Full plate for Stuart as he takes over IAB

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Greg Stuart, who recently was named president-CEO of the Interactive Advertising Bureau after seven months as interim president, recalls working on marketing campaigns for some of the country’s biggest brands, including American Express Co., AT&T Corp. and Procter & Gamble Co. "I spent hundreds of millions of [marketing] dollars, but I didn’t have a clue what it was all doing," he said.

As IAB president, Stuart will lead the trade group through changes designed to avoid such uncertainty when marketers consider online advertising. Stuart, who previously worked for Young & Rubicam and Jordan McGrath Case & Partners, takes over the IAB as online advertising is going through severe growing pains. Many pure-play online ad agencies have folded, and others have been gobbled up by traditional shops. CPM rates have fallen through the floor, but Stuart says long-term prospects look bright. He recently talked with BtoB about the challenges now facing the IAB and its 107 members.

BtoB: Considering the continuing ad slump, what direction is online advertising going?

Stuart: Online advertising trends are up. If you remove dot-com spending figures, spending from traditional marketers was up in 2001 versus 2000. That suggests there’s a much stronger base for online advertising than anybody reasonably suspected.

There’s gross misunderstanding in the press and the public about the state of online advertising. The projections are pretty strong for growth if you look to Forrester [Research] and GartnerG2. One projection has online advertising bigger than network TV in five years.

Classified ads online are also growing. Out of all online advertising, they grew to 17% from 9% in the last year.

BtoB: What are the top three items on your agenda for the next six months? Are there any other changes planned?

Stuart: There are four, really. Measurement, which is putting trust in Internet numbers. Next are standardized contracts in our Terms and Conditions for Internet Advertising, and then our marketing campaign. The most important, though, is to redo the MSN Project, which is finding the right media mix and the optimized level for ad spending. What percentage of the campaign should be online/print? The real challenge is how does online marketing fit into the overall campaign. …We have also got to get rid of the term "streaming media" and replace it with "interactive broadcasting."

BtoB: How are plans for the IAB ad campaign going? What marketing vehicles will you be using?

Stuart: We haven’t yet picked a date to roll it out. We’re in the process or working our way through it. It will include both online and print, and will include our members. Since they serve 70% to 80% of all ads online, they’ll be a pretty good marketing vehicle.

BtoB: How are the new guidelines going? What reaction do you expect from creating the second version of the Terms & Conditions for Internet Advertising, which now include common parameters for online ad serving and definitions for liability limitations?

Stuart: We’re working on releasing a compliance document for the new guidelines that will allow publishers, in a standardized form, to let agencies and advertisers know where they stand relative to the guidelines. What we’ve heard about the T & Cs is that there will be widespread adoption, and we’re waiting to hear if there are any major issues surrounding them.

The T & C’s are for operational efficiencies, to make it easy for all of us. That giant sucking sound you hear is the marketplace’s desire to be taken care of.

BtoB: Do you plan to set up any b-to-b committees?

Stuart: [American Business Media] President Gordon Hughes and I need to work together to evaluate that. Given that a number of our members are in the b-to-b space, in the next few months we should be developing a b-to-b committee.

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