IAB: Online Ad Business Contributes $300 Billion To Economy (So Don't Mess With It)

This story was written by David Kaplan.
The Interactive Advertising Bureau has been ramping up its lobbying effort to get Congress and regulators to let the ad industry police itself with behavioral targeting. Now it's trying pound home its message with some numbers. The IAB claims in a new study that it commissioned that online spending in the U.S. contributes $300 billion in "economic activity," while directly employing 1.2 million. The push comes as online ad spending fell in the first quarter, the first drop in several years.

The not-so-subtle message the IAB is bringing to Washington, D.C., this week is that any change in the current self-policing regime could impact Congressional constituents at a time of severe economic weakness. In particular, the IAB notes that internet-related employment exists in every one of the 435 U.S. Congressional Districts, though only a few districts have more than 6,000 web-related employees.

Despite the stepped-up lobbying effort, the idea of rules around targeting has been gaining momentum. Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.), the chairman of the House Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, and the Internet, recently drafted a bill that would require companies that gather personal data online to tell users what information they're looking to obtain. It's not the first time legislation addressing targeting has been drafted, but the mood appears to be different this time around. The collapse of the economy has made Washington more open to regulation beyond just the financial sector. At the same time, privacy concerns have also heated up the past year. If there's any card that the online advertising industry can play to try to get congress and legislators to back off, it's the fear of causing further economic deteriorationand that's the card the industry is now playing. Release

By David Kaplan