IAB Changes Name, Tweaks Organization

The Internet Advertising Bureau will now become the Interactive Advertising Bureau, as part of a series of changes aimed at expanding its appeal to traditional advertisers while narrowing its membership to media buyers and sellers.

The news continues efforts by the IAB to refashion itself from a loose organization of online advertising players into a serious industry advocacy group. Earlier this year, the group appointed a chief executive, announced voluntary guidelines for larger (and ideally, more effective) Web advertising sizes, and unveiled an agreement with the American Association of Advertising Agencies on recommended terms and conditions for online media buying.

Now, the New York-based industry association said that having completed those initiatives — which it said were the “first phase” of a program aimed at improving the quality and use of interactive media — the IAB aims to expand its membership to include “all companies actively engaged in the sale of interactive advertising and marketing.”

That means that interactive TV and wireless advertising firms can now join the IAB. But the news also means that the IAB is dropping those companies that were affiliated with the industry but didn’t necessarily buy or sell media. As a result, the group said it would eliminate the Associate and Affiliate Membership categories, which include technology suppliers and measurement and research firms.

“The decision to eliminate our Associate and Affiliate membership categories is based on the fact that we need to be very focused on one goal: to continue to build confidence in and promote the value of interactive advertising and marketing,” said IAB chief executive Robin Webster. “Additionally, our former Associate and Affiliate members are amply represented by other active trade and industry associations, all of whom the IAB work with on a regular basis. Our new membership policy will benefit all of us as we continue to work together to improve the overall business.”

The result, Webster said, would make the IAB the only association exclusively devoted to helping interactive media companies market and sell their advertising space, products and services.

“The direction we are taking ensures that the interests of interactive media companies on both current and future platforms will benefit from the common pool of expertise that the IAB develops on an ongoing basis,” she added.

In addition to the membership and name changes, the IAB’s effort to refocus also includes a parting of ways with the its subsidiary group, the Wireless Advertising Association.

Unlike the IAB, the WAA’s membership will continue to include mobile carriers and technology firms, since wireless advertising still needs the participation of infrastructure and tech providers to grow to the level of maturity that Web advertising has reached, according to a spokesman.

Spinning out the WAA as a standalone organization thus allows the IAB to focus on issues of cross-media buying and selling, rather than on technology, according to the spokesman, who added that the IAB and the WAA would continue to work together on mobile media issues.

During its meeting last week in New York, the IAB also named Webster to the additional post of president, and issued a call for nominations for new members of its Board of Directors.

“The steps we are now taking are designed to transform the IAB from an all-volunteer organization to a fully staffed professional association,” said IAB chairman Rich LeFurgy. “Working closely with our members, we have refocused the IAB’s efforts so that they are more directly involved in our initiatives, all of which are designed to define the business for all of our benefit.”

Industry insiders also had been looking to the IAB for guidance on terms and conditions regarding banners delivered by third-party ad servers during that meeting, though a spokesperson for the group said the issue is still “being very actively worked on” and that a resolution isn’t expected “for a little while.”

The spokesman also said the group’s agenda for the next several months includes other issues, like standardized measurement guidelines, fielding research on interactive advertising effectiveness, and developing marketing materials for member companies.

“Our recent announcements, and the agenda we have laid out for the near term, should send a clear signal to the industry that the IAB and its members are dedicated to helping the interactive advertising business operate at peak performance and with one voice,” said Webster. “Our goal is to create an environment for interactive media which will promote continued innovation and assure the growth and success of our industry throughout periodic business cycles.”

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