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On May 31, Kevin Conroy, the President of Digital and Enterprise Development for Univision Communications, one of the largest premium Hispanic media companies in the United States, wrote a heartfelt plea in Advertising Age titled, “The Third-Party Cookie Divide Is Debilitating the Industry.”  Pegged to the controversy aroused by the Mozilla Corporation’s announcement that it intended to block third-party cookies by default, Mr. Conroy correctly noted that “third-party cookies are not all bad or all good.”

“The companies behind these controversial tools are established members of the digital-advertising supply chain that provide an array of services, and their relationships with other industry participants should not be defined or determined with one broad stroke,” he added. “All-or-nothing proclamations and actions on this matter represent a dangerous over-simplification that’s creating conflict and putting the industry at risk. This face-off must be replaced with thoughtful and productive discussion recognizing the subtleties of the marketplace, the individual interests of businesses, and the true north that all parties invested in this discord and its resolution share: the desire to deliver value to consumers that is dependent upon trust, comfort and control over their privacy.”

We have taken Mr. Conroy’s admonitions to heart, not just because he is a member of the IAB’s Board of Directors, but because he is right. Conversation is better than isolation; negotiations trump obstinacy; “win-win” is preferable to “you lose.” So we were heartened when Mozilla executives started reaching out to advertising, media, and ad technology industry companies, professing to want to include them among the stakeholder groups whose opinions matter as Mozilla goes about reconfiguring its Firefox browser, which controls 20 percent of the world’s access to the Internet.

Unfortunately, a review of Mozilla’s latest scheme for blocking third party cookies shows it to be worse than its earlier proposals. While Mozilla executives say they are taking in criticism from multiple stakeholders, the company’s own statements and explanations indicate that Mozilla is making extreme value judgments with extraordinary impact on the digital supply chain, securing for itself a significant gatekeeper position in which it and its handpicked minions will be able to determine which voices gain distribution and which do not on the Internet. 


The Cookied Web

Third-party cookies are an essential part of the Internet content supply chain, and date to the earliest days of the commercial Web, in the mid-1990s. Stored inside a user’s Web browser, they help the browser remember the user’s previous activity. While first-party cookies, as Wikipedia notes, “are cookies set with the same domain (or its subdomain) as your browser’s address bar,” third-party cookies “are cookies set with domains different from the one shown on the address bar.” 

Although third-party cookies have been controversial mechanisms - their privacy implications, particularly the concern that they could be used to maintain identifiable dossiers of consumers and consumer activities, were subjects of Federal Trade Commission hearings in 1996-1997 - they have been part of the way Internet advertising has been delivered, measured, analyzed, optimized, and compensated for more than 15 years. Were they to be embargoed tomorrow, billions of dollars in Internet advertising and hundreds of thousands of jobs dependent on it would disappear.

On June 19, Mozilla - which is both a nonprofit foundation and a for-profit corporation - announced a new plan for blocking third-party cookies in Internet content distribution. In collaboration with Stanford University’s Center for Internet and Society, it said it would establish a “Cookie Clearinghouse,” a body that would “develop and maintain an ‘allow list’ and ‘block list’ to help Internet users make privacy choices as they move through the Internet.”

The Cookie Clearinghouse replaced Mozilla’s earlier concept for controlling the use of third-party cookies: a patch to its Firefox browser which essentially would have blocked all third-party cookies except those specifically allowed by the user. After an uproar from Internet advertising and retail organizations, including the IAB, Mozilla put that plan on hold, announcing that it produced too many “false positives” and “false negatives.”  Specifically, it would block third-party domains even if they share the same owner and operator as a primary domain - an almost pure act of business interference - and failed to block cookies on sites users went to by accident. Mozilla Chief Technology Officer Brendan Eich said “the only credible alternative” to the blunt, poorly designed Firefox patch was “a centralized block-list.”

Centralized solutions may, in fact, be necessary to improve performance, user control, and the safety of the Internet advertising and media supply chain.

We believe the “open source” Internet advertising supply chain, while a foundation for enormous innovation, also introduces vulnerabilities into the advertising and media ecosystem, and we are eager to work with legitimate participants to improve the functioning and safety of this supply chain.  IAB already participates in several such centralized solutions. A prominent one is the Digital Advertising Alliance’s self-regulatory program for online behavioral advertising. This program allows consumers to see how they are being tracked online and by which advertising-related companies, and to selectively opt in and opt out of such tracking. In February 2012, Jon Leibowitz, the then-Chair of the FTC, called the DAA program “a significant step forward.”  Today, trillions of ad impressions a year carry the DAA’s notification icon; millions of consumers have clicked on it and visited the DAA’s site; and hundreds of thousands have opted in and out of various forms of targeting via the DAA program.

And just this week, the White House praised another IAB initiative, our Quality Assurance Guidelines, a centralized compliance program that, among other things, will help combat the piracy of intellectual property in digital advertising environments.

So our initial opposition to the new Mozilla announcement was not based on hostility to centralized solutions. It was based on our skepticism about Mozilla’s motives and with its ability to follow through on its commitments.

Anti-Business Bias

Mozilla executives say they are not opposed to advertising. Indeed, at the same time the organization is threatening to choke off the ability of Long Tail publishers to monetize their advertising inventory, it is  testing the market for a new advertising product of its own - a suspicious confluence of events, to say the least.

But that aside, the company’s civic positioning and public character are heavily freighted with antipathy toward advertising and the commercial Internet. For example, Mozilla is the world’s largest distributor of Adblock Plus, a browser add-on that impedes advertising delivery on the Internet. Adblock Plus boasts nearly 15 million Firefox users, and is the browser’s no. 1 add-on by far, with more than twice as many users as its no. 2 add-on, Video Download Helper.

Like the piracy of music and movies online, ad blocking appears to be a victimless endeavor, but in fact is a possibly illegal activity that deprives a cascading chain of legitimate enterprises of income. In some markets, Adblock Plus is responsible for stopping as much as 50 percent of mainstream publishers’ ads, significantly harming their revenue stream. For small publishers, the effect is devastating. Niero Gonzalez, the proprietor of the gamer site and a member of the IAB’s Long Tail Alliance, says that half his users are blocking ads. “This means we’re working twice as hard as ever to sustain our company,” he has written.

When asked about this, Mozilla executives give a figurative shrug and say they are merely responding to their users’ interests, and that Firefox add-ons are community contributions, about which Mozilla does not pass moral judgments.  But of course, this is, at best, a rationalization, and perhaps wholly disingenuous. Like all organizations, Mozilla makes choices and passes judgments every day, which reflect the organization’s values. Mozilla’s active, prominent promotion of Adblock Plus suggests a value system hostile to advertising and the businesses and people dependent on it. If the organization felt strongly about the economic impact of ad blocking on small Web publishers and retailers, it could curb it - or at least cease aiding and abetting it.

An organization’s values also are represented by those with whom it chooses to associate. Here again, Mozilla’s values reflect an aversion toward advertising and the consumer economy to which it is central. The Cookie Clearinghouse launched by Mozilla with Stanford is led by Aleecia M. McDonald, the Director of Privacy at Stanford’s Center for Internet and Society. Dr. McDonald co-chaired the Worldwide Web Consortium’s Tracking Protection Working Group, a body that was supposed to join stakeholders from industry, academic institutions, NGOs, and regulators in developing standards for browser-based mechanisms to enable users to opt out of tracking. Dr. McDonald’s leadership of the group was widely perceived as unsuccessful, in no small part because of her Manichaean point of view that pits privacy interests against business interests, and her impatience with alternative perspectives on the W3C Task Force.  Last July, for example, she said, “Whatever standard the W3C produces will put a number of third parties out of business, but that is okay because that will be a good day for privacy.”  Only since her departure from the W3C has the body managed to struggle closer to a consensus standard.

Dr. McDonald’s insensitivity was on display again last month, when she chose an anti-business extremist for the Advisory Board of her Clearinghouse - Jonathan Mayer, the Stanford graduate student who designed the cookie-blocking patch, and whose intemperate public opposition to the ad industry, consensus-generating processes, and stakeholder negotiations led Mozilla, in a May industry forum, to publicly disavow its connections to him. That Mozilla would subsequently turn to such people to lead a body that will make decisions regarding the life and death of businesses is an indication of the organization’s indifference to the economic stakes involved in its efforts to unilaterally reconfigure the Internet advertising supply chain.

But at least as telling as the presence of anti-business radicals on Mozilla’s “cookie court” is who and what is absent. There are no publishers on it - the people whose livelihoods depend on the sale of digital advertising. There are no executives from ad networks - the companies that are almost solely responsible for helping small publishers earn any income. There are no executives from brand marketers, ad agencies, retailers, e-tailers, or ad technology companies - not a single representative from an ecosystem responsible for creating 5.1 million jobs in and contributing $530 billion annually to the U.S. economy.

In light of this criticism, Mozilla may lean on Stanford to change the composition of its Cookie Clearinghouse, but that alone cannot change the character or complexion of Mozilla or the Stanford Center for Internet and Society, which appear to be those of elitist organizations that hide under the shield of populism to make value judgments about who is worthy of earning a living in the digital age.

The Atomized Individual

We saw this anti-business value system reflected again in the operating details Mozilla has begun to unveil for its Cookie Clearinghouse. These specifics have been doled out sparingly in blog posts and in a sparsely attended discussion Mozilla convened on July 2 at its San Francisco headquarters.

At first blush, Mozilla’s ideology seems inarguable. “We simply believe that when personal data is collected to deliver these [personalized Internet] services, the collection should be done respectfully and with the consent of the consumer,” the company said on its Mozilla Blog on May 10. Its decision to block third-party cookies by default was made “to strike a better balance between personalized ads and the tracking of users across the Web without their consent.” 

Seemingly benign, Mozilla’s ideology is weighted down with counter-historical presumptions. The entire marketing-media ecosystem has subsisted on purchase-behavior data and other forms of research being available without individuals’ consent. R.L. Polk & Co. receives automotive ownership data from some 240 sources, including state governments, auto manufacturers, and financing companies, to create profiles of nearly every vehicle on the road and the people driving them. This data has been central both to the health of the auto industry and to improvements in cars, driving, and auto safety over the years.  

U.S. Census data, too, is a foundation of U.S. economic development. The U.S. Census Bureau maintains a site full of case studies describing how this most personalized data source of all can be used by businesses that want to “gauge the competition,” “calculate market share,” “locate business markets,” “design sales territories and set sales quotas,” and engage in myriad other activities. Not only is this use of anonymous, personal data central to the American economy - it is protected by the U.S. Constitution.

Were such sources of data suddenly to become unavailable - or if they were to shift from default-available to default-closed - whole industries would suffer, and along with them the people they employ and the communities in which they operate.

This is exactly what Mozilla is proposing to do - and what its self-styled libertarian patrons are (paradoxically) urging it to do.

Words like “privacy” and “respect” seem incontestably clear and insistent. Yet they have no single meaning. They are social constructions - and different social constructions have different trade-offs, one of which is the diversity of content, and ideas, on the Internet.

At this moment in the evolution of the Internet, third-party cookies are the technology that makes small publishers economically viable. Their elimination will concentrate ad revenues in a shrinking group of giant media and technology companies. It is incumbent on Mozilla, which claims to defend openness and diversity on the Internet, to reconcile its public values with the diminution in diversity that is bound to occur from its proposed actions.

The Mozillan Ideology

There are four major ideological presumptions underlying Mozilla’s decision to block third-party cookies through its Cookie Clearinghouse:

  • It presumes that blocking third-party cookies by default is better than allowing them by default. 
  • It presumes that an Internet supply chain dependent on a centralized clearinghouse will continue to operate equitably. 
  • It presumes that human involvement only during counter-challenges to the Clearinghouse’s decisions is reasonable and scalable.  
  • It presumes that the establishment of a centralized body to determine which third parties should be exempt from this default behavior is consistent with Mozilla’s mission. 

All of these presumptions are questionable.

Blocking third-party cookies by default is neither better nor worse than allowing them by default- but it does reflect a value judgment which affirms that the sanctity of the individual, in any way he or she chooses, transcends all other values, including important functions of civil society.

Consider, for example, the role of commerce - the freedom to engage in which was a fundamental spark to the American Revolution. Although it may not be as apparent as when a customer enters a physical store, visiting a web site is a commercial act, during which a value exchange occurs.  Consumers receive content, and in exchange are delivered advertising.  The value of the delivered ad is currently calculated based on two essential points of data - where the ad is being delivered, and to whom.  By blocking third-party cookies by default, Mozilla is turning off the anonymized but behaviorally relevant “who” signal, thereby reducing the value of most ads.   The user effectively has been granted a right to engage in a commercial transaction without anyone knowing anything about that transaction, including the other party to the transaction.  This social decision carries costs. By reducing the value of advertising, consumers and businesses will shoulder higher prices, in the form of more ads, more intrusively delivered. Or they will pay more for content. Or they will be asked for more explicitly personal information in return for the content.

The same would be true if another source of prevalent, anonymized, personal data - bar codes and retail scanners - was suddenly embargoed. Costs in the retail supply chain would skyrocket, as stores, distributors, and manufacturers struggle to maintain optimal stocks of goods. No one would benefit - margins would decline everywhere, and consumer prices would rise - but the worthiness of the individual, and his freedom from intrusive inspection of his anonymized toothpaste purchases, would be sanctified.

As the internet becomes further entrenched in modern life, assuring sufficient consumer control grows in importance.  Yet simply flipping a default preference for all consumers does nothing to empower them. Instead, it degrades the opportunities businesses have for delivering conveniently available high quality content, and it promises to raise various kinds of consumption costs on consumers.

Social costs also factor into the equitability of Mozilla’s proposal for a centralized Cookie Clearinghouse. At this time, Mozilla hasn’t made clear the formats for its proposed “block-list” and “accept-list.”  The accept-list is to contain a list of third parties that are exempt from the blanket ban on third-party cookies. This accept-list has two possible implementations of which we are aware:

  1. It could list the domains that are allowed to use cookies in a third party context.  For example, “XYZ can set cookies in a third party context.” 
  2. It could list the domains that are allowed to use cookies in a third party context, and specify which domains on which they are allowed to do so.  For example, “XYZ can set cookies in third party context, but only on ABC and DEF.”  

The first possible implementation introduces a fixed cost to anyone who would want to use third-party cookies for any reason.  This cost would have a higher proportional impact on smaller players, thereby increasing the barriers to entry for new competition.  Depending on the criteria used to evaluate exceptions, this may block several existing business models - those of advertising networks and data brokers, certainly, but also such functions as web analytics, on-page social sharing buttons, and other widgets. 

The second possible implementation introduces significant scaling costs to anyone who would want to use third-party cookies.  It will definitely block social widgets, “share” buttons, “like” buttons, and any other popular business model that depends on user interactions with cookies while the user is away from the first-party “proprietor” site.  At best, the centralized clearinghouse skews towards the incumbent, reducing the opportunity for small innovators to gain a foothold and compete.  At worst, it completely eliminates certain business models. 

Another troublesome, complex, and socially costly feature of Mozilla’s Cookie Clearinghouse involves the use of human intervention to determine which cookie-settings are acceptable and which are not. As currently drafted, the clearinghouse proposes an automated handling of most requests through a “challenge” process, and a manual handling of any contested request through a “counter-challenge” process.  This is troubling, for it empowers unscrupulous actors to leverage the clearinghouse as a tool for disruption of service and to gain competitive advantages.  Specifically, without human oversight, the following situations may occur:

  • An attacker can counter-challenge the exception for a legitimate third party, thereby temporarily blocking the ability of that third party to set cookies. 
  • Multiple attackers can counter-challenge a wide range of legitimate third parties, thereby overloading the staff of the Cookie Clearinghouse, further damaging those legitimate third parties. 
  • Multiple attackers can file challenges as well as counter-challenges to those same challenges, to further increase the workload of the Cookie Clearinghouse staff. 
  • An unscrupulous actor can indicate that it is a legitimate third party, thereby gaining the ability to set third party cookies, and can then migrate to a new domain as soon as a counter-challenge is raised. If done in tandem with a persistent attack on the ability of the Cookie Clearinghouse staff to review counter-challenges, this advantage may be longstanding. 

The creation of a centralized, automated “toggle” exposes all web sites that depend on third party resources to potential disruption.  However, staffing to validate each and every challenge manually is not feasible, either.  By attempting to enhance individual isolationism on the Web, Mozilla could instead turn it into a bureaucratic war zone of competing interests.

Firefox’s Henhouse

For years, Mozilla has portrayed itself as one of the good actors on the Wild West of the Web - a digital Jimmy Stewart out to tame the evil-doing Liberty Valance’s of the virtual world, making it safe for the citizenry to raise barns and families and towns.  “Our mission,” Mozilla proclaims, “is to promote openness, innovation & opportunity on the Web.”

Underlying this mission is a declaration of sorts, something the California foundation labels “The Mozilla Manifesto.” Among its 10 principles are:

2.       2. The Internet is a global public resource that must remain open and accessible

6.       6. The effectiveness of the Internet as a public resource depends upon interoperability (protocols, data formats, content), innovation and decentralized participation worldwide.

The creation of a centralized gate to participation in the digital economy seems to run counter to the goals of an open, accessible, decentralized Internet.  Deciding centrally what is best for consumers - and rendering explicit judgments that individual isolationism is preferable to a diversity of information on the Internet - appears to defy Mozilla’s charter.

Perhaps worse is the organization’s blindness to its own potential, as it evolves inside a cocoon spun by techno-libertarians and academic elites who believe in liberty and freedom for all, as long as they get to decide the definitions of liberty and freedom. By dealing exclusively with the issue of controls around cookies, Mozilla is missing a great opportunity to talk about the options for identity management and safety in a larger scope.  A solution that empowers consumer choice in both the mobile OS and desktop browser spaces would bring significantly more value to all involved parties, and allow Mozilla to promote thought leadership with its nascent Mobile OS.

We’d like to work with Mozilla and other browser makers to get there. In fact, Mozilla should consider this an open, public invitation to join the IAB. We’ll even waive its annual dues for the first year, just to get its people participating in what we do and understanding more deeply the concerns of the digital advertising industry. The same goes for the browser teams at Apple, Google, and Microsoft. These companies already are members of the IAB, some of them highly participatory, but their browser teams remain generally uninvolved in what we do. We are looking to these browser makers, and the other would-be gatekeepers of the Internet, to work with us to resolve a critical social, economic, and cultural dilemma - how to balance the desire for privacy with the value of cultural diversity. 

Unfortunately, the new proposal from Mozilla is not that resolution. Rather, it and other browser makers continue to fight their solo war against each other, leaving the rest of us as potential collateral damage.

So to summarize, here’s what we would like to see from Mozilla:

  • Block the ad-blockers, and turn your backs on those who delight in destroying others’ livelihoods.
  • Don’t align yourself with individuals and groups whose history shows them unwilling to strive for consensus among multiple stakeholder groups.
  • Strive to protect user privacy and anonymity, but understand that these are different than user isolationism.
  • Show publishers, agencies, and marketers that you care about their businesses, and work toward solutions that help content get distributed and fairly compensated.
  • Elevate the diversity of Web content to your highest value of all. And work with us to achieve it.

About the Author
sp_rothenberg_randall_100x134.jpgRandall Rothenberg

Randall Rothenberg is President and Chief Executive Officer, Interactive Advertising Bureau.

One year ago, those first applicants buckled down to study up on media topics, from CPCs to DSPs, in order to take the Digital Media Sales Certification exam.  The Founding Commission, charter companies and IAB staff had spent months working to develop a credential that embodied credibility and integrity.  And let me tell you, it was not an easy task. We were working in uncharted territory.  And by any measureable standard the IAB Certification program has been a success.

A Reason To Party
On Tuesday night, July 25, 2013, IAB was proud to host a celebration in recognition of the first class of Certification holders and all those who helped create and support IAB Digital Media Sales Certification. 

Here’s what we have accomplished in just one year:

  • More than 1,200 have registered for the program
  • Companies like AOL, Collective and IDG have committed to certifying their entire sales teams
  • A number of companies (24/7 Media, Trial Retail Media and have made Certification part of their hiring and training processes
  • Certification holders and their managers have given us tremendous positive feedback about the reception of the program from the marketplace
  • Every day sales professionals from leading companies across the country are signing up to take the exam

Peter_DSC4575_sm.jpgDuring the event, exclusive guests networked at Lavo in New York City. Many Certification holders and sales executives shared their experiences about how colleagues and clients have responded to Certification.

Matthew White, National Digital Director at Time Inc.’s My Recipes was on the committee that helped create the exam and is now a Certification holder. “This is a great training tool for companies.  It opens up your perspective to parts of the industry outside of your own experience.  This makes for a better understanding of your competition, the products they may be selling and how.”

Why Sales Certification?Randal_DSC4649_sm.jpg
Randall Rothenberg, IAB President and CEO, told the crowd, that the Certification program came from his earliest meetings with IAB member companies, seven years ago. “The thing that came up over and over again from companies big and small was, ‘We need training!’  We learned after years of work, that the best way to scale training in a new industry was not to create the course work yourself.  It is to codify industry knowledge within your network, turn it into a standardized test, and get others to teach that test around the world.” 

Randall went on to say, “The program has exceeded our wildest expectations.  With big companies signing on and making it a requirement it’s taking on a life of its own.”

One of the most frequent questions we heard in the beginning was, “Why do sales people even need certification?”  We created the program because digital advertising buyers and sellers needed a benchmark to ensure that sales people had the basic knowledge required to sell new media programs.  The ecosystem changes so quickly, clients now have a deeper level of trust that the people they talk to understand the industry and comprehend their needs. No one’s asking “why” any longer.

 “With 1,000 people expected toLeslie_DSC4660_sm.jpg pass the test by the end of 2012, we are in a position to make the industry stronger.” said Scott Schiller, EVP of Advertising Sales at NBC Universal and Chairman of IAB Digital Media Sales Certification Commission.  “A few years ago one of the biggest complaints about the industry was the lack of perceived professionalism that digital sellers had compared to traditional media experts. (With Certification) the industry has come a long way, and the IAB is credited to helping with that.  I encourage all of you who have not taken the test to encourage your company to participate.”

Marta Martinez, AOL’s Head of Sales Strategy & Operations, addressed  the room on the company’s commitment to customer service, innovation and knowledge as well as “raising the bar on the internet,” helping clients fully leverage the medium as a marketing channel.  “At AOL there is a lot of effort in bringing balance between the premium advertising and programmatic sides of the house.  This is the reason why we requested that all of the front facing-sales people in the U.S. will be certified this year.  When we announced the program internally there was huge demand.  We are already seeing a lot of value from the program.  We are all starting to speak the same language and we are no longer in the business of translation with our clients.”

July 10, 2013 - IAB Certification DayPictureCertHolders_DSC4578_Sm.jpg
In two weeks, on July 10, 2013, will officially be declared IAB Certification Day.  It’s a day for certificants and friends of the program to demonstrate their support and pride for the credentials, by posting their badge online via social media.  We ask everyone to use the hash tag #iabcertday, so that IAB can showcase everyone who participates.  For information about how to participate or to follow the conversation on Certification Day go to:

In just one year digital ad buyers, human resources professionals and sales executives have embraced the credential, integrating it into their business practice.  By no means are we done defining and refining the program, but the milestones of 2012-2013 are sure indicators that Digital Media Sales Certification is here to stay.

“The industry needs to continue to embrace quality in sales and product to gain better trust with clients.” said Certification holder and SVP of Sales at pulsepoint, John Ruvolo. “Certification is a great step in the right direction to set a benchmark of trust for the industry.”

About the Author

Last week, after a round of visits with advertising organizations and private declarations that its cookie-blocking plan was not a “done deal,” Mozilla Foundation, the lucrative nonprofit whose Firefox browser controls 20 percent of the world’s access to the Web, launched a new proposal to “address privacy concerns related to third party cookies in a rational, trusted, transparent and consistent manner.”

But Mozilla’s “Cookie Clearinghouse”  is neither new nor a proposal, inasmuch as the no. 2 browser-maker seems hell-bent on implementing on a tight deadline cookie-blocking by fiat. It is not a clearinghouse for cookies - it is a kangaroo cookie court, an arbitrary group determining who can do business with whom.  It replaces the principle of consumer choice with an arrogant “Mozilla knows best” system. It is not “independent,” as Mozilla claims, but is stocked with self-interested academic elites with whom Mozilla has long histories. Nor is it rational, trusted, or transparent, as I will describe below. 


But oh, is it consistent - consistent with the history of large technology providers with substantial market shares wielding the indisputably virtuous concept of “consumerism” as a weapon to fight competitive battles. These browser warriors are indifferent to the collateral damage they might create among the small publishers, retailers, and other businesses that employ more than 5 million Americans, account for 3.7 percent of U.S. gross domestic product, and define the Internet’s richness and diversity.

In February 2012, the IAB and the other groups comprising the Digital Advertising Alliance agreed eagerly with the White House and the Federal Trade Commission to work with the major browser companies to honor browser-based choice for the DAA Principles - principles that underlie a successful self-regulatory mechanism to enable consumers to manage their data in digital environments, including the management of third-party cookies. That agreement, which involved several stakeholder groups, earned praise from the Obama Administration, the Commerce Department, and the FTC. It contrasted sharply with the ongoing challenges experienced by the Worldwide Web Consortium (W3C), the NGO that manages the Internet’s underlying technical standards, in developing similar consensus-based consumer-choice mechanisms for the management of data, privacy, and “do not track” options.

Mozilla’s “Cookie Court” is just another blatant attempt by a powerful tech company to destabilize efforts by multiple stakeholders to reach consensus about how lives and livelihoods should be aligned in the Internet era. Mozilla is reassembling the players whose inexperience and antipathy to negotiation and consensus have subverted the early W3C processes. Its members have blithely gloated about their willingness to “put a number of third parties out of business.” They include technological totalitarians who dismiss negotiations with the haughty declaration that “it’s very difficult to see a long-term consensus approach,” and who equate corporate imposition of “the technologies at the browsers’ disposal” with “the consumers’ side.” 

We admit we were hopeful when Mozilla proffered that its new system for managing cookies would make exceptions for “sites complying with DAA opt-out and supporting DNT.” But its proposal does nothing of the sort. Hundreds of companies, representing thousands of Web sites, belong to the DAA program; yet their advertising will be peremptorily blocked by Mozilla’s system.  Tens of millions of consumers who have visited the DAA site and affirmatively opted to do nothing — effectively choosing to allow ads relevant to them to be delivered — will find their choice sabotaged.  And Mozilla’s argument that sites “supporting DNT” may still be able to deliver relevant advertising is disingenuous.  Since there is not yet a consensus definition for DNT - partly because Mozilla allies have so mismanaged or undermined the process for reaching consensus - it’s not currently possible for sites to support it. 

Worse, there is nothing in the Mozilla system that recognizes, let alone offers solutions for, the particular needs of the many thousands of small publishers and retailers that depend on the Internet supply chain and the third-party cookies that, however imperfectly, are a central component of it. By making it punishingly difficult for advertisers to reach highly engaged audience segments through small publishers dependent on this third-party-cookie supply chain, Mozilla’s new system will prompt marketers to concentrate their ad buys among a tiny handful of giant Internet companies that dominate the deployment of first-party cookies. This fear has led almost one thousand “long tail” Internet companies to sign a petition asking Mozilla to reconsider its determination to block third-party cookies by decree.

The open-source Internet supply chain is a wellspring of strength; it has fostered one of the greatest fast waves of economic and cultural innovation in modern history. It is also a source of weakness, because it creates vulnerabilities in securing individuals’ and companies’ data and in assuring their desire to keep certain activities and interests private. But acknowledging and correcting for those weaknesses doesn’t require taking a blunt sledgehammer and destroying the digital supply chain. Rather, we need rational, consensus solutions that will meet all major stakeholders’ needs.

That Mozilla doesn’t understand this is unsurprising. After all, it represents nobody. It is part of a global distribution cartel whose members have been in a perpetual state of war with each other for 15 years. Browser makers should not be dictating the kind of economic and cultural policies Mozilla is trying to implement any more than television set manufacturers should be deciding which shows make it to your home.

The IAB, our constituents, and our partners in the DAA, have engaged in a serious effort to participate in consensus-building around the complex issues of protecting consumer choice and privacy while enabling the commercial activity that supports a diverse and robust internet.  We welcome other serious participants. We do not welcome Mozilla’s proposed kangaroo court led by the very people who have thwarted consensus in the past … and who have evinced not an iota of concern for the publishers, small businesses, and hundreds of thousands of people that depend on Internet advertising for their livelihood.

About the Author
sp_rothenberg_randall_100x134.jpgRandall Rothenberg

Randall Rothenberg is President and Chief Executive Officer, Interactive Advertising Bureau. 

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The IAB Rising Stars: Study Findings and Industry Recommendations

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The introduction of the new IAB Rising Stars (RS) - Billboard, Filmstrip, Portrait, Pushdown, Sidekick and Slider - in 2011 ushered in a new era in standard, brand-building display units. The larger, interactive palettes are an ideal vehicle for digital brand advertising at scale.


On the occasion of their two-year anniversary, Undertone surveyed its clients - brands and agencies - as well as publisher partners on key questions reltaed to awareness, sentiment, challenges and metrics. Our goal was to both gain a better understanding as well as create some actionable next steps for the industry to drive adoption of RS.

Key findings:

RS have high awareness with agencies: Over two thirds (69%) of agency respondents were aware of RS compared with 31% on the brand side.

Agency optimism is high: And of those agencies that were familiar with RS, 73% stated that they were either somewhat or very likely to use them again in 2013.

RS drive results: only 2% of agency respondents who ran RS campaigns in 2012 plan to decrease spend on the units in 2013. And performance was the highest ranked evaluation criteria for both brands and agencies.

There are common barriers to entry: for agencies with larger budgets ($10 million and above), concerns over distribution were the key barrier to entry. For agencies with smaller budgets, cost was a factor. For publishers, site design issues and concerns over demand were key issues.

Pushdown and Billboard are the stars amongst Stars: Pushdown was far and away the most adopted format by agencies, brands and publishers in 2012. Billboard was second.

What does this mean?

While RS are off to a great start, there are two clear takeaways for all of us in the industry who believe in their ability to drive value for brands:

Focus on education: publishers, vendors and agencies should spend time educating brands on RS and their value. In addition, more work should be done to understand which units are appropriate for different campaign goals.

Eliminate the gaps: there is a catch-22 situation happening with RS on the buy- and sell-side. Larger agencies are concerned about their ability to gain distribution, while publishers are concerned about lack of demand (and thus hesitant to do the needed website development to accept RS). More prevalence in agency RFPs could give the sell-side the confidence they need.

At the 2013 IAB Annual Leadership Meeting, Randall Rothenberg asked all in attendance to commit to supporting digital brand advertising. IAB Rising Stars are a fantastic place to start. For the full IAB Rising Stars Study, please go to

About the Author
Eric Franchi

Eric Franchi is a Co-Founder of Undertone. He is responsible for the company’s thought leadership and media relations. He can be reached on Twitter @EricFranchi

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Touch screens, high-speed data connections, GPS, and accelerometers; the ability to stream video, play games, buy stuff, take photos, and connect with friends through text, social networking, and the classic phone call; a tool for engaging consumers wherever they happen to be. Mobile devices are alive with capabilities. All too often, however, mobile marketing doesn’t take full advantage of this abundance. Not enough people know how to produce powerful brand experiences with the small screen and mobile setting just yet.

That’s why I was absolutely thrilled with the presence of mobile marketing at the 2012 Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival of Creativity. For anyone curious about producing vibrant and effective mobile campaigns, the big two mobile firsts at the 59th year of the annual event—the first-ever mobile awards category and the first-ever all-day forum dedicated to creativity in mobile advertising moderated by our own Randall Rothenberg, President and CEO, IAB—provided valuable instruction and inspiration.

cannes-iab.jpgIAB’s Randall Rothenberg, Anna Bager, and David Doty at Cannes Lions 2012.

At the last session of the historic IAB forum, “Secrets of the Mobile Superstars”, Thomas Fellger, founding partner and CEO at iconmobile, demonstrated how mobile can be used, not just for advertising, but also for innovative types of marketing by showcasing the breakthrough MINI Connected app. Car owners, after downloading the app and plugging their devices into equipped MINIs, can gain access to features like a navigation system, thousands of online radio stations, the ability to scan and post to Facebook, and a dynamic music system that creates an audio experience based on the characteristics of the drive itself. The MINI Connected app literally changes the experience of using the car, building brand loyalty in the process. Also from the stage, Per Holmkvist, Founder and Senior Advisor at Mobiento, told the audience it’s time to move past why mobile and to focus instead on how mobile, and to use apps only to “superserve” consumers. Colleen DeCourcy, CEO and founder of Socalistic, advised marketers to think of mobile as an extension of their brand and product line, to obsess over the nuances of behavior and interaction, and to make mobile the enabler within a larger ecosystem.

At another session, MEC Global highlighted the important notion of mobile first, which means embracing mobile at the very outset of campaign development in order to build out from it and deeply incorporate its capabilities into multi-channel initiatives. The Cannes Gold Mobile Lion winner in the category “Use of Multiple Screens or Networked Mobile Technology,” illustrated the enormous advantages of this type of extensive mobile integration. For the Super Bowl this year, Chevrolet and Goodby Silverstein & Partners designed the Chevy Game Time app to give viewers an incentive to watch the Chevy commercials very closely and to interact with the brand throughout the game. Here’s how it worked: Super Bowl viewers, who were also app users, would answer trivia questions about the brand’s ads during the game—and in return, they’d receive a unique license plate number. If they saw their plate number in a later ad, they had won a car. With a game-inspired app, a car as an incentive to play, and real-time association with content, the brand interacted with 700,000 users.

Cannes attendees were brimming with thoughtful optimism about mobile, and I viewed so many eye-opening examples of best-in-class mobile marketing, I returned to the IAB headquarters even more excited for the IAB Mobile Marketplace event on July 16 and assured that we are doing the right thing by expanding the MIXX Award categories to include both “Mobile Ad” and “Mobile Brand Destination Site.” There’s a demand to see great work; there is ample great work to celebrate and showcase; and there’s no better way to learn what you can do with mobile, than observing what great work others have done.

About the Author

Anna Bager

Anna Bager

Anna Bager is Vice President and General Manager of the Mobile Marketing Center of Excellence at the IAB, and was named as one of the top 20 Most Powerful Women in Mobile Advertising by Business Insider. You can tweet her @AnnaBager.


The Industry Commits Two Billion Impressions for “Your AdChoices”

The Digital Advertising Alliance and IAB recently urged the industry to come together to support a critical campaign, the DAA’s “Your AdChoices” campaign. I am thrilled to report you have answered this call.


Thus far, two billion impressions have been committed to this pro bono effort aiming to build more trust among Internet users by explaining how online advertising works. Two key partners will help make these impressions possible: ADTECH, which will handle the ad serving, and UM, which will handle media management and optimization. We are extremely thankful that they have donated their time and expertise to help bring this important message to the people.

Donations of inventory have come from numerous IAB members. In particular, I am grateful to Rubicon for donating a heroic 700 million impressions and to 24/7 Media for donating more than 310 million impressions. Other IAB members who have stepped up and given generously include AdGent Digital, Ad Monsters, BlogHer, Business Insider, Buzz Media, Collective Media, Cox Media, Discovery Digital Media, Electronic Arts, Everyday Health Inc., Federated Media, Google, Kelley Blue Book, Microsoft, Netmining, OpenX, Slate, WeatherBug, WhitePages, Yahoo!, and Ziff-Davis.

The “Your AdChoices” consumer education campaign helps reinforce the industry’s commitment to self-regulation by addressing consumer concerns about how their information is being used. Through several fun, informative videos, the campaign explains how people are empowered to control the way they interact with digital advertising. Moreover, it demonstrates how advertising actually enhances digital experiences.

The Digital Advertising Alliance, along with MRM, a McCann Worldgroup company, showed inspiring leadership and creativity in developing this campaign. I’m now excited and encouraged by the outpouring of support from our peers who recognize that the best way to keep our industry free of unwanted regulation is to directly support the needs and concerns of the people who rely on it.

In the wake of last Thursday’s “Do Not Track” announcement from Microsoft, a consumer education campaign like this is more critical than ever. Both the DAA and IAB believe that the best way to provide the most compelling user experiences digitally is to empower them to make their own choices. This campaign shows them how to do just that.

The industry has already shown us that they’re behind this approach. Two years ago, when IAB launched the industry’s first consumer education campaign, “Privacy Matters,” the enthusiastic support of the digital ecosystem supported this pro bono campaign with 500 million impressions. As impressive as this was for the time, the fact that we’ve already quadrupled commitments demonstrates that the digital world is supporting this strategy of educating users and giving them choices. DAA’s “Your AdChoices” campaign comes at an important time for our world, but it also follows a history of support from the digital marketing industry.

Of course, I wouldn’t be doing my job if I said mission accomplished. The numbers of companies who have not donated inventory to support this campaign greatly outnumber those that have. I implore all of us working in this field to make room for this campaign and do everything possible to maximize its impact. Our mission is only complete after we genuinely help every user better understand how advertising positively enhances their digital lives.

To contribute to the campaign, please contact [email protected]. And look for the Your AdChoices campaign on a Web site near you.

About the Author

sp_rothenberg_randall.jpg Randall Rothenberg

Randall Rothenberg is President and Chief Executive Officer, Interactive Advertising Bureau.


Two billion people across the globe—more than a quarter of the world’s population use the Internet. Yet the source of its popularity is also our industry’s Achilles’ heel.

That is why the new public service campaign by the Salt Lake City office of MRM, a McCann Worldgroup company, for the Digital Advertising Alliance (DAA) is such a breakthrough. The launch of the consumer-facing “Your AdChoices” campaign aims to build more trust among Internet users by explaining how online advertising works. It is the first industry campaign that explains the benefits of online marketing communications, offers solutions for legitimate privacy concerns, directs consumers toward additional resources, and effectively demystifies the Web. More specifically, the campaign explains how interest-based ads give consumers more of the personal experience they want in their digital experience. Quoting one of its videos, the campaign exists “to give you more information and control over targeted advertising.” Through entertaining and compelling videos and banner ads, Your AdChoices will help millions learn how to use the AdChoices (also known as the Advertising Option) Icon. Known by its creators as the “Forward I,” the icon empowers consumers to control how and what advertising reaches them.

Example of Your AdChoices campaign ad

The DAA is the consortium founded by a half-dozen industry associations that are united in support of the open Internet and consumer protection. In addition to the IAB, the alliance includes the Association of National Advertisers, the 4As, the Direct Marketing Association, the American Advertising Federation, and the Council of Better Business Bureaus. The icon and the self-regulatory mechanism of which it is a part have been adopted by the IAB as part of our IAB Code of Conduct for members. That means if you belong to the IAB—as 500 of the most significant digital companies in the U.S. do—you must be part of this self-regulatory program.

The “Forward I” icon sits visibly in the corner of all digital ads that employ so-called behavioral data to fine-tune their delivery to the most interested consumers. When clicked, the icon takes consumers to the DAA website, where they can learn more about how targeted advertising enhances their online experiences, and how they can manage their own privacy preferences. It is already served voluntarily by marketers, publishers, and ad networks billions of times each week. But there has never been a major push to explain how to consumers how to proactively make their advertising and other content more relevant to their needs and interests. This MRM campaign-which soon will blanket digital mediais the first major advertising effort to promote interest-based advertising to consumers, and the first since the IAB’s own 2009 campaign to demonstrate the industry’s spirited dedication to self-regulation. By educating the people who see the Internet as an integral part of their lives, this campaign amplifies what they love about the web (exciting, personalized content), and protects them from what they fear (unwanted messages and breaches of privacy).

The IAB’s “Privacy Matters” campaign two years ago inaugurated the effort to explain our industry to the public. Thirty-two online publishers and ad networks committed more than 600 million impressions to the campaign, fueled by creative from the digital agency Schematic, media planning from Group M’s Mediaedge:cia, and ad serving from Atlas. Through “Privacy Matters,” we helped lay the foundation for building a trusting relationship between the interactive advertising industry and digital media users. We’re thrilled that we’ve been able to step up our game, by collaborating with our cousins in the trade association world to support the rollout of the new campaign, so we can explain to millions why and how we are using information to enhance their digital lives.

Your AdChoices takes a fresh approach to the issue of privacy. The message here is “let the right ad find you,” and promises that you can manage the kinds of ads that will reach you. In short, you can see more ads for products and services you might care about. In a playful style, the banners show a man dressed as a banner ad on the street, showing how close you are to that delivery of Thai food you so desperately crave.

The videos, using a friendly, stylized touch, explain what interest-based advertising is. In three short, easy-to-follow videos, you can quickly understand how advertisers are using anonymous browsing history to develop machine-driven ad experiences that are more customized to your interests than the mass advertising that has characterized the media for more than 200 years. The campaign also goes deeper, giving you help on managing your preferences and data.


By helping educate consumers, we are also helping keep the digital advertising industry free of unnecessary regulation. Too often, we’ve seen legislators and regulators recommend overly broad and sometimes technologically unfeasible solutions that could irreparably damage the infrastructure of the Internet and constrain user choice. For digital advertising to continue to flourish, we need to make sure that we are responsible enough to set our own agenda. That means ensuring the industry has the freedom to dazzle its users, but it also means making sure that those users who fuel our industry feel empowered and protected.

It’s up to us to protect the industry for those who shape it, and for those whose lives have come to depend on it.

About the Author

Randall Rothenberg

Randall Rothenberg is President and Chief Executive Officer, Interactive Advertising Bureau.


Beet.TV talks to Randall Rothenberg

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The blogosphere is talking about Randall Rothenberg's Huff Post Op-Ed

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The blogosphere is talking about IAB President & CEO, Randall Rothenberg’s Op-Ed in the Huffington Post: War Against the Web

Perhaps the scariest term in business today is “behavioral targeting.” It also turns out to be one of the best practices around to assure the combination of consumer choice and marketing effectiveness on the Internet. And in that gap lies a dilemma for the marketing and media industries - and, indeed, for all citizens. For if fear overtakes reality, it could dramatically limit the accessibility and diversity of the Web.

Here are just a few of the blogs talking about it:

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