The IAB Talks Growth, Adds Over 40 New Members in ’07

The last time a new president took over at the Interactive Advertising Bureau in 2001, the trade group, then supported by dues alone, had a measly 35 members. Times have changed. Since then, the IAB has made inroads along with the industry it represents, increasing its membership nearly tenfold, boosting its bottom line, and naming a new president with one primary focus: growth.

In the initial months of 2007, the IAB acquired 31 new general members and 12 new associate members. The group’s general members, mainly publishers, receive voting privileges and board representation while associate members, primarily vendors, do not. The group currently has 32 board members. The IAB declined to name any of its new members.

Now that a new president is settling in, the organization aims to continue cultivating its membership. Recently-appointed president and CEO Randall Rothenberg intends to attract more members by fostering prosperity of the industry as a whole.

His objective, he told ClickZ News, is to “grow the size of interactive marketing spend.” In between breakfasts with board members and educational immersion sessions, Rothenberg has spent his first six full weeks plotting his approach to realizing that goal. The key, he stressed, is convincing media companies to promote their ability to help advertisers grow their businesses by reaching audiences, rather than simply selling their ability to increase awareness among audiences.

On the flipside, Rothenberg will tap his own experience as CMO at consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton to appeal to senior marketing execs. Until now, the world of interactive advertising has been dominated by the people who helped spawn it. Today, he believes, the IAB and its members must learn to communicate better with “digital immigrants,” or those less-versed in the lexicon of online ads.

“If you just talk native language, you won’t get the story across,” said Rothenberg.

During former president Greg Stuart’s tenure between 2001 and 2006, the organization became far more profit-driven than in years previous, cutting its reliance on member dues. By the end of last year, Stuart told ClickZ News, 45 percent of the IAB’s revenues were derived from ventures including the group’s events business, research services, and even ad sales on its Web site.

Rothenberg will continue to oversee the IAB’s business operations, though he plans on taking what could be seen as a bigger-picture approach to his new role.

Indeed, the organization itself of late has displayed a more serious interest in influencing policy affecting the entire nation, something critics argue should have happened in earnest long ago. The IAB just set up shop in D.C., hiring former executive director of technology and e-commerce at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Mike Zaneis, as VP of public policy. Zaneis will work alongside lobbying and legal firm Venable to give the IAB and its members more visible representation among decision makers in D.C. when it comes to additional federal legislation relating to online privacy, as well as net neutrality, spyware and other issues.

The group is also in the process of creating a Public Policy Council, to be comprised of Chief Public Policy Officers, General Counsels and IAB members. Tacoda Chairman Dave Morgan is heading up that operation, according to the IAB.

“Legislation and regulatory issues will have an enormous impact” on the interactive ad industry, said Rothenberg, noting, “We should be concerned, but we shouldn’t be crazy scared.”

The organization has also met with Google, MSN and Yahoo, firms with their own D.C. reps pressing congressional flesh, and plans to work closely with large ad trade groups such as the American Association of Advertising Agencies and the Advertising Research Foundation.

Under Rothenberg, the IAB will also ramp up education initiatives for its members, and may even reach out to the university set to spur interest in online advertising careers. “I’d love to do a college recruiting caravan,” said Rothenberg.

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