One of my favorite personal photographs from the past several years features Satya Nadella, still only a few months into his role as Chief Executive Officer of Microsoft. Satya and his team had come to New York to visit with the advertising industry’s leaders – an inspired decision, because Microsoft’s commitment to advertising at that time seemed up in the air.
Those of us who got the call to meet with Satya were gratified and humbled – after all, this was the CEO of one of the world’s largest companies – so in the photo, we’re all smiling broadly. On the left is Rob Master, the influential Unilever media-buying leader. On the right is powerful industry consultant Michael Kassan. 4As CEO Nancy Hill stands beaming a bit to the left. And smack in the middle, anchoring the photo, is David Cohen, then the Chief Investment Officer of Universal McCann (UM) – one of the most important media buying executives at one of the most important ad agencies on earth.
I couldn’t be more pleased or more energized that David – that man in the center, that anchor – is joining IAB as our new President, starting April 1.
David (who, most recently, served as President, North America for MAGNA, Interpublic Group’s centralized media intelligence, investment, and innovation arm) has been part of the digital marketing sector since its inception and has been instrumental in building organizations responsible for purchasing billions of dollars of digital media inventory annually. He brings not only a strong understanding of where our business is today, but where it is going and what’s necessary for it to thrive. His analytical abilities, persuasiveness, and client focus have been proven time and again. He has been deeply involved in almost every major IAB-led industry initiative, notably the Standard Terms and Conditions for Internet Advertising negotiations, and the Making Measurement Make Sense initiative (3Ms).
David’s unique capabilities will help us dramatically increase our brand, agency, and publisher presence across all IAB activities, bringing all major stakeholders to the table. As a top member of the leadership team, he will continue to evolve IAB’s critical programs and events to advance our ability to set the agenda for digital marketing and media stakeholders.
David’s primary objectives at IAB will be to build more meaningful connections among publishers, brands, and agencies; increase IAB’s total membership, and ensure the organization continues to serve as a central force for collaboration, agenda-setting, and leadership in the industry. He will oversee market-powering thought leadership in the evolving video and cross-screen measurement and attribution space. In addition, David will be responsible for guiding IAB’s event strategy, ensuring that IAB gatherings educate, inspire, and lead the digital marketing and media sector.
I’m especially excited by the opportunity to team our two Presidents – David Cohen and Dennis Buchheim, the newly promoted President of the IAB Tech Lab – to better connect both organizations’ activities, create more consistent solutions, and drive greater adoption of industry standards for brand safety, privacy, programmatic advertising, video, and other critical publisher, brand, and agency functions. There’s not a problem we’re trying to fix in the digital marketing and media industries, nor any opportunity we’re trying to chase, where the equation doesn’t begin in the same way: data plus technology plus everything else. With David guiding our work with business leaders and Dennis shepherding our activities with technology and product leaders, the IAB and Tech Lab influence on the industry will only grow more beneficial.
I’m also looking forward to what David and Dennis – together with the IAB and Tech Lab teams – will bring to Project Rearc, the industry-wide initiative to convene stakeholders across the digital advertising and media supply chain to harmonize the value of privacy, personalization, and community, and make the internet a better place for consumers.
During the months-long search for our new President, I was impressed by David’s overwhelming enthusiasm for the potential of IAB. “The continued growth of a vibrant ad-supported marketing ecosystem requires vision, collaboration, and the technical knowledge necessary to execute,” he emphasized to me. “IAB has set the agenda for the digital ecosystem since its inception, and there has never been a more important time to assure that insights, thought leadership, and expertise are working toward a common goal. I am extraordinarily excited about the opportunity and look forward to working collaboratively with the industry to realize our collective potential.”
For those of you who don’t know him, David is a Queens native, with a bachelor’s degree from Adelphi University, whose 21-year career at IPG included senior roles at both MAGNA and Universal McCann (UM). As President, North America for MAGNA he “re-architected” the division’s Investment, Intelligence, and Innovation practices, and was responsible for more than $20 billion in media spend. He has structured and executed large global transactions on behalf of IPG and its clients, with such major IAB member companies as Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Spotify, Twitter, and Verizon Media.
Prior to MAGNA, David was Chief Investment Officer at UM, where he made sure that digital innovation, data and technology acumen coursed throughout the agency to drive performance – his successes there are why Microsoft wanted him at that meeting with Satya Nadella. From 2001 to 2011, he served in critical, transformational roles at UM during the explosive growth of digital advertising, including Chief Media Officer, Chief Digital Officer, and Executive Vice President, U.S. Director of Digital Communications. In the late 1990’s, David started appearing on “the lists”: He was named a “Media All Star” by Adweek and was part of the “AdWeek 50” in 2012.
David has a long history of working with trade organizations, especially IAB and 4As, where he served as chairman of the Interactive Marketing Committee. He also has been instrumental in initiating several vital industry-wide programs, including the cross-industry video initiative currently being facilitated by EY.
Our Board Chair, Troy Young, the President of Hearst Magazines, who served on the search committee that selected David, says this about him: “Balancing the complex and sometimes opposing forces inside our industry requires a deep appreciation for the strategic, technical, and public drivers of our ecosystem. David brings this in spades as an industry pioneer with years of perspective in media agency leadership roles. His knowledge and expertise are a huge addition to IAB and will strengthen our ability to lead the industry through this time of immense change.”
I can’t help but add a personal note. As some of my closest industry friends will recall, I got a lot of attention a few years ago when I lost 40 pounds, in an effort to just get healthy. At around the same time, David did similarly – but with much less outside attention, a much greater weight loss, AND he proceeded to complete several marathons to boot. With David Cohen, we are getting an executive with a happy humility and boundless enthusiasm for our industry, his colleagues, and the world around him.
In this, he reminds me a lot of our outgoing President, Patrick Dolan, who decided to celebrate his win over cancer by running several marathons, shuttling his daughter nightly to her starring turn on Broadway, AND building IAB to the formidable presence we are today. It’s hard to imagine that when Patrick started at IAB, our goal was only to get internet advertising its “fair share” – of attention and investment alike. But to do that, we had to stabilize an organization that was in debt and was running an operating deficit. Patrick remedied those problems within months, then pioneered some of our most important growth initiatives, including the Center of Excellence model, the Data Center of Excellence specifically, and our opening to the tech industry more broadly. Under Patrick’s aegis, membership and revenues have tripled and quadrupled. And our influence – well, you can’t even calculate that growth.
We’ll have more time to celebrate Patrick’s role with us, for he’s remaining as a senior advisor through the end of the year. For now, I want to thank him for kicking us into our growth trajectory, and thank David for his enthusiastic embrace of our potential to take that arc up several more degrees.
David was one of the first digital agency executives I met when I took this job 14 years ago – an original ‘digital native’ in a discipline that was still finding its way. He was fiercely determined to find value on behalf of his clients, and equally fierce in his determination to educate colleagues and competitors alike about the best practices. That’s the David Cohen I’ve known for 14 years – a perfect balance of competitiveness and civic mindedness, that anchor in the center of an often confusing sector – who will make sure that digital marketing thrives as we enter a period of great change.