5 Things IAB’s Randall Rothenberg Wants You to Know About Digital Advertising

Viewability standards are going to get clearer and easier

The Interactive Advertising Bureau this week launched a nonprofit organization called the IAB Technical Laboratories to help grapple with viewability and other digital advertising issues. The research and development group will focus on creating technical standards for the industry and a code library to help companies adopt those rules and a testing platform for projects.

The move shows IAB's acknowledgement that viewability standards still have kinks that need to be ironed out. Adweek caught up with IAB president and CEO Randall Rothenberg during the 2014 IAB Mixx Conference in New York to learn more about the initiative, whether viewability standards will get easier and the broader definition of who qualifies as an advertiser. Here's the cliffnotes version of what he told us.

1. It costs too much to do digital advertising.

Rothenberg believes that everyone is paying too much to advertise online and on devices, including the cost associated with scaling a digital campaign and with tracking how well it does. He hopes that by the IAB Tech Lab creating universal standards, it will shorten time to market and cuts costs. "We need to work on ways to help companies implement those standards more rapidly and more cheaply than they have before," he said.

2. The industry should have foreseen the issues that changing to viewability standards would cause.

When the IAB started studying viewability, the majority of the impressions were neither viewable nor nonviewable. There was nothing available to peer inside iFrame code without breaking the ad. A lot of technology had to be created to see if ads were indeed viewable, so it wasn't like the industry didn't anticipate a challenge. Still, Rothenberg said he thinks everyone—including 4As, the MRC and the IAB—could have been more prepared.

"We should have realized the industry would have been dominated by a set of point solution vendors. They would overwhelm communications in the marketplace. They would make it difficult for unitary standards to be implemented," he said.

3. Publishers' worries about viewability standards are not unfounded.

The move to viewability hasn't been the easiest shift. Right now there are 15 companies accredited by the MRC that can provide metrics on viewability, which is creating "havoc and additional expense," said Rothenberg. Also, publishers are bearing the brunt of that cost, he admitted.

However, publishers and marketers should know that the IAB is going full-steam ahead with viewability, and there is no turning back. "Publishers have a right to be concerned, but they should be assured it will evolve and get easier," Rothenberg said.

4. He wants the IAB Tech Lab to be a global organization. 

A wider group of agencies, marketers and big national companies, as well as U.S. multinational groups, will be allowed to join the independent nonprofit versus the main IAB association. "If we are to realize the growth potential that we have as an industry, we need technical standards that can be developed and implemented with an eye on the whole world," said Rothenberg.

5. Ad tech should be considered part of advertising.

The IAB recently extended membership rules to allow for ad tech companies to join. "The changing definitions of advertising and the changing contours means we're all in the same business now. This arbitrary business before about the difference between sellers and ad technology companies is not helpful as we chart the future," he said.