IAB Names David Cohen As New CEO; Randall Rothenberg Moves To Exec Chair Role

David Cohen, CEO & Randall Rothenberg, executive chairman, IAB

The Interactive Advertising Bureau has a new chief exec.

David Cohen, who joined the IAB as president in March (three days before the White House declared COVID-19 a national emergency), is stepping into the top role, the trade org said Wednesday. He’ll also serve as CEO of the IAB Tech Lab, the body responsible for honing and developing ad industry standards.

Randall Rothenberg, who held the CEO position for 14 years, will become executive chairman of the IAB through 2022 and report to Cohen. Rothenberg will be full time through the end of the year focusing on public policy, supply chain transparency and D2C brands, after which he’ll transition to part time.

Cohen has his work cut out for him. The ad industry is dealing with multiple existential crises, from the future of identity to brand safety to the ongoing pandemic and the faltering economy.

His top three priorities at the helm will be measurement and attribution, identity and privacy and devising solutions to keep the open internet, well, open. He’s also keeping his eye on the TV and video ecosystem, which has been transformed by the massive uptick in content consumption during the pandemic.

Of keenest interest to the ad industry right now, however, is the question of identity and addressability as third-party cookies go away and other platforms, including Apple, make their own privacy-focused chess moves.

The IAB is angling, particularly via the Tech Lab, to represent the business interests of companies trying to figure out identity solutions for a post-cookie world.

At the same time, though, other consensus bodies, namely the World Wide Web Consortium, are hosting parallel discussions largely dominated by the browsers and the platforms that own them.

“What we can do, as the IAB and the Tech Lab, is to bring a whole host of constituents together at the table to hash this out,” said Cohen, who noted that the Tech Lab is “very engaged in W3C activities.”

In that vein, the Tech Lab is focusing its efforts on evangelizing Project Rearc, a cross-industry initiative that aims to create a framework to rearchitect the way in which digital marketing functions.

Probably the biggest misunderstanding that still persists about Rearc is that its purpose is to develop a single identity solution for the industry, but that was never the case, Rothenberg said.

The plan was always to try and create a common understanding of identity across the industry, to develop principles for how the future state of privacy-safe identity could work and then to ideally create standards based on those principles that companies could use to develop solutions.

Another misperception about Rearc is that it’s moving too slowly, Cohen said, but there’s actually been good progress since the initiative was announced at IAB’s Annual Leadership Meeting in February.

“Building consensus across industries is simply a slow process,” Cohen said.

There have been many ongoing meetings between technology companies, buy-side players and the major device and browser companies on the road toward developing the Rearc guidelines, and The Trade Desk has said it plans to use Rearc principles to underpin the next version of its Unified ID.

“We need The Trade Desks and the AppNexuses, which then became the Xandrs, and the Googles and the Facebooks to help drive the solutions, and it’s a very iterative process, with a lot of back and forth,” Rothenberg said. “But it’s not just about getting our individual member companies and customers in the room; we also need other worthy trade bodies and NGOs.”

A recent example is the newly launched Partnership for Responsible Addressable Media (PRAM), an industrywide initiative that brings together trade orgs, advertisers, agencies, publishers and ad tech companies. The purpose of PRAM is to help create new digital media standards that safeguard privacy and the user experience without blowing up the digital advertising ecosystem in the process.

Rothenberg called PRAM “almost like a commercial mirror of the W3C,” where he says publishers and advertisers are woefully underrepresented.

“It’s like a tap on the shoulder to say, hey, folks, don’t forget about us,” he said. “We act as a balance to what’s going on over there, just as they act as a balance for what we do.”

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