Inaugural IAB meeting attracts 300

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NEW YORK--There was a hidden benefit to last week's inaugural meeting of the Internet Advertising Bureau. For five straight hours, the phones of agency Internet media buyers probably didn't ring once.

The gathering here brought together more than 300 executives involved in all aspects of Internet advertising, from salespeople to measurement companies to research providers. The purpose: to unite what has been a disparate, confusing medium under one common goal.

"We are here to say we're a real medium and we're committed to making it accepted as one," said Rich LeFurgy, the group's acting chairman and VP-advertising and product development at Starwave Corp.

The New York-based IAB this fall will start releasing a monthly tally of Internet ad spending, in a program overseen by Coopers & Lybrand. The group hopes to solicit the participation of all Web sites generating at least $5,000 per month in ad revenue. Sites will be expected to provide total ad revenues and revenues by product category.

IAB will have three levels of membership, for companies selling ad space; companies that support ad sales activities; and other related organizations.

At a meeting populated predominantly by suits (a sign, perhaps, of the magazine-TV-newspaper work that many of these people did in an earlier life), there was a lot of cheerleading, tempered by a good dose of hard reality.

"Advertisers are just beginning to think about this concept of building Web sites to meet marketing objectives," said keynote speaker Bill Harvey, president of Next Century Media, Woodstock, N.Y.

A recent survey by WebTrack, a service of New York consultancy Jupiter Communications, found that two-thirds of all ad spending on the Web went toward only 10 sites. Additionally, the bulk of ad spending comes from two categories--computer companies and Internet companies.

"All of us in the industry and this room have not cracked the code" to reach mass-market advertisers, Mr. LeFurgy said.

Also clear from last week's meeting: the incredible disconnect that still exists between agencies and sellers of online media. In a panel discussion by turns rancorous, bitter and frustration-laden, agency executives pleaded with sites to provide accurate and timely reporting on who is seeing their advertising.

"The technology exists for each of you to know the number of unique users who hit your site," said John Nardone, director of media and research services at Modem Media, Westport, Conn. "Everyone seems to be claiming ignorance, and that to me is inexcusable."

The tension was evident even within the audience. When some executives said they'd be willing to take as little as $2,000 in business from an advertiser just to get in the door, others in the audience hissed "Just say no," a catch phrase that lingered throughout the meeting.

"We need to take a chance and stop the madness," Mr. LeFurgy said. "Just because we're in cyberspace doesn't mean the physics of advertising, marketing and publishing don't apply. The do apply."

Copyright June 1996 Crain Communications Inc.

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