As New York embraces its annual love-fest of advertising with The MIXX; The IAB Global Summit gets down to some serious business.
Almost 21 years ago, on 27 October 1994 to be precise, the first banner went live on hotwired.comfor AT&T. You know the one – “Have you ever clicked your mouse right here?” According to its creator, Joe McCambley, 44 per cent of those who saw it clicked on it - for over four months. That’s onehelluva CTR!
From this now legendary event, a new media industry was born and about a year later the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) was founded in New York, chaired by one Rich LeFurgy, the CMO of Starwave. In pretty short order over 140 companies joined the IAB to help grow the market, agree best practices, and crucially, develop industry standards to make ad trading a smooth as possible.
The UK was first to sign up for an IAB country licence, opening the London office in 1997, and today there are 44 national IABs around the world covering the Americas, Latam, Asia Pacific, South Africa and 29 countries across Europe – all working in their local territories with the same vision: to grow and protect the internet advertising market. Now every year, the national leaders gather at the IAB’s founding city for the IAB Global Summit.
Of course this week is Ad Week in New York, the perfect backdrop for IAB US’s MIXX Awards and conference, under the theme ‘Are you user-experienced’. With heavyweights like Marissa Mayer, Daniel Ek, and Susan Wojcicki on the programme, it’s an incredible platform to showcase our products - and bound to be a sell-out.
In the UK, our multi-award-winning industry conference, IAB Engage, lights up The Barbican concert hall on 15 October to an audience of 1,200 with the likes of Aviva’s Amanda McKenzie OBE, Leo Johnson and the media maverick, Piers Morgan.
While events like The MIXX and Engage are the best shop windows to our industry for clients and agencies, The IAB Global Summit has a completely different purpose. It’s an opportunity to gather together the whole worldwide IAB family, to work on best practice and standards for what are truly global issues. Here are three good historical examples:
1. The Universal Ad Package. Prompted by that famous AT&T banner, the IAB released standards for the banner, skyscraper and MPU; all formats which are in regular use today.
2. The advent of pre-roll video and the need for a common ad operationsstandard, gave rise to the Video Ad Serving Template (VAST), which was hugely influential on the rapid growth of our strongest brand format.
3. The Ad Choices icon – which features in the corner of every behaviorally targeted ad across 32 countries, links to helpful information at www.youronlinechoices.eu providing transparency and control for consumers.
This year’s IAB Global Summit has to be the most important edition so far. While digital ad spend continues to grow in healthy double figures, we are addressing the hairiest challenges in our history. As set out in IAB UK’S IAB Believes initiative, arriving at the optimum solutions for viewability and minimising ad fraud is a top priority for our industry. The enormous investment made by advertisers must be underpinned by global standards which prove the ads are effective and reaching the right audiences.
Then there’s the huge issue of Ad Blocking so eloquently set out by IAB CEO and PresidentRandall Rothenberg in the US. Is this online advertising’s Napster moment or the end of the free internet as we know it? Or – more likely – this is the time to set out quality guidelines and tech standards for data and load speeds to improve the user experience. All that accompanied by a programmewhich re-frames the value exchange between the publisher and the consumer.
I find this a fascinating challenge and it’s the discussion I’m most looking forward to (in a perverse way). This is because I can see a very bright future with quality content and quality ads – which demand innovative creativity for today’s engaged, but demanding consumer.
It may be a rare campaign that achieves 44 per cent engagement like the very first banner, but there’s nothing like a shoot-the-moon target to fuel our imaginations and industry solutions.
Guy Phillipson is CEO of IAB UK