IAB Tech Lab isn’t about Tech, T.A.G. isn’t just about Fraud, and L.E.A.N. isn’t about Ad Blocking

A couple of months ago I was asked jokingly if I was going to go write a book when I departed the IAB. No book. But these last few years are chapters in 20 years of digital publishing, and since the IAB is an industry body working to service an industry, I’ll share some thoughts here in posts.

In 2013, on the heels of site redesigns for better advertising and user experiences with development burn rates reaching into the millions, cleaning Bots from publishers “sourced” traffic, and fresh in Ad Tech data and (in)efficiencies, I started having conversations around joining the industry body, the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB).

As a technologist in digital publishing since Mosaic days, we deployed industry standards from IAB, the Online Publishers Association (OPA), W3C, and others. This proved costly years later. Creating a responsive site for mobile and desktop is one thing, creating responsive sites for multiple “standard” display sizes was absurd. My development burn rate against developing two, sometimes multiple sets of standards, was high and we only had to blame ourselves in the publishing world. This was mostly because we felt we could not cohabitate in trade association membership with Tech companies and portals. So traditional publishers wanting their own sandbox to play in created competing standards under the Online Publishers Association as an example. I was part of these traditional publishing companies at the time; I wish we made better decisions. Fast forward when it comes to bottom line expenses, in my mind it did not matter which set we developed against, we just needed one set of standards.

In 2013, the IAB was also publicly tackling Ad Fraud with the launch of the Traffic of Good Intent Task Force. The IAB was ahead of the other trade associations on this problem, partly because they allowed advertising networks and programmatic platform companies into the sub-membership criteria giving bots a forum for discussion. This was a good thing.

Coming from the commercial sector myself, trying to understand the acronyms of all of the trade bodies is its own Lumascape drinking game. I believe most of us, technical executives and business executives especially in tech, would roll their eyes towards trade associations and “standards”. After all, the internet was about disruption of the status quo in digital marketing and publishing. And the longest tenured, most loathed and beloved “standard”, the 300×250 banner, has been the catalyst to massive economic growth and a thriving small business middle class of digital marketing and publishing. However, many of us wanted quicker turnaround of support and solutions from the industry center, but we were not necessarily excited to jump in and do anything about it was my observation. Giving up equity, or ownership, in a hot market post recession had quite a bit to do with it. But the opportunity to advance technical standards and strengthen one set of utility and be asked to jump in and figure out the path forward to reducing criminal activity in a porous supply chain does not come along very often. And I felt the industry could use more leadership on the execution of products in the center as opposed to just thought leadership and more talk about the problems.

We now have the IAB Tech Lab, a separately formed global 501c6 non-profit, and the Trustworthy Accountability Group (TAG) a joint venture of the IAB, ANA and 4A’s, as structures to handle the challenges of a maturing supply chain. We also have a LEAN DEAL, and scoring on the way. Discussing user experience with sales executives, especially after the recession years in news organizations, I honestly never thought would happen given the market pivot to volume and the need to add “more” to stay afloat. It was very constructive, and healthy.

Finally, I encountered some great folks at the IAB, and other orgs, whose contributions are not in the spotlight all that often, but their exceptional dedication to customer service was only lacking product ingenuity. In many cases, the collaboration was phenomenal and support was well received internally and externally.

The industry now has non for profit newcos and programs to grow with the scaling of a digital market. All companies entering the market should leverage these resources. Make the most of them as they are the industry to drive forward.