IAB chief pursues aggressive agenda

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Randall Rothenberg, who was named president-CEO of the Interactive Advertising Bureau in December, has been aggressively pursuing industry initiatives this year, from resolving issues around audience measurement to rolling out new conferences.

Rothenberg, who was previously senior director of consultancy Booz Allen Hamilton, as well as an editor at large for Advertising Age, a sibling publication of BtoB, spoke about his first six months on the job and issues facing the industry.

BtoB: How has your year been so far?

Rothenberg: Terrific. It's been a wonderful year for interactive media. This is arguably the most dynamic growth industry in the world, and it's been wonderful to spend quality time with the leaders of this industry.

BtoB: What have you accomplished so far?

Rothenberg: It's really been the work of the whole team at the IAB, our board of directors and members, as well as our value chain partners, including marketers and agencies.

One accomplishment was pulling together the Interactive Audience Measurement Summit (in May) to get clarity around the present and long-term future of interactive audience measurement. One of the outcomes of the meeting was that comScore and Nielsen//NetRatings agreed to have audits conducted by an independent third party—the Media Rating Council—which is fundamentally important to lend transparency to the way audience measurement is done on the Internet and reconcile discrepancies between media companies and measurement companies.

We've also launched several new conferences to sellout crowds, including the Digital Video conference, which had over 400 attendees, and the User-Generated Content conference, which had over 450 attendees.

We also launched, with the Four A's [American Association of Advertising Agencies], the ANA [Association of National Advertisers] and Booz Allen a major study of marketing and media ecosystems and evolving capabilities across the ecosystems.

We also recently released a draft for commentary on rich Internet applications and impression guidelines.

BtoB: You have stated that gaining a greater share of marketers' budgets is a challenge for online advertising. How is online doing this year in meeting that challenge?

Rothenberg: Everything that we know indicates that the goal of increasing interactive's share of total marketing spending is coming to fruition. We know that Internet advertising growth was very robust in 2006, growing by about 35%, and it set a record in the first quarter, growing by 26%. We know that marketers are on track to shift larger and larger shares of their budgets to interactive.

However, we need to be cautious, and we need to do more research. We don't yet have enough clarity on where the money is coming from and where it's moving to—which budgets specifically. I would like for us to be able to initiate more and deeper research to understand how marketers themselves are really thinking about and acting on the use of interactive media.

BtoB: Will online ever surpass traditional media in terms of budget share?

Rothenberg: Yes, but I don't think it currently makes sense to distinguish between interactive and traditional media. It is quite clear that interactive is like the blood flowing through the circulatory system of media. It's hard to think about media and marketing without thinking about interactive as the central energy source of the entire thing.

Most advertisers have interactive not as a separate silo but woven into the fabric of their business. What we're living through is the integration of all media; that is certainly what marketers are interested in and really looking towards.

BtoB: What are some of the coolest new things you're seeing?

Rothenberg: I'm obsessed about the increasing availability of essentially zero-cost tools to facilitate the production and distribution of media.

For example, the movie-making you can do with a handheld digital video camera—making movies and putting them on the Web—that is astonishing.

We have to take a step back and realize that there is a creative revolution being unleashed.

Another thing I'm excited about is the whole user-generated-content side of things and social networking.

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