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IAB chief to members: Threats 'very, very real'

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The Fontainebleau is perhaps best known as the hangout of Frank Sinatra and fellow Rat Packers during the heyday of Miami Beach's Millionaire's Row and as a setting for the classic James Bond film “Goldfinger.” But the hotel also holds a place in the annals of politics, most notably during the 1968 Republican National Convention, certainly the more staid of that year's quadrennial party gatherings. So it was an apt venue for Interactive Advertising Bureau President-CEO Randall Rothenberg to get political and launch into an impassioned critique of what he sees as the IAB membership's lack of involvement—to phrase it in a politic manner—in public policy initiatives. Rothenberg opened the second day of last month's packed IAB Annual Leadership Meeting by noting the digital industry's recent euphoria over its having successfully banded together quickly to kill a pair of Internet piracy bills—the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the House and the Protect IP Act (PIPA) in the Senate. He cited as an example of the high-spirited rhetoric the comment by Bill Keller, former executive editor of The New York Times, that the industry was becoming “the new power in Washington.” Rothenberg doesn't buy it, not by a long shot. “We are not the new power in Washington,” he said. “We are not the new power anywhere.” The IAB spent two years, Rothenberg said, trying to energize its members to tackle the Internet piracy challenge in a way that doesn't dramatically change the architecture of the Internet or undercut the First Amendment. “It was like pulling teeth to get our members involved,” he said. The IAB has also been pushing to get presidents and CEOs of member companies to attend the “meet and greets” with political candidates that it's been hosting in New York. “Our maximum [attendance] at this point has been seven,” he said. Rothenberg cited other threats to the industry, including the costly expansion of Internet top-level domain names by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers. And in Europe, there's the “right to be forgotten” push to give consumers the right to remove any information online that they deem too personal—a move that could have repercussions on this side of the Atlantic. “The threats to our industry are very, very real,” Rothenberg said. So what can IAB members do? For starters, they can support the IAB's PAC and get involved with its Public Policy Council, Rothenberg said. He also urged them to back the organization's Making Measurement Make Sense initiative. “If you want the Internet to be changed, do nothing,” Rothenberg said. “You must be engaged. What you don't know can hurt you and can kill your company.” John Obrecht is editor of BtoB and Media Business. He can be reached at jobrecht@crain.com.
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