ANA/4A's Blast IAB's 'Extremist' Rhetoric

In an uncharacteristic breaking of the U.S. advertising trade association ranks, the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) and the American Association of Advertising Agencies (4A's) this morning issued a joint statement blasting remarks made last week by Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) CEO David Cohen characterizing Washington lawmakers as "extremists" hellbent on destroying the ad industry.

"In an era of inflamed political tensions and growing division, the art of nuance and listening is quickly jettisoned for the short-term sugar highs of polarizing political rhetoric," reads the ANA/4A's statement, adding, "And while polarizing political rhetoric might produce short-term results, it does nothing to achieve the kind of balanced, lasting consensus needed to effectuate real solutions."



The IAB's Cohen made the incendiary remarks during the bureau's annual conference, and it make headlines across industry trade publications, including MediaPost.

In their joint statement, the ANA and 4A's said they "reject the acerbic tone, texture and prescriptions offered by the IAB at their recent ALM conference.

"Our industry was built on a foundation of responsible marketing. While we, as an industry, may not always get it right, we do know when we must lead to restore balance – especially when we have created the conditions for our industry to be 'out of balance."

In its place, the advertiser and agency trade associations offered ideal examples of industry leadership, including:

  • The Media Ratings Council (MRC), a non-profit industry self-regulatory body, was established in 1963 at the request of the US Congress to provide audits and accreditation for various media measurement products.

  • The Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative (CFBAI) was a self-regulatory body created in 2006 to improve the landscape of food advertising primarily directed to children. Specifically, our focus was to address issues of obesity and provide guidelines for responsible advertising to children.

  • The Digital Advertising Alliance was a self-regulatory body created in 2009 to ensure that consumers could responsibly take control of ads that were behaviorally targeted and to establish and enforce responsible privacy practices across the industry.

"The common denominators in these examples are 'responsibility' and 'self-regulation.' And these examples – and quite a few more – represent the confluence of all industry bodies to ensure that the total industry response is balanced and works for the best interests of all constituents – most importantly, consumers," the statement continued, emphasizing that the IAB's "posture" is not "sufficiently balanced" and that "it appears to be a tirade against the forces that disagree with our industry.

"Let’s be honest. Our industry is far from perfect. Many of the problems that the IAB cited were because of an imbalanced industry that we all created and supported with our advertising investments. Did we ever utter the issues of 'brand safety' or 'digital ad fraud' ten years ago? Of course not. But it is time for our industry to clean up its messes and present a far more responsible approach to address the issues that are prevalent in our industry."

The statement, which can be read here in its entirety, goes on to emphasize that "privacy is not a 'war' to be won or a 'battle against extremists," and concludes by advocating a more "constructive debate" with lawmakers to resolve legislative and regulatory issues.

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