IAB Lobbies in D.C.

NEW YORK Concerned about potential regulatory moves by the Obama administration and the Democratic-controlled Congress, the Interactive Advertising Bureau has descended on Washington, D.C., armed with research conducted by a pair of Harvard Business School professors to make the industry’s case to lawmakers.

According to a new study issued by the IAB on Wednesday, online advertising is responsible for $300 billion of economic activity in the U.S. — or 2.1 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product. Plus, over 3 million people are employed in the U.S. thanks (at least in part) to the online ad business, including 1.2 million with high-paying jobs that did not exist two decades ago, says the study.

Those figures were compiled by Harvard Business School professors John Deighton and John Quelch, along with Cambridge, Mass.-based Hamilton Consultants.

The fact that the IAB turned to Harvard to produce such ammunition underscores just how serious the organization is taking the regulation issue. For example, some industry insiders fear that in the current pro-regulation environment, lawmakers could come down inordinately hard by placing prohibitive restrictions on nearly all forms of ad targeting that employ consumers’ Web-surfing data.

“The results of this study confirm the vast influence and driving importance of the ad-supported Internet to the overall economy,” said Randall Rothenberg, IAB president and CEO. “By understanding the total contribution of the Internet to the U.S. economy, we can more accurately assess the impact of potential legislative changes on the Internet’s operations, particularly the consequences of any actions that would alter ad-supported business models.”

In addition to the research, the IAB is using its Washington visit to announce the official launch of the Long Tail Alliance, a group that will focus on issues related to small, advertising-supported Web businesses.

Nielsen Business Media