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Know Your Industry Organizations

  |  March 12, 2010   |  Comments

What can the IAB and the 4A's do for your digital marketing campaign?

Digital marketers probably rely more on the organizations that govern our industry and lobby for appropriate change and legislation than you may even realize. From a truly nascent industry only about 15 years ago, we've grown into a powerful force in marketing and business with representation, educational opportunities, research, policies, documents, tools, and standardization that help to clear obstacles and create efficiencies to help us do our jobs.

How did we get there? Lots of innovative thinking and risk taking from entrepreneurs and visionaries who understood the opportunities and invested heavily in their particular visions. We also benefit greatly from the combined experience of veteran online marketers who came together in industry organizations to help businesses understand the landscape and to streamline and standardize business process effectively across a fast growing, diverse group of new opportunities – most barely understood.

Remember the days when banner ads could be any size and each publisher had their own specifications that needed to be built and trafficked? Remember when negotiations over insertion orders and terms and conditions between advertisers and publishers could take weeks or months and the final outcome was heavily dependent on the balance of power? Remember when (or still) there was public outcry about real or imagined privacy concerns inherent in the work we do and you felt powerless to address it?

It took, and still takes, the combined expertise of knowledgeable people willing to tackle the tough, new problems of a tough, new industry.

Conferences, communities, publications, and organizations have evolved to meet the needs of local and national digital marketers. We didn't know what those needs were at first and segments have arisen to meet the specialized requirements of publishers, advertisers, researchers, search engine marketers, social marketers, e-mail marketers, and a hundred (at least) other sub-communities within our larger body of interactive marketers.

There are many solid organizations to join or follow. Given the dynamic nature of our industry, it's nearly essential to join or participate in multiple communities or organizations to just keep pace with technology or subject matter changes, public policy, news, and trends. Two of the largest organizations who work on behalf of digital marketers are the IAB and the 4A's.


The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) is a publisher-supported organization, representing the interests of the sellers of online advertising. This organization was founded in 1996 and is headquartered in New York City but maintains an office in Washington, DC, to keep an eye on our legislators. It has been an effective spokesperson for a rational debate on privacy issues, and has sponsored or facilitated important research, held industry conferences that bring thought leaders together to debate critical issues, offered training, and more.

Don't think just ad networks or banner ads when you think about the IAB. In recent years, it has brought social media, video, mobile, and other opportunities into its fold.

According to its Web site, the IAB has six core objectives:

  • Fend off adverse legislation and regulation
  • Coalesce around market-making measurement guidelines and creative standards
  • Create common ground with customers to reduce costly friction in the supply chain
  • Share best practices that foster industry-wide growth
  • Generate industry-wide research and thought leadership that solidifies interactive as a mainstream medium
  • Create countervailing force to balance power of other media, marketing, and agency trade groups

If you're on the sell side of the equation, you should definitely explore how they can help you out.


The 4A's, or the American Association of Advertising Agencies (AAAA), by contrast to the IAB represents the advertising agencies in the U.S. It was founded in 1917, predating digital marketing, and serves a membership with broad service sets. It has been a leading voice in compiling and distributing interactive industry news via e-mail newsletters and RSS feeds, research, and educational efforts. It also focuses on advocacy issues.

One of its more important efforts is a collaboration with the IAB on the updated Standard Terms and Conditions for Interactive Advertising Version 3.0. The goal of this effort is to streamline and reduce the time to negotiate and sign insertion orders. This is a service to its members and to member clients and reduces labor costs for media buying. The form is available for all to use – member or not.

The 4A's Web site offers the following list of member benefits:

  • Unparalleled source of advertising-related information
  • Research services
  • Programs and peer groups
  • Government-related programs
  • Professional development
  • Retirement savings plan
  • Group insurance plans

These mature organizations offer tremendous benefits to their members and all digital media consumers by helping to organize, standardize, inform, educate, and advocate on important issues that have a direct impact on the business of interactive marketing. Online marketers – whether on the buy or sell side – should check in on their activities frequently, join the conversations they sponsor, sign up for their e-mails, and follow them in social media. They will help you stay up to date on trends, identify current issues, and keep you at the top of your craft.

Now that we've come together on our organizations, would it be too much to ask if we could just agree on what to call our craft? Are we digital, online, or interactive marketers? What do you think?

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Robin Neifield

Robin is the CEO and cofounder of NetPlus Marketing Inc., a top 50 interactive agency established in 1996 to focus exclusively on online marketing and advertising best practices. Robin brings innovative strategy and a depth and breadth of marketing experience to the agency's practice and management. As one of the industry's pioneers, she is a driving force behind NetPlus Marketing's ongoing success with a diverse and discerning client base that considers online results critical to their business success.

Robin is a frequent speaker at national industry events, including ClickZ, internet.com, OMMA, Ad:Tech, SES, Online Marketing Summit, and Thunder Lizard conferences and is a sought-after resource for industry and business publications for her insight and advice on such topics as digital strategy, social media marketing, and behavioral targeting.

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