In his keynote address to 1,200 delegates at the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s (IAB) 2020 Annual Leadership Meeting, Randall Rothenberg, the trade body’s CEO , sounded an alert about the need to balance online privacy and personalization – Geoffrey Precourt, WARC’s US Editor, picks out some key excerpts from Rothenberg’s keynote presentation.

“I learned an interesting word this year,” Randall Rothenberg, the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s (IAB) CEO, told delegates at the industry group’s 2020 Annual Leadership Meeting.

“The word is ‘collab’. I learned it at Vidcon, the giant video-creators conference, when I was doing a fireside chat with Rosanna Pansino, a 4’10” baker, actress, singer, and YouTube creator with 11.8 million followers and nearly three billion total views.

“She kept talking about how she did a ‘collab’ with this other creator, and how several creators lived in a ‘collab house.’

‘I nodded. I did a lot of nodding. Kind of like I do in [IAB] Tech Lab board meetings. And then I looked up the meaning.

“‘Collab’ can be a noun – a collaboration.

“‘Collab’ can be a verb – to collaborate with someone.

“But, mostly, a ‘collab’ is a state of being. It’s how you act with others.

“This made me comfortable. IAB knows how to collab. In fact, IAB is a giant collab. And everything we do is a collab.

“The Digital Advertising Alliance’s (DAA) YourAdChoices program – the mechanism that places the ‘forward I’ icon…

“… on more than a trillion digital ad impressions a year, and which more than 100 million consumers have clicked on to learn what safeguards and choices they have to manage their data – was a collab among the Association of National Advertisers, the 4A’s (American Association of Advertising Agencies), the DMA [Data & Marketing Association], Network Advertising Initiative, and the IAB.

“Other collabs with our partner associations yielded groundbreaking industry agreements on viewability, and the creation of the anti-fraud program Trustworthy Accountability Group, which has reduced digital ad fraud by 88% in its certified channels.

“An even larger collab is the Global Alliance for Responsible Media. GARM was organized by the World Federation of Advertisers and led by 56 of the world’s largest brands, agencies, publishers, platforms, and technology companies.

“It recently announced a groundbreaking agreement to eliminate harmful content from ad-supported media by adopting shared definitions, common tools and systems, and independent oversight to block, demonetize, and take down harmful content.

“The IAB organized a collab among 300 legal, technical, and policy experts at 170 companies to develop the IAB CCPA [California Consumer Privacy Act] Compliance Solution, which has now been adopted by 201 companies to comply with California’s new privacy law.”

Collaboration proves the value of the IAB

“In fact, these collabs help answer the question all your CFOs ask when the IAB dues bills come in toward the end of the year: What kind of value do we get from this trade association? Well, let’s do the math:

  • “TAG saves US companies 88% of the $8.2 billion lost to ad fraud each year, according to Ernst & Young.
  • “TAG cut in half the $2.8 billion in ad flows to content-pirate sites.
  • “IAB initiatives, including the Tech Lab VAST [Video Ad Serving Template] standard and the Digital Content Newfronts, underpin the $16 billion US digital video industry.
  • “Tech Lab standards and the Podcast Upfronts are foundational to the $2 billion podcast industry.
  • “IAB’s CCPA Compliance Solution will help participants circumvent $55 billion in compliance costs.
  • “Add the $32 [billion] to $39 billion we’ll save by rearchitecting the cookie-based ad ecosystem.”

Talk, listen, negotiate, simplify, execute

“Whatever [future] cross-industry collaboration we engineer, it will require separate workstreams for business model adaptation, public policy, technical architecture, and strategic communications.

 “Engaging the entire marketing and media industry in this endeavor won’t be easy, especially because we’ve got to engage bitter rivals, in the same rooms. Especially because this cannot be a US exercise, but needs, at the least, transparency to companies, citizens, and governments around the world.

“And here’s what makes this even more complicated. We’ve got to get people talking to each other across functional silos that today are rigidly isolated from each other.

“We need sales leaders talking to engineers, and CMOs talking to product developers. We need publishers talking to ad tech intermediaries. We need lawyers talking to retailers. We need chief procurement officers talking to chief privacy officers.

“And we’ve got to do more than talk. We have to listen. We have to negotiate. We have to simplify. And we must execute.

“For here’s the simple truth: Our industries – all of us together – have disrupted the equilibrium of a century-old marketing/media ecosystem. Big parts of that disruption are fantastic. People have more access to more information about more things than ever in the history of mankind. It’s easier to build a business than at any time in history.

“But we also have created a messy and frightening marketplace built on the collection and use of personal information that scares the daylights out of a lot of people because they don’t understand it and cannot control it.

“And we’ve built it in a way that requires a doctorate in engineering to understand. Governments have rightly stepped in to attempt to offer fixes, but their laws also are difficult to comprehend, by consumers and businesses alike. People are asked for rounds and rounds of consent, and still don’t understand what they are agreeing to. And the spiral of mistrust continues.”

Moving towards a post-cookie future

“The coming death of the third-party cookie allows us to fix all of that. It is an opportunity to change the economics of personal data so it – and its outcomes – favor consumers.

“We have the chance to create a new industry and a new world in which ‘privacy by design’ is as well understood, as fairly applied, and as universally beneficial as ‘safety by design’ has been for decades in the automotive industry and the food industry.

“Right now, the movement to harmonize personalization, privacy, and community is being led by two different forces that cannot succeed on their own.

“Internet browser companies and giant device companies are working assiduously to develop consumer privacy solutions. Most are well-meaning, but they are driven as much by their competition with each other as they are by consumer-centricity.

“Their competition will result an Internet with radically different privacy and personalization regimes, far too expensive and complex for citizens or companies to work with.

“Then there are governments. With their regulatory authority, they can force a level playing field that allows competition to flourish as consumer protection is enhanced. But governmental authority is limited by geographical boundaries, whereas browsers and devices are multinational in their dispersion. And government bureaucracy too frequently leads to incomprehensibly dense regulations that only the largest corporations can afford to comply with.

“As marketing and media professionals, we cannot abdicate our responsibility or our future to a multinational tech oligopoly or multiple government bureaucracies. We must take collective ownership. We must take agency.”

Project Rearc – a plan to rearchitect digital marketing

“Let the movement to rearchitect digital marketing to harmonize personalization, privacy, and community begin today, right here at the IAB Annual Leadership Meeting. I have talked to our sister associations, the ANA and 4A’s, with whom we have toiled successfully on so many important initiatives. They have indicated their desire to work together again and are committed to defining the post-cookie world and preserving all that is good about our industry.

“Let’s build on the work of the DAA, the Coalition for Better Ads, TAG, and our other collabs. And let’s be bold. The challenge demands it.

“Let’s call this new effort Project ‘Rearc’.

“Rearc has a deliberate double meaning: It means we’re going to dig in together literally to rearchitect how digital marketing works, so the three values of privacy, personalization, and community can work together. It also means we’re going to change the trajectory – the arc – of digital media and marketing, to put consumers in the safe, sane, exciting center of everything we do.

“Together, we will reconstitute how privacy, personalization, and community can blend together to create vast new consumer benefits. Together, we will collaborate to create standards of behavior, codes of conduct, legal agreements, and enabling technologies to assure that the values of personalization, privacy, and community can be meshed.”