IAR Bits and Bytes

IAB, CFO.com Create CFO Committee

The Interactive Advertising Bureau said it plans to head off Enron-type debacles in the online ad sector by establishing a roundtable of chief financial officers.

Developed in conjunction with CFO.com, the sister site of The Economist Group’s CFO Magazine, the new Interactive CFO Committee is intended to serve as a forum for its members to identify and recommend solutions to finance-related problems.

For instance, the IAB said the council would address issues of interpreting accounting rules as they apply to interactive media, financing opportunities, and bad debt and receivables.

“There is no doubt that many companies today are very concerned about managing the risks inherent in all business practices,” said IAB president and chief executive Greg Stuart. “All media associations have finance committees that help their members manage risk and share industry finance practices and solutions.”

“In our efforts to better support our members (while raising the bar for our industry) by providing them with the tools to succeed, this council will be an equally important tool in day-to-day operations, directly affecting the bottom line,” he added. “We are still a growth industry, and sharing general financial concerns, and recommending solutions, is in our best interest.”

The New York-based group will be chaired by CFO.com vice president and general manager Mimi Capalaces, and will hold its first meeting on March 27.

“The ongoing evolution of the interactive media business presents opportunities as well as challenges,” Capalaces said. “We are enthusiastic about sharing with industry executives financial best practices and in helping IAB member companies to raise the profitability bar by adopting best practices and mitigating business risk.”

At least one IAB member currently is under scrutiny by federal regulators. Online ad network L90 reported last month that the Securities and Exchange Commission had begun an investigation into its finances, subpoenaing records and at least one member of its board of directors. In part, the probe concerns the unexpected resignation of a senior finance exec from the company earlier in the year.

In other L90 news, co-founder Mark Roah resigned from the company’s board of directors, for what L90 described as personal reasons. No other information was given on the circumstances surrounding Roah’s departure.

Eyeblaster Launches New Platform Version

Rich media advertising firm Eyeblaster unveiled the new version of its ad management platform, with features that add enhanced banner interaction capabilities.

The New York-based firm said version 4.0 of its platform connects its floating or “takeover” ads and standard banner ads in one integrated ad vehicle. As a result, the new version of its ASP-based service allows for the simplified creation and management of banners that launch floating ads, drop-downs and even full-page commercials when initiated by the user, as well as rich media ads that leave a banner ad on the page after running.

The new Eyeblaster version also has enhanced controls for positioning destination pages, new online documentation and creative resources, and more advanced replay features, so consumers can review takeover ads multiple times.

AOL Rolls Out H&R Block Content Through Promotional Deal

Just in time for tax season, AOL Time Warner is ramping up support for its alliance with H&R Block by introducing the tax accountant firm’s services across its online properties.

As a result, H&R Block’s online tax products have been integrated into AOL’s America Online and CompuServe services, and on its Netscape.com portal.

The move comes as part of a multi-year agreement announced in August between New York-based AOL and Kansas City, Mo.-based H&R Block. Through the effort, AOL agreed to promote H&R Block’s tax solutions across its online and offline properties. Spending was not disclosed.

The AOL sites will offer H&R Block’s Online Tax Service — which allows AOL users to use Internet tools to do their own taxes — and the firm’s Professional Review Service, through which consumers can submit their self-prepared tax returns for error-checking. AOL users also will have access to H&R Block’s full-service offering, which gives taxpayers one-on-one advice and consultation.

The promotional agreement aims to take advantage of the growing trend of consumers turning to the Internet to file their 2001 tax returns. The Internal Revenue Service, for instance, estimates that 47 million people will file electronically, up 15 percent from last year. The agreement thus wagers that many of those would also be willing to use the Internet for help in preparing their returns, especially in the face of several new tax-law changes.

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