IAB opens general membership to agencies, broadening tent amid digital upheaval

Dive Brief:

  • The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) has expanded its general membership to advertising and media agencies, according to an announcement.
  • The move bumps the segment up from associate member status, giving agencies the voting rights and privileges conferred to other areas of the industry that work with the trade group. That means agencies now have the chance to secure representation on the voting board and Center of Excellence team, as well as access to legal and public policy resources.
  • Dentsu, GroupM, Omnicom Media Group, Publicis Media, IPG Mediabrands and Horizon Media are among the firms that have already applied for general membership. The news suggests that the agency category could play a larger role in setting the digital agenda as marketers contend with shifting mandates around privacy and marketing effectiveness.

Dive Insight:

The IAB, touting its bona fides as the online advertising industry’s only “big tent,” is angling to further shore up that positioning by welcoming agencies on as general members, an upgrade from their past associate status. Brands, publishers, tech platforms and vendors represent other areas of the IAB’s membership, which encompasses more than 700 companies.

The trade group works to establish self-governance standards for the digital economy, a task that has become more complex amid a proliferation of data-privacy laws and challenges to ad targeting and measurement stemming from the deprecation of third-party cookies and other key identifiers. The IAB is affiliated with the IAB Tech Lab, which develops technology solutions and products that try to ensure quality and privacy-compliant digital marketing. Members also pay dues, meaning that the organization is tapping into a potential new revenue stream in extending more opportunities to agencies.

In the announcement, the IAB positioned its move as helping to level the playing field at a time of intense upheaval for marketing. Additional perks for general members include access to primary IAB research, exclusive rights to leverage IAB Learning & Development resources, private research deep dives and one-to-one access to staff experts.

“The transformative changes happening now demand that agencies have an equal seat at the table. They need equal access to IAB and IAB Tech Lab resources, the ability to join boards and make the critical decisions that drive the industry forward,” David Cohen, CEO of IAB, said in a press statement. “The key to success in today’s environment is collaboration.”

For agencies, the decision could be a way to assert more influence as business picks up. After a brutal first year of the pandemic marked by client pullbacks, ad holding groups have seen demand rebound, a trend complemented by a surging digital market that is expected to remain healthy in 2022. Brand clients are also contending with a number of headwinds and technology considerations that might demand more outside help to navigate. Many of the large agency networks have recently reported stronger results compared to even their pre-pandemic figures.

The IAB is expanding its purview as other trade associations related to the internet economy wither. The Internet Association, a once-influential body centered around Silicon Valley, dissolved last week due to financial troubles and intergroup conflicts defining strategy around policy issues like antitrust, Politico reported.

It’s possible the IAB has encountered similar problems. A report in AdExchanger last year outlined mounting tensions between the group’s smaller members and tech giants like Facebook and Google, which are its largest. The piece also pointed to rising membership costs as a point of frustration.