New IAB Chairman Takes Industry to Task

'Stop the devaluing of digital media'

Ziff Davis CEO Vivek Shah was named the new chairman of the Interactive Advertising Bureau tonight. And he started his tenure by immediately taking the industry to task for letting bad traffic perpetuate—taking particular aim at digital media buyers.

During a blunt keynote address at the IAB Annual Meeting, Shah said of the online ad business: "It seems to me that we have taken a perfect product and by our own actions have made it imperfect. Let’s start with traffic fraud. We have reached crisis proportions."

Not mincing words, prior to his speech Shah said that the online ad world has been too quick to blame rogue bot operators and shady publishers for all the bogus traffic flowing on the Web. He called out ad buyers in particular.

"We need to stop the devaluing of digital media," he told Adweek. "The buyers are willing to be defrauded because it looks good on paper."

Shah also pointed the finger at ad exchanges, SSP and other inventory suppliers, urging them to do a better job of keeping bad traffic sellers out. And he knocked his brethren, Web publishers, for putting too many ads on pages and for continuing to employ click-through rates. (In the speech, he said, "We’ve made IAB standard ads out to be some kind of contemptible, valueless nuisance.") 

But Shah's keynote was remarkable in pushing some blame on agencies, who are often spared any culpability in the industry—"the overworked 24-year-old media planner" is often painted as a victim. 

"We have taken a perfect product and by our own actions we have made it imperfect," he said. "It's been a dirty secret we've [been] willing to keep. Bogus impressions won't infect the system if you don’t buy them, Mr. Agency Trading Desk … You don’t go after drug dealers. You go after people taking the drugs."