4A’s, ANA condemn IAB’s ‘acerbic tone’ in sign of data-privacy rift

    • Two of marketing’s top trade bodies shared a joint statement criticizing recent comments made by Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) CEO David Cohen.
    • At the IAB’s Annual Leadership Meeting (ALM) last week, Cohen described forces driving changes in the data-privacy landscape, such as Apple, as “extremists.” The Association of National Advertisers (ANA) and American Association of Advertising Agencies (4A’s) in their note Tuesday said they reject the IAB’s “acerbic tone.”
    • The groups added that they believe Cohen’s rhetoric flattens some of the nuances surrounding data privacy. They emphasized the need to clean up industry messes without “demonizing” outside parties like Congress that are rolling out more stringent regulations affecting marketers.

    Cohen’s ALM keynote has caused a stir by invoking intense political language to drag Apple and lawmakers who have data privacy in their crosshairs. Now, two of marketing’s most influential trade organizations have distanced themselves from the comments while calling for “constructive debate” and collaborative solutions. The ANA and 4A’s represent marketers and ad agencies, respectively.  

    “The 4A’s and ANA do not believe that the IAB’s posture is sufficiently balanced,” their joint statement reads. “It appears to be a tirade against the forces that disagree with our industry.”

    The groups took specific issue with Cohen describing data privacy as a war to be won. In his address, the executive went off on perceived extremists who are “attacking” marketing from the outside and “from the inside out.” 

    Apple has roiled the sector since introducing changes to its iOS operating system that make targeting and measuring mobile campaigns more difficult. The pinch has been felt especially sharply by ad-reliant social platforms like Meta, which is an IAB member. Meanwhile, an outpouring of new laws focused on data privacy has raised concerns about steep fines and reams of regulatory red tape for marketers to navigate.

    The news underpins rising industry tensions as the fundamentals of digital marketing are challenged. To this point, the trade groups have been fairly unified in pushing for more streamlined federal privacy legislation versus what they view as a patchwork of state-level laws. But that shared vision has yet to be realized, as Virginia, Colorado, Connecticut and Utah all plan to implement their own privacy laws this year, following California’s lead.

    The IAB and the 4A’s and ANA present differing paths forward as the data privacy question comes to a head. The 4A’s and ANA position their approach as one of responsibility and rectifying a situation that’s spun out of balance in no small part thanks to marketers.

    “The road is long on these issues and alienating the very parties that we need to work with to achieve balanced consensus is not the path to take,” the ANA and 4A’s statement concludes. “At the end of the day, members of Congress and regulators are doing a hard job to the best of their ability and are seeking to find harmony amongst a lot of competing interests. Demonizing them does us no favors. “

    Marketing Dive has reached out to representatives for the IAB for comment and will update this story pending a response.  


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