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Q&A with Randall Rothenberg - Interactive Advertising Bureau

President and CEO of the IAB in the US and well known digital media leader and commentator - Randall Rothenberg - was recently visiting Sydney as special guest and keynote speaker at the Inaugural IAB Leadership Summit. 

He was good enough to share his views on a range of industry issues for MediaScope's audience.

Several worthwhile trade media articles produced during Randall's recent Sydney trip are also listed below...

Please tell us about your industry background?MediaScope Q&A - Randall Rothenberg - IAB

Prior to joining the IAB, I was the Senior Director of Intellectual Capital of Booz Allen Hamilton, the international strategy and technology consulting firm. There, I oversaw business development, knowledge management, and thought leadership activities, and directed the award-winning quarterly business magazine strategy+business, Strategy+Business Books, and Previously, I was the firm’s chief marketing officer.

Before that, I spent six years at The New York Times, as the technology editor and politics editor of the Sunday magazine, the daily advertising columnist, and a media and marketing reporter. I also wrote for Advertising Age. In addition, I’m the author of “Where the Suckers Moon: An Advertising Story,” a critically acclaimed chronicle of the birth, evolution, and death of a single advertising campaign.

What is your role with the U.S. IAB and what do you actually do? 

As president and CEO, I am focused on empowering the media and marketing industries to thrive in the digital economy – and not just in the U.S., but around the globe.

Here's a range of the most regularly raised issues in the digital marketplace. Please share your views: 

Viewability & Fraud 

  • Viewability is the foundational metric that measures “opportunity to see.” A significant amount of digital advertising was not systematically viewable because we were assessed with other metrics, notably clicks. As brand advertisers moved so much of their spend into digital channels, they needed what they long needed from other media: awareness, favorability, preference, and brand lift. That meant digital media had to make viewable ads central to our value proposition. 
  • Fraud is a different story: It is criminal activity, one that exploits the vulnerabilities of Avery complex and open digital advertising supply chain. IAB and the Trustworthy Accountability Group (TAG) are working to solve this problem with a monitoring and compliance program that will distinguish legitimate companies from criminals. 

Growth of Adblocking: 

  • Fundamentally, ad blocking is a war against democratic capitalism, one that impedes the ability of all businesses, from massive global retailers to “mom and pop” shops, to get the word out about their products and services. Several major ad blocking providers are no better than extortionists. The IAB Tech Lab – an independent, international, nonprofit research and development consortium charged with producing and helping companies implement global industry technical standards – is front-and-center in addressing this concern head-on. You can expect to hear more about the Tech Lab leadership’s work on this issue soon.
  • But even as we strive to develop technical solutions, the rise of ad blocking should signal to all advertisers and digital media that they should make great user experiences central to their businesses. Fantastic content won't get blocked. 

Skills Shortages: 

  • Skills shortage threatens sustainability of our industry and the talent gap appears to be worsening. We commissioned research from Ernst & Young that shows real shortages in Ad Operations and Data Analytics, and as the ecosystem becomes ever more sophisticated, this talent gap can impede growth. One of the major initiatives of the new IAB Education Foundation is to recruit entry-level candidates — especially those from underserved constituencies — train them, test them, and then place them in good-paying, career-oriented digital advertising jobs.


  • The IAB has been instrumental in helping to establish the Trustworthy Accountability Group (TAG), a first-of-its-kind cross-industry accountability program to create transparency in the business relationships and transactions that undergird the digital ad industry – while continuing to enable innovation. The organization was created in partnership with the American Association of Advertising Agencies (4A’s) and Association of National Advertisers (ANA) to focus on four core areas: eliminating fraudulent digital advertising traffic, combating malware, fighting ad-supported Internet piracy to promote brand integrity, and promoting brand safety through greater transparency.
  • As far as transparency in digital ad transactions, let's face it: There are too many middlemen taking a penny here a penny there out of the digital advertising dollar, and publishers aren't getting their fair share. IAB is working on disclosure principles that we hope will become central to industry T's & C's. 

Audience & Campaign Measurement: 

  • Audience and campaign measurement have been evolving for a number of years. In the arena of ad effectiveness and brand lift, the IAB has done important work explaining and encouraging improvement of how brand lift studies are conducted for online ads.  
  • In addition, Making Measurement Makes Sense (3MS) – an initiative we formed with the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) and Association of Advertising Agencies (4A’s) in the U.S. – has provided guiding principles of measurement that call for standardization of metrics that measure the effect of ad interactivity on building brands. We’ve teamed with the Media Rating Council (MRC) to forge ahead on this front, to establish a real parity in measurement between digital and other forms of media.

What are the key issues impacting the growth of the digital media market? 

There are five main topics that we are very focused on at IAB due to their impact on the marketplace – programmatic, mobile, video, fraud and viewability. Ad blocking is also become a key issue that we’re in the process of addressing.

From a learning and development perspective, it’s the lack of training and educational opportunities. There’s not a college or vocational program in the U.S. that provides people with the skills needed to work in ad operations.

What is your advice to marketers struggling with the complexity and speed of opportunities in the market? 

The digital marketing and media landscape is evolving rapidly, but sticking to the basic principles of trying something new carefully, measuring and evaluating, and then applying those learnings is key to mastering what seems like a complex arena. In addition, it is critical to invest in employees through training, so they can keep up with dramatic shifts in the interactive space.

It's also critical that marketers take control of their own destiny. For most of the past century, marketers' general approach to advertising too frequently has been "oh, my agency handles that." Marketers must bring more digital expertise in-house. IAB can help them.  

A year ago one of your compatriots - Bob Garfield - appeared at an Australian conference. When a question regarding business models for digital publishers came from the audience his answer was 'a patient billionaire'. What are your views on Bob's comment and where are the green shoots for digital publishers? 

Bob's a friend. He's also a professional entertainer with a background in print magazines and radio, and he's been heavily invested in the idea that the world of media and advertising is collapsing. Well, guess what? In the US, interactive advertising revenues hit a record-breaking $49.5 billion in 2014, making digital the largest advertising medium. That's happened in other markets, too. There are far more people in far more companies in far more places making money from digital media and advertising than there were when a tiny number of broadcast television networks dominated the media landscape. So spare me the doom and gloom, please. 

Who is doing digital media right?

The best work in digital marketing communicates big ideas and brand messaging in ways that capture hearts and minds. The IAB celebrates the best-in-class digital marketing with its annual IAB MIXX Awards, highlighting work that exemplifies what works across multiple interactive screens today, and signals what the future holds for digital advertising..

To assure that the winning work serves as an ongoing industry resource on best practices and emerging trends, the IAB captures noteworthy lessons in its annual “What Works & Why: IAB MIXX Awards Insights Report.” The most recent installment of the report features case studies on select winning campaigns from 2014, alongside authoritative commentary from industry pioneers and influencers. To take a look, just visit: 

What message can you give to those of us involved in the volatile, complex digital media industry who are earning a living and building a career? 

It’s very likely that the job you’re going to hold in 20 years hasn’t been created yet. Take risks while you can. Learn everything you can about the ecosystem. It’s all interrelated.

Join the IAB, be part of the industry conversation, and attend our events. Make training and education a priority. And PARTICIPATE in IAB! We are the collective intelligence of our members.

What are your forecasts for the digital media market – what's the next big thing? 

Content will continue to be front and centre. Programmatic TV is coming soon. Digital video is exploding on the scene. Data usage will become more standardised and harmonised and ultimately lead to better decision making. Mobile’s growth will continue to skyrocket. The Internet of Things is upon us.

So, “the next big thing” isn’t just one thing. It's many things - and they're exciting, scary, but ultimately very fulfilling. 

Thank you.

See trade media articles and interviews featuring Randall during his recent Sydney visit:


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