Dave Grimaldi, EVP of public policy for the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), came armed with some sobering statistics on the impact of COVID-19 on the advertising industry for a "virtual" visit to Capitol Hill Thursday (April 9).  

Grimaldi pointed to a recent IAB survey of 400 "buy-side" marketers that found that 70% of buyers have adjusted or "paused" their planned ad spending, with almost a quarter of them (24%) saying that spending is on hold for months to come.   

Grimaldi said spending on digital advertising--IAB represents the majority of online advertising--is down by a third, while ads on traditional media are down 39%. And the impact does not stop with the ad community. "At a time when the need for news and information services is at a record high, the advertising budgets that fund this content are disappearing, thus threatening to deprive Americans of access to crucial cutting-edge research and the most up-to-date data about COVID-19." 

Arguably Grimaldi's top-line message to the Hill during the pandemic is that advertising supports all that crucial content and makes it free or low cost to those for whom price is a factor in maintaining connectivity. "Never before in history has the open flow of data been more critical," he said. Advertising helps keep that flow going and Big Data powers the targeted digital advertising keeps that content mostly free. "Subject to appropriate privacy protections, advertising and data can play a significant role in supporting the fight against the coronavirus," he said. 

Grimaldi was not actually on the Hill, of course, in this age of social distancing. Instead, he was making his case via prepared testimony for a "paper hearing" in the Senate Commerce Committee April 9 on Enlisting Big Data in the Fight Against Coronavirus. 

The witnesses are submitting their written testimony in advance of the hearing and the chairman and ranking member will submit opening statements. Those will then be posted online at the beginning of the "paper hearing" and committee members can send questions for those witnesses by the close of the day.   

Witnesses will then have "96 business hours," or about two weeks, to provide their answers. Then, both questions and answers will be posted on the committee's website.  

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