October 2013 Archives

The Digital advertising industry exists in a complex legislative and regulatory environment. Policies in Internet governance, privacy, advertising, taxation, and intellectual property all have significant impacts on the growth and direction of the industry.

 And these policies are not being developed in one place. Within the Washington, DC beltway, laws and industry guidance are promulgated by regulatory agencies, such as the Federal Trade Commission or the Federal Communications Commission, the judicial system and past precedent set by court cases, and legislation enacted by Congress.


To make this policy landscape even more complex, the digital advertising industry must also be cognizant of local and international laws. As those working in the industry know, digital advertising is borderless in nature and therefore depends upon a base level of legal cohesion among countries and regions. Disruptions stemming from policies in one nation, or U.S. state, are felt globally. Take, for example, two recent anecdotes from Europe.

On October 21, a data privacy bill before the European Parliament passed through committee on its path to becoming law. This draft bill, created in response to the recent revelations about U.S. national security data-tracking practices, directly impacts the digital advertising industry in several ways. For one, the bill calls for explicit consent before a wider variety of processing activities. The bill would also create new barriers to transferring information about EU citizens to the U.S. Perhaps most importantly, the bill proposes a new definition of personally-identifiable information that includes “online identifiers.” The European Parliament will now negotiate with the Council of the EU to reach a compromise agreement.

Contemporaneously, the EU is considering whether or not to allow the U.S.-EU Safe Harbor Framework to continue. This framework allows participating U.S. companies to comply with EU privacy rules through a streamlined self-certification process. Under this framework, Over 4000 companies, and many IAB members, have demonstrated their high level of privacy protection in order to work with European companies and serve European citizens. Although Safe Harbor is focused on addressing commercial privacy practices, the value of the Framework has been questioned in recent months in association with national security concerns.

Were digital advertising practices and technologies static, there would already be a complicated set of rules to follow. But industry practitioners know that digital advertising is never static. Innovations are constantly created that raise new public policy questions. This is evidenced by the FTC’s recent interest in native advertising and the Internet of things.

To help the digital advertising industry identify the policies relevant to them, the IAB has created an online Legislative and Regulatory Tracker. This webpage summarizes draft legislation and regulations that will impact our ecosystem, and categorizes these proposed laws by subject, such as children’s privacy, location privacy, and trade. It also offers IAB’s positions on the draft laws, providing further insight into how IAB is working to promote growth in the interactive marketplace on behalf of its members. Whether you’re a publisher, advertising network, or marketer, we hope you find this service helpful in navigating the complex policy environment.

This tracker will continually be updated and expanded, so check back regularly for up-to-date information on the policies that could affect your business. For more updates on the IAB’s public policy work, visit the IAB public policy website. If you have questions about the tracker or IAB’s other public policy initiatives, please feel free to email me at [email protected].

About the Author


Alex Propes

Alex Propes is Senior Manager, Public Policy, at the IAB.

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Just the Facts, Please............

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Since releasing the IAB PwC Internet Advertising Revenue Report for the first half of 2013 on October 9, 2013, the IAB has seen misconceptions about the report, mostly centered on programmatic. Speculation about why the report does not cover programmatic revenue came from a highly esteemed and particularly smart writer and editor. We’ve seen guesstimates of programmatic’s contribution to overall interactive ad revenue based on the IAB numbers.

Why we do not report programmatic buying revenue

There are two primary reasons for not breaking out programmatic revenue in the IAB PwC Internet Advertising Revenue Report:

  1. The industry has yet to reach a consensus on how to define programmatic buying, spend and selling.  If we cannot define it, how can we collect credible revenue information?  Does anyone really expect that a revenue bucket or a spend bucket that has not yet been clearly defined is being accurately tracked by any of the entities we would have to get the information from?

  2. Programmatic is a FORM of selling.  It is not a format or medium of distribution.  Currently and throughout its history, the IAB/PWC report has explored formats and mediums; it’s never looked at selling mechanisms.

Guesstimates of programmatic revenue based on the IAB PwC report are not sound

Based on how the revenue data are collected and how they are reported, it is simply not possible to estimate programmatic ‘s contribution to growth in overall revenue.  This would be true even if we had an agreed upon definition of programmatic to use in order to make inferences.  That is why we do not engage in speculation about how much programmatic contributes to spend in the official report. 

It is PwC that independently collects the data and authors the report on behalf of the industry and the IAB.  It is PwC that is charged with maintaining the quality of the data collection and reporting. And it is both PwC and IAB that consistently opt to be rigorous on methods and in reporting.

It would be irresponsible to include guesstimates in the official, published revenue report.  It would also be inadequate to release the report without providing context.  That is precisely why we host a well- attended webinar with our members and members of the press together to hear the revenue numbers from the report along with context from PwC, the IAB and a guest speaker.  This occurs twice a year to coincide with the releases of the half yearly and the annual reports.  Contrary to what we’ve heard lately, programmatic has been part of the discussion.  The materials are posted to the IAB site and readily available to all.

IAB activity aimed at understanding programmatic buying: what it is and how it impacts the broader marketplace

Revenue reporting aside, the IAB recognizes that programmatic buying and selling are an important part of our ever evolving marketplace.  In order to serve our members and the larger ecosystem, it is our responsibility to convene thought leaders, experts and practitioners to clarify and illuminate how market forces are operating and changing.

We have the following key efforts underway in the programmatic arena. 

In July, we convened the IAB Publishers Programmatic Task Force, a group of 40 publishers working to identify the issues surrounding programmatic selling and understand which ones can have actionable solutions through consensus. 

In September 2013 we released a programmatic terminology piece that explains the four dominant methods of selling programmatically entitled, Digital Simplified: Programmatic and Automation - The Publishers’ Perspective.

On the technical side, the Digital Advertising Automation Task Force is working to standardize, implement, & support adoption of common datasets for IOs, media plans & invoices.  The Open RTB & Exchanges Working Group supports the development of OpenRTB specifications.

The IAB regularly holds Town Hall meetings where different ecosystem players convene to discuss and debate some of the bigger challenges we all face.  These town halls provide inspiration for many solutions that ultimately make our businesses better.  Coming soon is a Town Hall on programmatic selling and buying.

Will the IAB add revenue reporting capabilities?

Yes. We will be trying to supplement revenue reporting so that we capture dynamics and transactional forms that are outside of the purview of the IAB PwC report. We seek the right way to measure programmatic spend and the support from our members to provide this kind of research.

About the Author


Sherrill Mane

Sherrill Mane is SVP, Research, Analytics and Measurement, at the IAB.


Mobile Discrepancies: Not as scary as you might think

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Discrepancies are one of the biggest headaches in the digital advertising ecosystem, but they are also something everyone deals with. As the industry has matured, standards have been created and adopted, vendor offerings and tracking have become more consistent, the internet has become faster and more stable and as a result the difference between two parties’ counts has decreased to an acceptable percentage (most of the time). Then, new technology is introduced that stirs the water and discrepancy percentages can become all over the place again. The mobile ecosystem has introduced an array of devices, operation systems and versions, applications and even new behaviors to the mix. Not to mention the inconsistency of a user’s connection when moving around in the physical world.  

All these new variables can be quite intimidating. How would you ever know where to start investigating a mobile discrepancy? Luckily it is not as scary as it sounds.  While it is true there are additional variables to take into consideration, the most common root causes still boil down to the same ones the industry has experienced for years with desktop campaigns: human error, when ad calls are made in the ad serving sequence, and differences in vendors reporting and targeting offerings. 

  • Human Error - The more manual steps needed to launch a campaign, the more room there is for errors to occur which may result in discrepancies. With new vendors and products plus the use of code based HTML5 creatives with many assets instead of a tidy flash file, the mobile marketplace isn’t as automated as the desktop marketplace.
  • Ad Serving Sequencing - Just like with desktop campaigns there are often multiple parties tracking a single campaign. Typically all of the ad calls don’t fire at once, even if they are all tracking the same thing.  Latency and short session time common in mobile make the difference in ad calls a more significant variable than on desktop. 
  • Reporting - Every vendor has their secret sauce to differentiate themselves in the marketplace. Sometimes it has to do with the metrics they measure or how they validate traffic. As the mobile marketplace matures reporting offerings will be become more consistent, but until then it is important to make sure you are comparing the same things across reports.  
  • Targeting - Similar to reporting targeting offerings will differ in their features and capabilities. While this is true for desktop targeting as well there is more variability in mobile such as multiple ways to identify location. 
IAB Mobile Marketing Center of Excellence’s new document Mobile Discrepancies: Exploring common root causes gives more detailed explanations of common discrepancy causes for mobile campaigns. Providing ample time to test and QA campaigns before launch is the most important thing you can do to avoid large discrepancies. It is important to not just test that the creative works, but also confirm all parties are tracking the same thing, especially when working with new partners. If not, it doesn’t matter what device you are running the campaign on, you are comparing apples to oranges. When these differences are discovered it is important to share that knowledge and work together to solve the problem. The more discrepancies causes are understood, the more they can be avoided fostering more trust in the mobile marketplace. 

About the Author
Sabrina Alimi

Sabrina Alimi is the Senior Marketing Manager of the IAB Mobile Marketing Center of Excellence, where she has a focus on mobile ad operations and key mobile initiatives such as HTML best practices, mobile creative guidelines, discrepancies, and the future of the cookie. In addition, Sabrina leads the IAB’s Local Committee, exploring the opportunities that the use of location unlocks for mobile advertising. Prior to the IAB, Sabrina worked at Microsoft Advertising on the Atlas Media Console where she became a product expert providing technical support to clients and managing bug escalations. She can be reached on Twitter @SabrinaAlimi.

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