Top Issues in the Online Advertising Industry: Dave Grimaldi, Executive VP of Public Policy, Interactive Advertising Bureau

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Online advertisers face a host of challenges, ranging from data management to preventing piracy to ensuring consumer privacy.

Bloomberg BNA's Alexis Kramer posed questions to Dave Grimaldi, executive vice president of public policy at the Interactive Advertising Bureau, on the top issues facing the online advertising industry, what steps the IAB plans to take to address them in 2016 and his career path to his present position.

Bloomberg BNA:

What is your professional background? How long have you worked in the online advertising space?

Dave Grimaldi:

I’ve been in Washington D.C. and around politics for my entire career, both in and out of the federal government. Prior to IAB, I was at Pandora Media Inc., where I opened its Washington office and helped the company navigate a number of media, legal and political challenges. It’s an incredible company filled with some of the smartest people I’ll ever know.

Before that I was at the Federal Communications Commission, as chief of staff to Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, who was acting chairwoman for seven months in 2013. We tackled a number of merger reviews and other complex rulemakings, and it was fascinating to see the inner workings of a regulatory entity that is so crucial to the 21st century economy.

And, before the FCC, I was in the House of Representatives in a number of different positions, culminating in my role in Rep. Jim Clyburn’s Majority Whip office. It was during a stretch when Democrats controlled the House, Senate and White House, and we executed on an ambitious agenda that included Wall Street reform, healthcare and climate change legislation.

Bloomberg BNA:

What does the IAB do?


We are involved in a number of different industry-facing initiatives, and the organization is rapidly growing. IAB empowers the media and marketing industries to thrive in the digital economy, and is comprised of nearly 800 leading media and technology companies that are responsible for selling, delivering, and optimizing digital advertising or marketing campaigns. Together, they account for 86 percent of online advertising in the U.S.

Working with our member companies, IAB develops technical standards and best practices and fields critical research on interactive advertising, while also educating brands, agencies, and the wider business community on the importance of digital marketing.

Bloomberg BNA:

What policy areas does the IAB focus on?


Consumer privacy is always going to be at the top of the list. If the online advertising industry has learned anything in the last decade, it’s that consumers put a premium on privacy, transparency and choice in the digital world. IAB’s member companies take that seriously.

The responsibility we have to consumers is what led to our leadership in developing the Digital Advertising Alliance, which exists to provide consumers meaningful notice and choice about interest-based advertising in real time. That mission, in addition to other IAB-led initiatives, informs our policy positioning in Washington, as we strive to ensure that lawmakers and federal regulators understand our industry and what it provides to the overall economy.

Turning to international policy, the IAB is active around the world via our interconnected offices in 45 countries. Because of the inherently global nature of Internet-based businesses, IAB is coordinating a comprehensive policy strategy with our foreign counterparts to more effectively advocate for the digital advertising industry in international policymaking arenas.

We are also pushing for the modernization of trade agreements to better serve the needs of the industry. IAB supports the Trans-Pacific Partnership and will continue advocating for its expeditious passage through Congress.

There are a host of other topics in which we stay active on behalf of our members. Patent reform is one of them, and as publishers we care deeply about First Amendment issues. Further, by virtue of our companies working with data in a very significant way, data breach and ECPA are front and center. We also work with the Food and Drug Administration on certain issues, and get involved in state legislative action as needed.

Bloomberg BNA:

What are the IAB’s recent initiatives?


We are very proud of two of new components of IAB that have recently blossomed—IAB’s Technology Lab and the Data Center of Excellence.

IAB’s Tech Lab is an independent, international, nonprofit research and development consortium charged with producing and helping companies implement global industry technical standards. It is comprised of digital publishers and ad technology firms, as well as marketers, agencies, and other companies with interests in the interactive marketing arena.

The Data Center of Excellence will help advertisers and marketers operationalize their data assets while maintaining quality, transparency, accountability, and consumer protection. It will fund industry research projects, provide benchmarks, create actionable insights on data management across platforms, host data-focused events, and develop industry best practices.

These two new entities come on the heels of another major expansion: the creation of the IAB Education Foundation, which is a 501(c)(3) organization created to increase racial, gender, economic, and cultural diversity, as well as close the skills gap in the digital media and advertising industries. The foundation develops curricula and certification programs in fast-growing sectors of industry employment, including digital advertising sales, advertising operations and data analytics, and then provide the courses at little or no cost to qualified training partners, such as community colleges and workforce development programs.

Bloomberg BNA:

Are there specific issues the IAB plans to work on this year?


At the moment, a great amount of industry legal concern centers on issues that are under the purview of the Trustworthy Accountability Group (TAG), an accountability program created to fight intellectual property piracy, malware and fraud.

IAB is working closely with TAG to develop best practice guidelines that impact all sides of buy and sell equation, and we will work with the organization’s leadership in lockstep as we take steps to eradicate these nefarious activities.

One way that our advocacy in Washington may evolve in 2016 is through the Federal Communications Commission's Open Internet Order. Also, the FCC has indicated that it will embark on a privacy-related agenda this year, but it is too soon to know what Chairman Wheeler and the four commissioners are contemplating, and whether a rulemaking is part of any planning.

IAB is eager to serve as a resource for the FCC, as our knowledge of robust privacy protections and user controls is could prove useful as the Commission crafts a path forward.

If the online advertising industry has learned anything in the last decade, it’s that consumers put a premium on privacy, transparency and choice in the digital world.

Bloomberg BNA:

What's your view on industry self-regulation?


Self-regulation is a guiding principle of IAB, and we are in a never-ending open dialogue with our members on how to improve the program and meet evolving consumer expectations.

In creating the Digital Advertising Alliance, we led the industry in bringing notice and choice out of the privacy policy and up front for consumers at a relevant moment in time. Our continued leadership and involvement with the DAA, and our new commitment to TAG, is emblematic of our ongoing belief that self-regulation is without a doubt the best way to accomplish change and guidance for our industry.

Bloomberg BNA:

What's your view on the FTC’s recent guidance on native advertising?


We are engaged in a constructive dialogue with the FTC and are eager to continue watching how our members are implementing the Commission’s guidance.

For more than two years, IAB has led the charge on ensuring that consumers get the disclosures they need to be able to distinguish between what is paid advertising and what is publisher editorial content. As our members implement the FTC’s guidance, we will see how it impacts their ability to provide the disclosures we all agree are necessary.

There is some language in what the FTC released that could potentially do more harm than good by limiting our ability to provide consumers with the disclosures we all agree they deserve, but we are studying it closely and gathering feedback from our companies. We are eager to continue working closely with the Commission to find a long-lasting balance going forward.