$46.8B Record U.S. agency revenue in 2015
Every year the Interactive Advertising Bureau names a new chair, and every year that appointment signals the trade organization's top priorities for the next 12 months. Last year it tapped CBS Interactive Chief Revenue Officer David Morris, indicating its intent on bringing more premium publishers and the advertisers they attract into the programmatic pool. This year the IAB has appointed Lauren Wiener, president of buyer platforms at video ad network Tremor Video, cuing its concentration on video ads and TV ads that can be sold and targeted like digital ads.
Video and TV, which are more lucrative than display and banner ads, have become chief concerns for the IAB because making money is another. The theme of the IAB's Annual Leadership Meeting this year, which kicks off on Sunday, is "The Next $50 Billion," a reference to the $50 billion that U.S. advertisers were on track to have spent on digital advertising last year based on the IAB's revenue studies for the first three quarters of the year.
Ms. Wiener "speaks not just as an intellectual and thought leader, although she definitely is, but she speaks as a practical leader as well who is responsible for putting money in the bank and giving people jobs," said IAB President-CEO Randall Rothenberg, who said he is "deeply focused" on the blurring of the lines between TV and digital video. He pointed to Ms. Wiener's sales and operations experience as qualities that contributed to her appointment. She ran Meredith Corporation's digital operations before joining Tremor Video in October 2012. "That breadth of experience makes for a very, very good strategic advisor and senior handholder and frankly my boss," Mr. Rothenberg said.
Ms. Wiener had served as the organization's vice chair last year, continuing a tradition of the previous year's vice chair becoming the following year's chair. If that continues next year, then AOL's Global Head of Media Sales Jim Norton would be the one taking the seat at the head of the board. The IAB has appointed Mr. Norton this year's vice chair.
Ms. Wiener will outline her agenda for the IAB and its members on Sunday in a keynote address at the organization's Annual Leadership Meeting in Palm Desert, Calif. In an interview with Ad Age, she said she will discuss the rise of more targeted TV advertising, the growing practice of publishers automating their direct sales using programmatic tools and the continued importance of mobile. Each of those topics have gained attention in recent years, but advertisers' levels of investment in those areas have not increased in proportion.
Ms. Wiener will also continue the IAB's call for more diversity in the industry. Last year the organization called for its members to hire by 2020 10,000 people with underrepresented backgrounds, including minorities, women, disabled individuals and military veterans. She said a more diverse workplace is particularly important for companies in the advertising industry because diversity will allow brands and publishers to get a better understanding of the variety of audiences they're trying to reach.
While the IAB sets its sights on the next $50 billion in digital ad revenue, it still needs to keep an eye on protecting the first $50 billion.
The adoption of IAB-standardized banner ads, including formats that can expand or play videos automatically, has combined with the rise of automated ad-buying processes to create something of a perfect storm. That combination may have made it easier for advertisers and publishers to buy and sell ads online, making those ads more targetable and therefore more valuable. But it has also catalyzed some audiences' aversion to advertising.
People have become increasingly aware of the otherwise-unknown companies tracking their web browsing in order to target them with ads, and they've become increasingly impatient with how long it takes for some pages to load because of the ads they carry, particularly over cellular connections. Then there are the ads running on desktop computers that make people vulnerable to hacking attacks. As a result, an increasing number of people have installed ad blocking software on their computers and, more recently, their smartphones and tablets.
There are other challenges. Advertisers are seeing the money they spend on some of these ads going to waste, with computers serving them to other computers (the ad fraud problem) or to humans who never actually see the ads because they're placed out of view (the viewability problem).
The IAB has spent the past few years trying to tackle these issues. Along with the the Association of National Advertisers and the American Association of Advertising Agencies, it formed the Making Measurement Make Sense initiative in 2011 to improve online ad measurement and the Trustworthy Accountability Group in 2014 to fight ad fraud and malvertising. Then last year it encouraged advertisers to move away from creating ads with Adobe's Flash technology, which hackers use to overtake people's computers. And it laid out a set of principles dubbed LEAN -- Light, Encrypted, Ad Choice Supported and Non-Invasive -- that aim to address the problems people have with digital ads, even if the guidelines aren't requisite replacements for the IAB's existing standards.
While video and TV advertising may be two of the IAB's top priorities this year, Mr. Rothenberg said the group's work on these other issues remain part of its agenda. "We don't drop things when they're ongoing," he said. Conversely, dealing directly with certain companies providing ad blocking software remains off the agenda. Earlier this month the IAB barred the German maker of AdBlock Plus, Eyeo, from attending this week's gathering.
"These things need to be subject to real debate by real industry stakeholders, not by extortionist foreign companies. And that's really where our agenda is going to be focused for as long as I can foresee," Mr. Rothenberg said.