make us strap in," said one spokesman. "The problem is that the cars crashing are of all different sizes. Crashes between similarly sized vehicles result in less damage than those between odd sized vehicles." The IAB's guidelines aim to have big cars crash only with other big cars, while the small cars can avoid them completely.

"As long as you know what to look out for, things will be alright," said the spokesman.

Now back to reality: this was a fun fantasy. But sometimes, maybe oftentimes, real regulation with real consequences can be a good thing. And not something to fear.

And I want to thank the IAB for letting me have so much fun with them. I have not received anything free from them or any other traditional media that has influenced this blog. (See, that was easy)
The FTC, the IAB, and Me

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently announced guidelines on blogging and testimonials. Basically, the FTC is trying to get ahead of the curve by setting guidelines on product endorsements and testimonials. They want bloggers to come clean if they've received free products in exchange for reviews. They believe, correctly for the most part, that the simple act of receiving something for free might influence what people write. The part that has everyone up in arms is that the FTC reserves the right to prosecute those who don't follow the rules.

Personally, I have no problem with honesty guidelines. They're very easy to follow. I believe that online should be BETTER than other media: more open, transparent and honest. The FTC guidelines are a challenge to us online marketers to walk the walk. I think we should take the challenge to do more than the FTC asks.

Of all the reactions online against the FTC guidelines (and there were a ton), the one that got the most play was from Randall Rothenberg, president and CEO of the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB). What most irritated Mr. Rothenberg was that the FTC had put more stringent guidelines on bloggers than it has on most other media. "Unfair," cried Rothenberg! "Beware Big Brother," wailed the head of the IAB on a site with direct links to IAB guidelines!

Why, I thought, would an organization whose main output consists of online advertising guidelines be so opposed to blogger guidelines? Is it because IAB can't really prosecute anyone itself?

So I dug in a little and found:

The IAB's number one objective is to "fend off adverse legislation and regulation." That's right, it's not to make online advertising better, it's to keep the Feds out. It sounds like something straight from Wall Street. Just let the market take care of itself, and everything will be fine.

It's last objective is to create a force to "balance power of other media..." which is kind of funny, since the IAB's executive board consists of people from the NYT, CBS, NBC, and Conde Nast. Foxes in the hen house (where is FOX, by the way?).

My real bone with the IAB is that they seem to think that the real problem with online advertising is sizing standards. The real problem with online advertising is that it stinks, from a creative and interactive standpoint. It doesn't matter if it's 30K or 40K, if its 336x280 or 120x160. It's what's inside that counts.

That's why the FTC guidelines are a good thing. They may have got it wrong in Old Media, but they're trying to get it right in New Media. It's not the format of the blog; it's how we show up on them. The FTC says, "be honest, or else." I say "there's nothing easier." Too bad the IAB has a problem with that.

And it got me thinking: What if the IAB ran things instead of the Fed?

Stay Tuned.
03/09/2009 The End of Interruption Marketing

The IAB and others are working furiously to fix the wrongs of online advertising. Recently, initiatives focused on standardization, creativity, the economics of production, and more creativity hope to turn the tide and make online advertising as attractive as it was several years ago.

It seems to me that the IAB and others are ignoring the elephant in the room. That elephant is interruption marketing. It’s the foundation of the last 80 years of advertising and goes something like this.

“I know you want to watch this TV program (listen to this radio show, read this magazine). But you don’t really want to pay that much to enjoy it. So you watch and I’ll interrupt you regularly. If you really hate what I’m doing, go to the bathroom or change the channel. Don’t try reading something, because you’ll still hear my message. Is it a deal? Can I interrupt you?”

“I don’t have to pay anything? Okay, interrupt me.”

As we know the model worked best when we had fewer choices. The problem today, online, is that there’s no good interruption model, except maybe interstitials. And what’s worse; there so much free content out there that if someone really doesn’t want interruptions, off they go, and fast.


I think the IAB and everyone else involved in this industry needs to rethink the interruption model. We’ve become good at tuning out the noise. I have no problem getting free iPhone apps because those little ads don’t bother me (I don’t look at them).

On the other hand, I’m following some folks on Twitter that are feeding me links to specials on golf equipment and travel deals. I’ve opted into those free ads, really, because they’re relevant to me. That’s why search works. I have a goal and search helps me solve it.

I think instead of asking people to pay more to skip ads, I’d like to see a system where advertisers pay people to opt in. This is pretty loose now, and smarter minds than mine would have to figure this out, but it starts looking something like this:

Advertisers, ad networks and sites need to work together to identify people and what type of products and services they’re interested in. The hook for people like you and me is that this group PAYS us for their interruption. Yes, you heard that right. They pay us, not the other way around. Let’s say they pay me $100/year and I opt in to see ads for hybrid cars, iPhone apps, family travel deals, electronics and men’s clothes. I might seasonally opt in for Valentine’s presents for my wife and holiday presents for my kids.

That payment might come in the form of online credit to Amazon, the iTunes store or Jet Blue. I would sign up for that in a second, as would many others.

Every time I surf, this consortium serves me ads from these categories. They’re relevant to me because I’ve told them what I want to see. If I see 1,000 ads over the year, the incremental cost to advertisers is 10 cents per ad. A laughably low number.

How can we make sure we don’t see a huge amount of shlocky ads from big-pocketed advertisers pushing out the little guys? Besides click-thru-rates how about implementing a Pandora like system to rate ads even if you don’t buy?


By rating ads, it makes me more involved in the whole system.

This might be a totally crazy idea, and there are lots of structural reasons why it won’t work (like the fact that we Americans stink at collaboration, for example. Look at the European banking Giro system for an example of how things like this should work).

But it seems like the biggest issue we’re having is that we’re still pursuing interruption marketing at the expense of permission marketing

02/25/2009 IAB Stimulus Plan

The IAB is hard at work trying to solve the Online Advertising problem. The problem? Most of it is no good. The good people at the IAB will try to implement standards and inspire creativity.

In the spirit of collaboration, here’s my suggestion for on online advertising stimulus plan. Long on ideas, short on dollars.

  1. Start With an Engagement Plan – Remember this is a two-way medium. You can’t hide behind space requirements and sizes to excuse the creation of animated billboards. What do you want people to DO? And for this part of the exercise, remove the word “Click” from your vocabulary. There are lots of things you can do within the ad itself. Is your engagement plan browsing? Or is it creating? Or is it requesting or even buying? People on the other end aren’t robots. Watch and click is good for automatons. Map out an engagement plan before you start developing the creative.
  2. Stop Thinking “Ad” – Just because we call it an ad, and buy placement like an ad, it doesn’t have to be an “ad.” Think instead widget, microsite, or application. An online ad can be all of those things. And those are much more interesting than an ad. That’s the beauty of the online medium; that ad can be anything you imagine it to be. Remember, we’re interrupting people doing something else. If we’re going to ask them to engage with us, we should provide the most meaningful and robust engagement we can.
  3. Leverage the Technology – The online ad space can do pretty much anything these days. You can buy stuff right from an ad, you can connect databases to it, you can let people customize things it in, and you can figure out from where people are watching your ad. The technology allows us to make things more personal. It allows us to pull from content from different places online and feed content back to those places. The best part is, we don’t have to create a lot of this from scratch. Third party vendors like Eyeblaster, Adroit and Adgregate can help.
  4. Focus on Fewer Sizes – Size does matter in online advertising, especially for budgets. Online pubs try to sell as many different sizes as possible to get rid of inventory. Media buyers buy these sizes in packages to, presumably, keep costs lower. However, all that does is raise production costs. And it pushes sizes that usually don’t perform that well. So take a stand. If you’re going to do something engaging, something that will take time to craft and do right, don’t spread your budget on producing a gazillion different sizes. Pick two and go with them. Usually the pubs or the third parties can tell you which two sizes clearly outperform the others in any given category.
  5. Connect It  – Online advertising can’t exist in a vacuum. Make sure there are other robust contact points that connect with your online ad. It could be your Facebook page, a microsite, Twitter, or an iPhone app. Make sure that you connect all of these back to clear conversion paths, so when the person on the other end is ready, your company is ready too.

Yes, more money would help. I agree with Mike Shields at Mediaweek, a small shift in TV budgets to online budgets could help create something new. But it’s not only the money.

It’s not that difficult. It just means we have to stop looking at this online marketing opportunity as “ads” and start delivering the promise of the digital medium.

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