Welcome to the Interact Congress Blog. We have invited some leading European guest bloggers to share their observations on interactive marketing and communication skills within the integrated experience. The blog also offers you a first opportunity to interact with your peers.

For more information about the congress, please visit www.interactcongress.eu

Monday, 23 April 2007

“Why isn’t there more consistency in trade associations across Europe?”

It’s a cracking question from Atlas’ Michael Keaton, and one that reveals a disconnect between the structure of trade associations and the challenges they face in the digital networked society.

Since the mid nineties I’ve been lucky enough to work with some of the smartest folks in more than a dozen countries to launch, or plan the development of, digital trade associations. They typically take some phenomenal effort to get going, but once they’re motoring – like IABuk.net, iabeurope.ws, iab.net – they provide cohesion in a fragmented sector, a single focus for debate and a massive momentum for growth. Look at the markets with the longest tradition of successful trade bodies and you’re looking at a short list of the Digital Giants and the countries that top the charts of online’s market share.

But in a global medium the rules are different to press, TV or outdoor. There’s a much greater need for consistency, and when it comes to Standards & Best Practice, the needs couldn’t be more absolute. Why should a banner be any different in shape or size between markets? Why should video ad impressions be counted differently? Indeed why even have the debate in parallel rather than all together?

Yet trade associations have an inherently national focus. The majority of firms the majority of the time are focussed on the national stakeholders and their national needs. Counting audiences or adspend varies greatly between markets, and it varies in ways driven by offline media. All of which is a tad frustrating for those of us at the middle coordinating development.

This morning I kicked off with a workshop to look at the standards and guidelines created so far, those of the present that we’re consulting on, and those of the future we’re lining up. That was for the ad technologists, and tonight I’m rerunning it with the tech vendors. Michael’s comments are spot on and echoed from 24/7 Real Media and Doubleclick directors who join us: moving on industry needs more cohesion rather than less, more coordination than ever before, and a smarter division of work so if the US, Germany or the UK are leading on a project, we all step back from duplicating our efforts.

Trying to build frameworks for a more efficient market has been likened to trying to build the wings of a plane while jet’s still taking off. It’s a challenge our industry clearly needs to embrace more deeply. And if it’s a challenge you’re up for then mail me and I’ll connect you to the right people. Remember to also check out the Standards & Guidelines pages of www.IABeurope.ws

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