Recently in IAB Global Category

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Ernesto Gonzalez, founder and president of IAB Caribbean, shares a few of his impressions from the recent Interact Congress and IAB Global Summit in Barcelona. In the dialogue below, we chat about the ways that Europe inspires him and the ways in which markets of all sizes can propel the digital marketing industry forward.

Mary Block: Did you find the presentations in Europe applicable to you and your market?

Ernesto Gonzalez: Definitely. Everything was really useful. Every day I learned a lot about the different countries and their issues. It doesn’t matter if a person was from Hungary, Poland, Norway, Chile Russia, the U.S. Spain, or Puerto Rico, we are in the same situation in terms of opportunities and growth. Maybe in some countries there are more men than women, for instance, but mostly I found that we are all in the same boat, with the same problems.

When we sat down to discuss the situations of our markets, they were quite similar. The growth of “social” use, for instance, is everywhere; it’s not just the situation in Europe. Mobile advertising, the way that people are using tablets and iPads and the growth of these types of devices is something that is also happening in Puerto Rico and the U.S. It was interesting to see how global these situations are.

What differed were the strategies for approaching these opportunities: how to approach, how to react and teach the market how to use this medium. It was very interesting to see how a brand like Heineken, when they started a social media marketing effort to get to a million fans, they got the idea to send girls to give hugs to people in bars. They were wearing brand t-shirts and saying, “Thank you for helping us get to a million fans.” So it was quite interesting to see how they approached the social media opportunity—connecting to people in bars in the offline world. It was really funny! They showed a great video—ugly guys, common-looking guys getting hugs from these beautiful ladies, and they were all like “What’s going on here? Why is she hugging me?”

I think they’re very open-minded in Europe. They’re open to trying risky things. I think in other markets, people are less inclined to take risks. I think (Europeans) have a more open view of the world. You can see it in the advertising and in the TV there. But again, that’s my perspective.

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Roberto Castro, Televisión Nacional de Chile (L) and Ernesto Gonzalez, IAB Carribean (R) at IAB Global Summit e Interact 2011. Courtesy IAB Latm.

MB: What struck you as particularly open-minded?

EG: Well, when I say open-minded, I mean that they really try things that I don’t think corporate America would try. The ads are less conservative. They’re definitely more sexually explicit. They’re willing to try more risky things in Europe than in the U.S., and I think that’s something that we, in these other markets, should remember. In these media, we really have to look beyond the traditional things that we’ve always tried to do.

MB: What have you been doing since you got home to Puerto Rico?

EG: This week I’m trying to go through all of my photos and notes from the trip. There were a lot of things happening! First there was the global meeting. At the global meeting you see people from all over the world, and we all sit down and start talking about how to help our industry, and you find out that we are all part of a global media with the same situations. One may have a bigger market or a smaller market, but at the end of the day, it’s the same situation.

Then I went to the Europe elections. That’s something that not many people have the opportunity to participate in. Frankly I think I was the only one (from outside Europe) that got to participate in the agenda board general assembly of IAB Europe. I really appreciated the opportunity to see how they are organizing the whole region of Europe. That was something that I envisioned a long time ago—when I asked permission to lead IAB Puerto Rico, I saw what Europe was doing. That was four years ago, that I asked them to get IAB Caribbean in place. Puerto Rico being such a small market, I said “We should do IAB Caribbean, like Europe is doing.” So we were the second collective that was created. Then came IAB Latam, an online community, which is still in progress.

MB: What is IAB Latam?

EG: IAB Latam is a networking site that we in the region of Latin America contribute to and have a presence within. I’d like it to grow into more than just a website. If you go to the site now you’ll see pictures of Interact 2011. So in the future we’re looking toward having IAB Europe, IAB Caribbean, IAB Latam, and who knows, maybe IAB Asia!

And all this happened because, a few years ago, I participated in the general assembly of IAB Europe. It was quite interesting to see how they’ve grown from 2008 to 2011—I saw huge growth not only in terms of the countries that are joining the effort, but also in terms of the sponsors that they’re getting. Every year there are more and more sponsors joining the region of IAB Europe, and they are organizing in terms of policies and how they’re working. Because, as you know, they’re based in Belgium, and they’re working with policymakers to make sure that the legislation doesn’t affect the industry negatively. So they’re doing a great job, especially for such a young organization.

I was impressed by how democratic the IAB Europe elections were. Everyone was allowed to say so if they wanted to be a part of the board. The elections were really instructive for me. I think we can learn a lot from them. They have some strong missions for 2012: they want to “Promote, Protect, and Prove” that they are a commanding force in the region. They want to promote the Internet media industry. They want to protect the industry, meaning preventing legislation that will negatively affect the European region. And they want to prove that they are the leaders of the Internet marketing field. For me it was a great experience.

MB: Do you feel that the things you learned at the Congress and at the Global Summit are things that you can fully introduce to the Caribbean market?

EG: Oh definitely! They have a white paper, Mobile Media; Consumer Insights Across Europe, that I found particularly useful. Of course they always say that the mobile market in Europe is more advanced than any other markets. I think that’s true, but still in its early stages. Maybe the penetration is bigger, but in terms of advertising, you know, they’re moving, but I don’t think it’s like, “Wow, they are way, way, way ahead of us!” You know?

MB: So these insights are applicable across a global spectrum. It’s not like Europe is so far ahead that other markets can’t relate and share information.

EG: No, no no. I think it’s completely applicable. I don’t see them as Pluto and me as Mars. We’re much closer in terms of opportunity. Again, I find it’s the same situation requiring a different approach.

MB: How would your approach differ? For instance, is there anything, strategy-wise, that they can do in Europe right now that we can’t do in Latin America or in the United States?

EG: No. I don’t think they’re doing anything over there that we can’t do over here. That’s my way of seeing it. I can apply everything I learned there about how they’re approaching their market. Definitely. The implementation might differ from market to market. But they’re talking about things that we’re talking about on this side of the world: gaming, real-time web, TV and how it’s moving—that will be the next big thing. They’re talking about mobile, locals like Foursquare—the multi-faceted communication links. Again, it’s the way that creative approaches these opportunities that differs. I think (Europeans) have really good taste and an open mindset.

MB: Do you feel that the various global perspectives present in Barcelona were utilized fully?

EG: Completely. Completely. We networked and found that we shared the same problems, and learned from each other about how to approach them. It felt like one big community. Good ideas came from the smallest countries and the biggest countries. Puerto Rico is a market of roughly 4 million people; the Caribbean market is still not that big. But I sat down and talked with people from Spain and Mexico, which are huge markets. We can still collaborate and share ideas.

MB: What’s one idea that really stands out in your mind from your collaborations with larger and smaller markets?

EG: Well, at this event I really felt like more of a spectator, because it was Europe’s event, but I can tell you that in our meetings, we always push to exchange ideas. For instance, at the meeting in New York, our country was the one who really supported this IAB Latam effort, and pushed larger countries like Mexico and Chile to do it. That’s part of the global idea: the effort and the energy can come from anywhere, not just from the big ones.

So what I really appreciated from this event and from the U.S. events is the opportunity to talk and to share ideas. For instance, it was so interesting to speak to the marketing manager from Heineken, which is based in The Netherlands, as you know. It was great to see their approach to online and social media. It was also interesting to hear from a company like Orange, another great presentation. Their marketing director spoke about mobile marketing and about TV and how TV is moving.

MB: What was the thing that you were most excited about telling other people when you got back to San Juan from Barcelona?

EG: The first thing I thought was, “Wow. We need to keep working as hard for our industry as they are in Europe.” I’m in the process of planning a global event here, and I can’t wait to invite all of them to come to Puerto Rico in March! I’ve invited speakers to come from Spain, Hungary, and all over Europe and the U.S. to fly to the Caribbean and join us at our big event in March. So I feel that I really need to work hard and harder to make it a great event. I would be thrilled for my friends from Europe to come by and see this side of the world.

MB: What do you hope to be able to share with them in Puerto Rico?

EG: Basically I want them to see what I’m seeing—that no matter how big or small the market is, we are one community. We can all help each other.

I hope that they’ll learn from our culture the way that I learned from theirs. Some people think that the Caribbean is just beaches, rum, and parties, but we are a well-educated people with a strong economy and good facilities. We’re much more than beaches and rum—we’re a bridge to the New World. Their ancestors, when they came to the New World, stopped first in the Caribbean. My goal is to show that Puerto Rico and the Caribbean are still that bridge into markets on this side of the world.

For instance, I’ve encountered some businesses that don’t have any efforts in the U.S. or in Latin America, they’re only focused in Europe. I wondered why, and I realized that they need to have this link. They need to meet people like us to develop links to help their businesses grow. I think the IAB can help these companies to establish themselves and create this economic interchange. They need us and we need them. I think it’s a big step in the right direction to improve networking between the Old World and the New World, and the IAB is making that possible.

Originally from Miami, Mary Block is a writer currently living in New York City, and a member of the IAB Global group on LinkedIn. She can be reached on twitter @mary_e_block.

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Bianca Loew, IAB Mexico

In the IAB’s inaugural “IAB Global” interview I chat with Bianca Loew, the leader of IAB Mexico. Bianca, a native of Germany who’s found a home in the Distrito Federal, was IAB Mexico’s first employee. She helped to grow it from a scrappy startup with eight members in 2005 to the robust, 140-member collective that it is today. Bianca shares insights she’s gained from developing standards and strategies in an emerging market, as well as her hopes and goals for our global dialogue.

Mary Block: So how did you end up in Mexico?

Bianca Loew: Oh well, that’s a long story. I came for the first time when I was 19 years old. I was working as an au pair for a couple of months in Mexico City. Then I came back for an exchange program from my university in Germany, and started working in the dot com world in 1999. I started working for some startups. After I finished university in Germany I was offered a six-month program in Mexico, and I never left.

MB: How long has it been since the six-month project?

BL: Almost nine years. It’s been good! Mexico has treated me very well.

MB: When you went to Mexico initially, was it to work with IAB?

BL: No, I didn’t know the IAB existed at that point. I started working with the IAB in 2005, when the IAB in Mexico was founded. It was an initiative of Yahoo and Prodigy MSN, the local MSN here. So they hired me to set up the IAB in Mexico, and I actually never planned to stayed that long, but now it’s been more than six years with this adventure! It’s been great.

MB: So you’ve always been the head of the IAB Mexico office.

BL: Yep! I’ve been here since day one. I was IAB Mexico’s first employee. At that point, Greg Stuart was managing the IAB in the US, and he told me that IAB Mexico was the first IAB to have an official license from the IAB in the US, to carry the name and the logo. So there were some IABs before us, but IAB Mexico, I’m told, was the first one with a signed licensing agreement. So we’re very proud of that!

MB: Where were you before you were asked to be the head of the IAB?

BL: Right before then I was working for Solutions Abroad, which is an Internet company that caters to the foreign market here in Mexico. And before that I was involved in some startups: I was a marketing manager at Submarino, which is like the Amazon of Latin America, and I started—you know Babycenter.com? I started Bbmundo.com, which is the same thing as Babycenter, but for Mexico. I started that with Martha Debayle, who’s very famous here in Mexico, and I was there for a year and a half. But I think the most important step in my career was the IAB itself. It’s been six years. I’m thirty-five years old, so still pretty young, but before that I was trying things out here and there. There was no place that I stayed longer than a year and a half. But I’ve been here for six and a half years, so that speaks for itself. It’s been a great leap in my career, and the IAB Mexico, for me, is like a child that I brought to life and helped to grow up here in Mexico. So there’s a very strong emotional attachment to it for me.

MB: What would you say that the primary initiatives of the IAB in Mexico are?

BL: Currently, we focus on three pillars. One is education: everything to do with educating marketers, agencies, and people within the industry itself. The second pillar is research: like the IAB in the US and other IABs, we generate several studies throughout the year. The third is best practices and guidelines, where all the standards fall in.

I think our most important project is education. Our IAB Conecta event is our annual congress, which we’ve been doing for six years now. It’s growing every year: nowadays it’s an event that 1,000 people attend. We think it’s definitely the most important event in the region. I better not say that out loud, though—Apple might think that theirs is the most important or something. It’s definitely a very important event, though, and for Mexico the most significant one. I think one of the things that makes the IAB Conecta event different is that half of the audience are marketers, primarily Mexican companies. We invite 500 marketers, so that practically guarantees that we fulfill our mission, which is to educate and to bring more advertising dollars to the table.

MB: Who are some marketers that attend?

BL: Well of course we try to go as high as possible, so it’s the main brands here in Mexico: Unilever, Proctor & Gamble, Coca-Cola, Dell. And of course some local companies, but mainly it’s big brands. Brand directors, marketing directors, and CMOs attend, so it’s very exciting—half of the audience is marketing people. Our speakers are always international—we have speakers from the IAB board in the U.S. and some speakers from Europe. So that’s a way that we differentiate ourselves from other Mexican events. Often with regional events, it’s the same people speaking from local companies. So we like to bring in talent from abroad. Randall Rothenberg is going to be here this summer, which we’re really looking forward to. It’s the most important event of the year for us, and I’m very happy that we’ve received such a great response to it from the U.S. and from other countries.

Another education program that we have is our diplomado in marketing interactivo, which is a four-month certificate program that we design and that we teach. We have an alliance with the Tec de Monterrey, which is one of the most prestigious universities in Mexico. The course is in its ninth generation, so we’ve now graduated about 330 people.

MB: That’s fantastic. What sorts of things are in the course curriculum?

BL: There’s a legal part, there’s creativity, market intelligence, online media planning, online strategy integration, search marketing, mobile marketing…so it’s a crash course in the most important aspects of online advertising. Every module has a different professor, usually an industry expert from one of our member companies.

MB: And there are a lot of people within the IAB Mexico that want to teach?

BL: Yeah! They love doing it. We have a very high level of interest in teaching the course. And we’ve negotiated a revenue share with the university, so it’s actually a revenue stream for us.

MB: That’s a really great idea.

BL: Another one of our education initiatives is “Digital Days,” which we started last year. They’re one-day, crash course seminars that we host in our own space—we have a 30-seat auditorium. We have at least two each month, and they’ve been very popular lately.

MB: Who generally attends? Is there a difference between the diplomado course and the Digital Days in terms of their students?

BL: Well, the students in the diplomado course are really serious about it.

MB: Right. And are they undergraduate students, or people already established in the industry?

BL: It’s mostly people with established careers in the industry. It’s only open, I believe, to people that have a communications or marketing or business degree already. But everyone is welcome to attend the Digital Days. It’s mainly people from member companies, clients, advertisers, agency people. It’s a very mixed crowd.

MB: In the six years that you’ve been at the IAB, have you noticed any major shifts in within the Mexican marketplace?

BL: Oh, it’s a big difference. In the beginning, when we started the IAB and we started talking to advertisers and marketers, they weren’t even listening to us. They were like, “OK, sure” and showing us the door. They saw (digital advertising) as a sort of crazy fashion thing going on. Nowadays, it doesn’t matter which company you talk to—they all know digital is crucial for their business. Everyone has digital on their agenda. Nowadays the CMO of Coca-Cola calls us up. He didn’t do that five years ago.

There’s a lot more interest; there are more players now in the market now, as there are in the U.S. and everywhere. It’s more advanced now, there’s more media. There definitely are more users. For example, this year there are 5 million more Internet users in Mexico than there were a year ago. So now we’re talking about a market of 40 million people. When we started it was about 20.

Mobile is really starting to take off, and mobile was something that people weren’t even mentioning 2, 3 years ago. Now “mobile” is the big buzz word. Even though the numbers are still very small, everybody knows that, especially in the emerging markets, mobile will be crucial. Today, not everybody here in Mexico has a computer or access to a computer, but everybody has a mobile phone. There has been a big, big movement over the past 6 years, and I feel fortunate to have been a part of it.

MB: Have you seen any real challenges to the growth of the interactive advertising industry in Mexico?

BL: I don’t know if this is specific to Mexico, but probably specific to the emerging markets: you don’t have 80% of the population online. It’s about 35% right now. The broadband connections are not that advanced, not as powerful as in Europe or the U.S., although it’s not modem dial-up anymore. The companies are only now starting to offer big data plans. So that’s definitely been an obstacle. And of course there’s resistance to change, like in other markets. People are comfortable with what they’ve been doing for 20 years and they don’t want to change it.

One of the biggest problems for Mexico, probably the biggest barrier to online advertising, has been the power of the TV broadcast companies. Televisa and TV Azteca practically rule the market. I mean, they have their digital sites as well, but they’re very very small in comparison to TV, and they attract more than 50, almost 60% of the advertising dollars. They’re very powerful. They have a lot of power with the advertisers and with the agencies. For other media, it’s very difficult to compete. But I have to say, our IAB president right now, Juan Saldivar, is from Televisa Interactive, so he’s running their digital site. So there’s a good side to this, in that he’s leading the Interactive Advertising Bureau with lots of success.

MB: So some integration and progress is being made.

BL: Oh yeah. Absolutely. Everybody has their digital strategy, including Televisa.

MB: Do you find that privacy is a big issue in Mexico?

BL: Not as much as in the U.S, at least not right now. It’s not a main subject on our agenda. We are more focused on research and education and getting standards out there. Which I think you’ll find when you talk to other folks in Latin America. We don’t have anybody in congress; we don’t do lobbying. We know that at some point we have to tap into the whole privacy issue, but it’s not the priority of the board right now. We don’t have these threats that you guys have in the U.S. right now, but it’s important to mention that we are closely following all the happenings in the U.S. and in Europe, so we know when we have to react and take action.

MB: How many members does IAB Mexico have?

BL: Right now we have 142; that’s the latest number I’ve heard. And we started in 2005 with eight members. In February 2010 we reached the hundred-member mark, and now there are 140. Every year is the new best year for us in terms of members and revenue. So there has been some good growth.

MB: What are you hearing consistently from your members in terms of their needs? Are there issues that you’re able to address, or that you’re working on being able to address?

BL: We’ve picked up on the Rising Stars program that you guys in the U.S. are doing. We’re really pushing it to the market because there’s definitely a need that has been identified. The program has had a lot of echo here in Mexico. We have lots of request from our members for new studies. Additionally, I would love to do a cross-media study soon, maybe one like the TV + Online study that they’ve been doing successfully in the U.K.

IAB-Mexico-Team-Pic.jpgThe IAB Mexico team


MB: Does IAB Mexico host an award event, or any other events outside the professional development events you’ve mentioned?

BL: Yeah! We have the Conecta Awards—Premios IAB Conecta. They’re similar to the IAB Mixx Awards in the U.S.—we’re working with the same criteria that you guys use in the U.S. We’ve been running the awards now for three years, and in this third year we had 197 campaigns registered. That’s over 100% more than last year, when we had about 90 campaigns. So the awards are growing each year, and we’re also trying to improve the methodology of how the judges qualify the campaigns. We just had the awards in April.

MB: Who won the Best in Show award?

BL: Well, the Best in Show was not given. We’re very, very demanding. We’re not choosing a Best in Show just to say we have a Best in Show, but because they really deserve it. But the Agency of the Year was Grupo W, which is a Mexican agency. So they won the Agency of the Year Award for the second time. Our Marketer of the Year was Unilever for the second time. Grupo W and Ogilvy were the two agencies that really stuck out.

MB: What are you most hoping to learn from this new global exchange?

BL: Specifically, I’m looking forward to reading studies that have been successful that other locations have done. And measurements and standards—I think we have a long way to go in terms of standards, and of course I know what the U.S. and U.K. are doing, but it would be great to know what others are doing. I think IAB Mexico can be a great example of education initiatives for others.

I think it’s going to be great for all the IABs to learn and to get a better sense of what the others are doing. Of course there are some IABs that talk more to specific others, especially if they’re located near each other, but I think it’s great that the U.S. is taking the initiative to get everybody together, to send out the questionnaire. I think there are a lot of IABs that have just started that can take advantage of the experience of others. And of course I’m curious to see what other IABs are doing, and to be inspired by them.

*Key links from IAB Mexico:

  • Media Consumption Study 2010 an annual study to explore the internet habits and behavior of Mexicans online (Spanish)

  • Ad Effectiveness Study 2010 a study undertaken with Dynamic Logic to measure the effectiveness of an online campaign by Procter and Gamble (Spanish)

  • Advertisers Survey an annual survey of advertisers in Mexico about their plans for the forthcoming year (Spanish)

Bianca Loew, General Manager of IAB Mexico, can be reached on Twitter @Bianca_IABmx and @IABMexico.

Originally from Miami, Mary Block is a writer currently living in New York City, and a member of the IAB Global group on LinkedIn. She can be reached on twitter @mary_block.