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IAB Ushers in New Era: David Cohen Named IAB CEO; Randall Rothenberg Named Executive Chair

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The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), the national trade association for the digital media and marketing industries, announced the appointment of David Cohen, its current President, as Chief Executive Officer (CEO), effective September 15, succeeding Randall Rothenberg, who will remain at IAB as Executive Chair through 2022.

“In less than a year as President of IAB, David Cohen has vastly increased the size of our media marketplaces, brought an unprecedented number of industry captains into our leadership councils, transformed the timeliness of our strategic initiatives, and injected new enthusiasm into our already energetic leadership team,” Rothenberg said, in announcing the change. “He is a true leader with the steadiness, strategic insights, and experience necessary to take IAB and the digital marketing and media industries through the economic recovery and ultimately to the next level of growth. The Board and I felt strongly that there was no reason to wait. He should be our CEO now.”

“As the industry continues to face some of its biggest challenges, we rely on IAB to bring us together, tackle the tough questions, and develop real, actionable solutions,” said Rik Van der Kooi, Corporate Vice President at Microsoft Advertising and Interim Chair of IAB Board of Directors. “In this next chapter, we’ll still be able to rely on Randall’s wisdom and counsel, and we’ll have all the benefits and tremendous strengths David brings to the table. Everybody wins — especially IAB members.”

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In his new role, Cohen will serve as CEO of both IAB and its separate, affiliated, global trade association devoted to the development of industry technical standards, IAB Tech Lab, which is led by Dennis Buchheim. He will report to the IAB Board of Directors, which is chaired by Van der Kooi. The President and CEO of National Public Media, Gina Garrubbo, is the IAB Vice-Chair.

A longtime, deeply respected advertising agency executive, Cohen joined IAB only days before the COVID-19 quarantine began. Acclimating to the association, and its 750 member companies entirely via Zoom and telephone, he aggressively reorganized IAB around a set of strategic campaigns aimed at boosting members’ revenue growth, reducing their costs, mitigating their risks, and enhancing their diversity and inclusiveness.

Under Cohen’s leadership, these campaigns have served as the focal point of IAB’s strategic initiatives. They include critical topics such as privacy, addressability, measurement, brand disruption, and emerging consumer trends. Cohen has also served as the lead driver of two vital programs for the digital media and marketing industries – IAB’s Tele://Vision campaign, which seeks to change the way video is bought and sold, and the association’s News Saves Lives campaign, which supports journalism and other content companies by educating brands and agencies on how to use brand safety and brand appropriateness tools without disenfranchising publishers and their historically large audiences.

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Cohen took the reins of two of the industry’s largest marketplaces – the video-centered IAB Digital NewFronts, and the audio-centered IAB Podcast Upfront – and transformed them into virtual events, doubling the number of participating publishers, and quintupling the brand and agency buyer attendance.

Cohen also led IAB’s formation or relaunch of four standing forums exclusively for company leaders: the CRO Council for publisher Chief Revenue Officers; the Agency Leaders Council for senior ad agency executives; the Brand Council for founders and C-suite executives at disruptor and incumbent brands; and the Programmatic & Data Council for ad technology, martech, and data company principals.

“The bottom line in business is results, and David delivers,” said Peter Naylor, VP of Sales, Snap Inc., a longtime member of the trade association’s Board of Directors, and the Founding Chair of the IAB Video Center. “His buy-side experience and perspective, most recently as President of Magna, is invaluable. He has built organizations responsible for purchasing billions of dollars of digital media inventory annually. In just six months, that expertise already has made a difference for all of us in IAB’s membership.”

“I knew that coming to IAB would give me the opportunity to leverage the experience and relationships that I have worked my entire career to develop. Bringing together publishers, brands, and agencies for the common good has been rewarding, and we are just getting started. I continue to be energized by the innovation and entrepreneurial spirit of the media, marketing, and advertising industries,” said Cohen. “But what makes the IAB leadership position so meaningful is that the team here is not just helping individual companies – we’re helping to reshape and grow an entire sector of the economy.”

Cohen continued, “We are boosting our focus on dramatically increasing our brand, agency, and publisher presence across all IAB activities. My buy-side experience has shown me that connecting all those dots is critical for industry collaboration, agenda-setting, and leadership.”

Kirk McDonald, the CEO of the media agency GroupM North America, and previously senior publishing and ad tech executive and IAB Chair, said: “If there’s anything IAB has proved over the past decade, it’s that cross-industry collaboration can solve immense problems and create new opportunities for mutual growth. I look forward to working with David and, to building new opportunities upon the foundation Randall has laid.”

Cohen succeeds Rothenberg, who became CEO of IAB in January 2007, after a distinguished career as a journalist, author, and management consulting executive. During Rothenberg’s 14-year tenure atop the association, internet advertising grew from one of the smallest segments in media-advertising to the largest. IAB tripled its membership, to 750 companies; tripled its staff; and quintupled its annual revenues, to $30 million, becoming one of the largest media trade associations in the United States. The organization also increased its global footprint, and now claims 47 national and regional IABs in every inhabited continent on earth. Rothenberg forged groundbreaking collaborations with multiple trade associations to create the Digital Advertising Alliance (DAA), the lauded cross-industry self-regulatory mechanism to protect consumer privacy on the internet; the Trustworthy Accountability Group (TAG), the cross-industry alliance to eliminate fraudulent inventory in the internet advertising supply chain; and most recently, the Partnership for Responsible and Addressable Media, to preserve advertisers’ access to consumers while protecting consumer privacy.

Rothenberg launched the industry’s first significant Federal and state policy and lobbying unit in Washington, D.C.; led the industry’s first-ever “long tail” and mobile leadership lobbying trips to Capitol Hill, and has testified frequently before Congress and regulatory agencies on the importance of internet advertising to business development.

After spinning off IAB Tech Lab in 2015, Rothenberg helped oversee its growth into the most important technical standardization and applications body in the digital marketing industry, responsible for dozens of essential industry standards like the OpenRTB auction system, the ads.txt (authorized digital sellers) anti-fraud protocol, and the “V-suite” standards that underpin streaming video advertising distribution. He launched the indispensable IAB NewFronts and Podcast Upfront media marketplaces, and the must-attend industry thought leadership conferences, IAB Annual Leadership Meeting, and IAB Direct Brand Summit.

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During Rothenberg’s time leading IAB, the association created the industry’s first Digital Advertising Sales Professional Certification Program, which has certified more than 15,000 sales executives since 2013. Notable primary research led by Rothenberg includes the quadrennial Economic Value of the Interactive Advertising Ecosystem study, which has quantified the impact of digital advertising to the United States economy, and the annual IAB Brand Disruption Report, the breakthrough study that has identified the underpinnings, evolution, and impact of the direct-to-consumer brand revolution on the overall consumer economy, a subject on which he speaks frequently and has advised multiple IAB member companies and their partners. He has also spoken frequently at industry and policy gatherings about the need to clean up the industry’s porous and unsafe supply chain, and to embed transparency and privacy protections in all digital advertising activities.

“Our guiding principle has always been the growth and preservation of the Open Web – the most vibrant, dynamic, accessible mechanism in human history for the development of businesses and the pursuit of passions,” Rothenberg said. “During the decades of broadcast television hegemony, only 200 advertisers at a time could afford to advertise on network TV. Today, tens of millions are finding customers and building businesses with internet advertising – and supporting millions more creative people who are teaching courses, making videos, doing podcasts, pursuing breakthrough journalism, and influencing the culture. These people have always been IAB’s North Star.”

“Beginning with his classic advertising book, Where the Suckers Moon, through the early internet era, and up to today, Randy has been one of those influencers who explained to us why advertising is important, and what we need to do to make it better for people, businesses, and economies,” said Gina Garrubbo, President and CEO of National Public Media and Vice-Chair of the IAB Board. “He used the power of thought leadership to reshape an industry.”

In his new role as Executive Chair, Rothenberg will report to his successor David Cohen and advise him and the IAB Board on economic, public policy, compliance, and consumer brand and retail issues. He will work full time at IAB through the end of 2020, and half-time through 2022.

“I think I speak for all of us at IAB when I say we can’t thank Randall enough for his leadership, his friendship, his sage counsel, and for everything he has done for the industry he has served so faithfully for the past 14 years,” said Cohen. “What we are able to build in the years ahead would not have been possible without him.”

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