Fast Chat: IAB CEO Randall Rothenberg

IAB to host mobile forum at Cannes

Next week, as the ad world gathers for awards, champagne, sun and maybe even some work (or talk about work), mobile is finally getting its due in Cannes, France. On June 19,  Randall Rothenberg, the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s president and CEO, will moderate Creativity in Mobile Advertising, a full day of mobile panels, keynotes and discussion about mobile—its media impact, its creative potential, its biggest obstacles. Before packing up for the French Riviera, Rothenberg spoke with Adweek about why mobile, why Cannes, why now.

Adweek: What’s the most important thing you want to discuss regarding mobile while at Cannes?

Rothenberg: As an industry, we need to admit to ourselves that we created the Internet to be an ad environment that lives as a below-the-line medium—that is, one that is treated as being about direct response advertising. Now, we can recreate it to be something different. But every thing we did, the forms of measurement we chose, the site design, the standards, they all serve the needs of direct response promotional advertising. That’s what we did. It’s almost like we’re trying to get past the denial stage of a 12-step program. When time came to really start to evolve that, the industry did not change quickly enough. We need to make this a more hospitable medium for brand advertising. Now, mobile is in a very different position. It’s still a very small marketing medium. Yes, we’ve seen things like 150 percent growth, but it's still like 1.6 percent of spending. So we have not yet fallen into terrible bad habits. Thus, this is the perfect time to engage the entire community.

So is that what you’ll focus on during the forum?

The large part of it, yes. We want to focus on creativity now at the early stages of the mobile revolution and really get into how is creativity and the consumer experience different in this medium.

Is much of what you're trying to accomplish education? 

The whole thing is going to be about education. For example, we’ve got this presentation from MEC Interactive. They’ve settled in on this theme for mobile, “Kill time, save time, prime time.” There is this unusual intimacy with mobile—literally a physical intimacy. You’re holding, swiping, pinching ads and content. That represents  a real change in user experience and content and advertising. That requires rethinking. We also want to show a great blowout example of great mobile creativity and what makes it fantastic. We’d really like to extrapolate that. And think about how it will impact mobile medium.

What else?

Well, we rarely explore how the new medium changes the media that proceed it. We want to look at how mobile impacts traditional media, display, etc. It’s that old expression: How are you going to keep them down on the farm once they’ve seen Paris? That’s question No. 1 at the IAB right now in mobile. How do these various media segments work together? How can you generate affinity for brands products and services with mobile? There is, of course, the danger of running into same problem we’ve run into with digital, where we end up thinking of it as a singular thing.

This sounds like you’re thinking a lot about creative and big picture mobile issues. What about e-commerce?

It’s going to come up in a number of sessions. There is an evolving consensus that mobile is really about classic advertising and classic shopping. And ad dependent-publishers are now really interested in how mobile integrates into the shopping experience. So we’ll talk about that. We’re also going to talk about things like near-field communications [which Google Wallet employs] and how brands can use that. Overall, what we are hoping to do with this session is evoke the IAB values. It really is about the entire ecosystem working together.


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