Millard Issues Plea for More Art, Less Science in Online Ads

  |  February 23, 2009   |  Comments

At the IAB's annual meeting, Wenda Harris Millard takes publishers to task.

wenda.jpgThe Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) kicked off its second annual meeting with a call for interactive publishers to break the chokehold that direct response thinking has placed on their brands and the online ad marketplace as a whole.

In speeches before an audience of 400 or so digital media and ad execs in Orlando, FL, IAB CEO Randy Rothenberg and Wenda Harris Millard, co-CEO at Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, sought to usher in a new era of creative excellence. Separately they argued the time has come for measurement to take a back seat to the big idea.

"While for years the business seemed to err on the side of art, now I think it errs on the side of science and math," said Millard, who made waves at last year's IAB meeting with her insistence that online media companies must "not trade our assets like pork bellies." She cited the recent appointments of tech industry luminaries to lead two of the largest online media companies -- Qi Lu at Microsoft and Carol Bartz at Yahoo -- as evidence online publishers have sold their souls to science.

Millard also took publishers to task for surrendering their inventory to third-party ad sellers and performance-obsessed agencies that don't have their best interests at heart. She blamed ad networks in particular for driving down prices and diminishing the potential of the fledgling online ad sector, and she argued the primacy of "science and math" have put a damper on the creative potential of the still-young medium. Measurement "should be the sizzle, not the steak" when it comes to the value online media can generate for advertisers, she said.

"We do serious damage to this 15-year-old industry if we leave marketing to those agencies and price cutting publishers who malign...quality content," she said. "Where is the creative innovation in advertising?"

Rothenberg announced several initiatives designed to support the IAB's creative push and promote more engagement with agencies. As reported last week by ClickZ, the association has set up a new agency advisory board with members from both creative and media agencies. Members include AKQA CEO Tom Bedecarre; Crispin Porter + Bogusky's interactive creative director, Jeff Benjamin; Carat North America CEO Sarah Fay; and MPG Global CEO Maria Luisa Francoli.

With the help of this group, the IAB also plans to revisit its banner ad guidelines in the coming months. Rothenberg told ClickZ its Ad Sizes Working Group will convene by mid-summer at the latest to consider changes to display ad standards that could make the units more aesthetically potent.

Additionally, the IAB intends to field research on "digitally driven brands." The purpose will be to offer actionable insights publishers and other sellers can use to drive more powerful message creation.

"Although performance marketing has powered our growth, we must move beyond the click and redouble our efforts to prove...great brands can be created and sustained using interactive media," said Rothenberg.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Zachary Rodgers

Until March 2012, Zach Rodgers was managing editor of ClickZ's award-winning coverage of news and trends in digital marketing. He reported on the rise of web companies, data markets, ad technologies, and government Internet policy, among other subjects. 

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