The Challenge of Self Governance: An Experiment in Herding Cats
I have always been a fan of the expression, “As easy as herding cats.” The visualization of a cowboy riding horseback, while trying to keep a ‘herd’ of felines all headed in the same direction never fails to bring me a smile. I guess there is just something amusing about imagining a serious and earnest attempt to achieve what every rational person would think was not possible. And yet, I am also drawn to the expression, “Nothing worth doing is easily done.” For three years the members of IAB Networks & Exchanges Committee, charged with drafting and evangelizing the committee’s Quality Assurance Guidelines (QAG), have lived at the confluence of these two expressions.
A self-imposed set of proposed best practices for ad networks and exchanges, the QAG were drafted to assure advertisers a necessary level of transparency into their online advertising placements. The idea is that ‘compliant’ players will wear their ‘certification’ as a sort of Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval, allowing advertisers a way to separate the good eggs from the bad. And, while we know that the QAG initiative must be an ongoing process in order to keep up with a rapidly evolving industry landscape, speaking as a member of the committee, I can certainly say that we are all very proud to have taken this important step toward making the industry more desirable to prominent brand advertising budgets.
As an original member of the committee’s QAG working group, I can testify that committee members often had opposing interests on specific points, and there were any number of ‘grey’ issues to consider and weigh. “What actually constitutes ‘porn’?” “What should constitute ‘direct’ vs. ‘indirect’ relationships with publishers?” And even, “Does a cartoon involving a not-so-clever coyote and a seemly sadistic road-runner constitute ‘animal cruelty’?”
Luckily, the importance of what we were doing won the day, and in June of last year the committee officially unveiled the guidelines. 22 ad networks have already pledged to adopt the new standards of practice and have committed to be fully compliant in early 2011. And now for the next step in self-governance: universal adoption.
Committed to making the display landscape a safe place for scalable brand budgets, I have volunteered, along with my colleague, Matt Boyd, SVP at ValueClick, to co-chair the marketing working group responsible for educating the industry on the importance and significance of the guidelines. We will, of course, evangelize these guidelines to potential compliant companies. And the task of evangelizing to the buyers of ad network inventory will be equally important. Without buyers seeing the value of this initiative—and choosing to work only with compliant networks—the guidelines would end up little more than then the paper they are printed on.
Be on the lookout for our first piece of content, a QAG marketing group produced video, showcasing the people of the committee and their dedication to this project. The video will debut later this month at the upcoming IAB Annual Leadership Meeting in La Quinta. It will document thoughts on the importance of this effort from some of the most active members of the drafting committee.
With the IAB Annual Leadership Meeting as a jumping off point, the marketing workgroup will be executing a number of additional initiatives throughout the year. If you’re an IAB member and would like to participate, please email [email protected] or phone (212) 380-4715. We look forward to your involvement and support.
Rob Rasko is COO & President of CPX Interactive and a member of the IAB Networks & Exchanges Committee.