IAB President-CEO Randall Rothenberg said the reason is simple:
Though Facebook is an IAB member with a board seat, a company
executive spoke at the last conference, and the IAB tries to rotate
the companies from which it pulls its presenters.
Still, it was difficult to get through a conversation in the
first day and a half of the conference without hearing strong
opinions on a giant that is making a bet -- one that may not align
with the IAB's view -- on what effective digital marketing looks
and feels like in the 21st century.
Onstage, a quip from true Facebook believer AKQA Tom Bedecarre: "If Facebook can
overthrow dictatorships, it certainly can mess with a media
From the head of a large media agency, skepticism that users
would react positively to brands' showing up more often in their
news feeds, as seems to be Facebook's plan: "What will that mean
for the user experience?"
From Jennifer Creegan, Microsoft's general
manager of display advertising: "I don't consider Facebook a direct
competitor. They don't really do display."
And a straightforward business assessment from Frank Addante,
founder and CEO of the Rubicon Project: "Facebook has the scale but
needs the technology stack."
This has happened before. Google was once the feared disruptor
of online advertising. It's now Facebook, and a contingent of IAB
companies would love to see the current approach fail.
On Wednesday, Facebook is expected to unveil new premium
advertising products. In doing so, it will further distance itself
from the kind of ads that proliferate outside of its moated empire
and the kind that the IAB is trying to standardize with the ad-unit
portfolio it unveiled Sunday as part of its push to increase
"It's highly likely that , just as it happened in television and
radio, some set of standards will adhere across digital
environments to enable the kind of simple scaled buy marketers are
seeking," Mr. Rothenberg said. While he won't guarantee it, he and
the IAB are obviously betting that its units will be the go-to
standard. In his view, a critical piece of boosting advertising
spending online is providing marketers with a way to cut through
complexity. The implication is that Facebook, playing by its own
rules with its own products, adds to the complexity.
But Facebook is not alone in that , and Mr. Rothenberg is quick
to say that he isn't singling it. He points to Apple, which has struggled to build a
mobile-ad business built on proprietary iAd units. The company has
cut minimum spends to $100,000 from $1 million since
the iAd launch.
"Can there be some places that persist in having pure custom [ad
units]? Absolutely," Mr. Rothenberg said. "But the more the
standard comes into play, the more difficult it is to sustain
custom as the center of a business model."
Mr. Rothenberg anticipates the follow-up question before it's
out of the interviewer's mouth.
"Will [Facebook] move into adopting some of the IAB units?" Mr.
Rothenberg asked. He then answers the question himself: "They'll
move if the big marketers want that ."
He then offered a hypothetical example in which Coca-Cola wants to
run a campaign to reach 50 million users across the top 20
most-visited websites. His point was that a campaign like that can
run efficiently only with standardized units. "If [Coca-Cola] can't
do that , they'll move on and include the 21st site," Mr.