The IAB’s new lobbying “study”–this term paper gets a failing grade [plus, amazingly, it was co-authored by an ad giant board member]

The Interactive Ad Bureau, a trade association that lobbies for the online ad industry, wants to help derail legislation that would protect consumer privacy.  On Wednesday, it released a report designed to sway Congress; it claimed that the “Ad-Supported Internet Contributes $300 Billion to U.S. Economy, Has Created 3.1 Million U.S. Jobs.”  Incredibly–and so revealing–was the failure of the report to discuss the privacy issue at all.  In fact, the term privacy is only mentioned once (and doesn’t refer to the civil liberties issues at the core of the debate).

In fact, this report appears more like some sort of term paper where various facts and figures were piled on in an attempt to make an argument.  The report conflates the Internet with the online ad market (and misses the larger critical issues).

But what’s astounding is that it was co-authored by a board member of WPP, the world’s largest ad agency.  Harvard Professor John Quelch has been on the WPP board since 1988, earning some 60,000 pounds a year for his service. WPP has a huge financial stake, needless to say, in the digital ad business.  Professor Quelch is also on the Pepsi Bottling Group board.  The report was developed by Hamilton Consultants, which has represented online giants such as AT&T, Time Warner, Verizon, along with other major online marketers Coca Cola, GE and–of course–WPP.

The IAB’s stance appears to be that if Congress protects our privacy, it will somehow undermine the Internet’s role in economic growth.  The opposite, I believe, is true.  An Internet that reflects the values of democracy will do a better job for us all—including the lobbyists and academic consultants working on behalf of the IAB.

Author: jeff

Jeff Chester is executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy. A former journalist and filmmaker, Jeff's book on U.S. electronic media politics, entitled "Digital Destiny: New Media and the Future of Democracy" was published by The New Press in January 2007. He is now working on a new book about interactive advertising and the public interest.

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