The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) believes “industry driven auditing and certification” of the measurement and counting of clicks, including the identification of invalid clicks and/or fraudulent clicks, is essential for industry transparency and accountability, according to Greg Stuart, IAB CEO & President.
Stuart discussed the IAB’s recent formation of an industry-wide “Click Measurement Working Group” with me earlier in the week and confirmed that independent auditing against the complete guidelines should provide advertisers with added security for their internet advertising investment (see “Interactive Advertising Bureau CEO on click fraud in ‘Real Deal’ exclusive interview”).
The IAB is formulating the Guidelines in a joint effort with the Media Rating Council (MRC). George Ivie, Executive Director and CEO, Media Rating Council, said of the joint effort:
I applaud the IAB for continuing to take a leadership role in the creation of Measurement Guidelines across all platforms of the Interactive medium. Agencies and marketers should feel assured that the Interactive industry is striving for increased reliability and consistency through the guideline-setting process and through their support for audits.
I spoke with Ivie this week to discuss the role the MRC is playing in enhancing industry oversight for the click measurement aspect of Interactive media.
The MRC was established in the early 1960’s at the behest of the U.S. Congress to secure for the industry audience measurement that is valid, reliable, and effective. According to the MRC, its activities include:
The establishment and administration of Minimum Standards for rating operations;
The accreditation of rating services on the basis of information submitted by such services;
Auditing, through independent CPA firms, of the activities of the rating services.
The MRC Audit and Accreditation Process is the central element in the monitoring activity of the MRC. It is a system of annual external audits of rating service operations performed by a specialized team of independent CPA auditors. MRC audits are designed to:
Determine whether a rating service merits accreditation (or continued accreditation),
Provide the MRC with the results of detailed examinations which become the basis for quality improvements in the service, either by voluntary action or mandated by MRC as a condition for accreditation,
Provide a highly beneficial psychological effect on rating service performance; Knowledge that their work may be reviewed by CPA auditors is a powerful spur for quality work by all field and home-office personnel of the rating service.
Syndicated Measurement Services that submit to MRC accreditation must agree to:
Supply complete information to the MRC
Comply with MRC standards
Conduct the Service as Represented to Client
Submit to Annual Audits
Pay for the Audit Costs (internal & external)
According to the MRC, resulting audit reports are very detailed containing many methodological and proprietary details of the rating service and illumination of the primary strengths and weaknesses of its operations. The reports are confidential among the MRC members, independent CPA firm, and the rating service.
Rating services awarded MRC Accreditation are given permission to display the MRC’s logo on the audited research product indicating compliance with the Standards. MRC Standards are publicly available and the extensive methodological and survey performance disclosures mandated by the MRC are available to all rating service customers.
The MRC’s collaboration with the IAB in Click Measurement will emulate the work it does with rating services and supports IAB’s efforts to:
Encourage auditing against industry standards
Ensure that processes to deliver audited numbers are in place
Incorporate standards and compliance into the contract (T & C)
According to the IAB, standards are only effective when honored and promoted by all parties and its Measurement Certification programs aim to be the most material efforts ever. The MRC, under the leadership of George Ivie, is currently drafting initial working documents for the Click Measurement Working Group’s efforts.
Ivey likens the MRC and IAB joint effort to establish click measurement standards and mechanisms for independent auditing against the measurement guidelines as the development of a “Bill of Rights” for the interactive industry guaranteeing all parties transparency and accountability.
Leading brand marketers are already letting publishers know an interactive "Bill of Rights" is a must.
According to the The IAB, a group of top brand marketers, including BMW, Colgate-Palmolive, Ford Motor Company, HP, ING, Kimberly-Clark, Pepsi and Visa, will demand audited numbers from Interactive publishers effective mid-2007 and measurement certified numbers in 2008. Audited and certified numbers will be the only numbers used for payment against those marketers' Interactive advertising campaigns.
Audited numbers ensure that ad impressions are being counted accurately; while certified numbers indicate that the process supporting the ad counting is consistent and reliable, according tho the IAB and the MRC.
Stuart applauds marketers' initiatives:
As more and more dollars migrate over to Interactive, it is imperative as an industry that we continue to strive for the highest levels of transparency and validity. We are overwhelmed that marketers of this caliber have stepped forward in support of audited and certified numbers. We are confident that this is just the beginning and other leading marketers will join this group presently.
Stuart and Ivie are looking forward to advertisers demanding audited click measurement numbers as well. During my discussions with both industry leaders, the importance of ad buyers' conveying their need for audited and certifed accounting was underscored so that advertisers know you "get what you pay for."
Last August, in "Google, Yahoo click fraud audits: When will advertisers demand them?" I had the same advice for advertisers:
It is up to advertisers to defend their own interests and demand that Google and Yahoo allow for third party, independent auditing for click fraud, of their charges to advertisers.
I put forth that:
Google and Yahoo publicly embrace transparency in the name of advertiser satisfaction. At the same time, however, Google and Yahoo do not allow their advertisers to obtain satisfaction via transparent auditing of search engine invoices.
Search engine Pay Per Click charges will never be transparent, unless search engines allow for third party independent auditing of advertiser accounts so that advertisers will actually know if they are getting what they are being charged for, or not.
I concluded: "After all, why wouldn’t advertisers want to increase ROI even more?"