Translating Digit-ese

Mar 01, 2002

When asked why the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) developed standard guidelines for audience measurement, CEO Greg Stewart replies simply, "We had to." And with good reason. Much of the jargon-impressions, visitors, hits, clicks-has long confused those trying to tally how many people see online ads.

The Interactive Audience Campaign Measurement and Advertising Campaign Reporting and Audit Guidelines aim to transform the measurement units of online advertising into reach/frequency and rating points -the common language of traditional media buyers. That is important for growth because, although online spending continues to increase (See "Slowing Down, But Not Out," PE, February 2002), the majority of its revenue now comes from clients of big-name agencies rather than dot-coms.

The voluntary guidelines eliminate the reporting nightmare that results from crunching data gathered from different ad servers, which control all aspects of advertising administration from execution to response evaluation. Agencies adopting the guidelines will now count unique users as "the number of individual people, within a designated reporting time frame, with activity consisting of one or more visits to a site or the delivery of pushed content." A unique user can be either an individual that accessed a site (referred to as a unique visitor), or someone who has pushed content or ads such as e-mail, newsletters, interstitials, and pop-under ads.

"Unless the industry is willing to flounder until brand managers and marketing VPs who speak digit-ese, and for whom online advertising is de rigueur, come of age," says MediaPost columnist Jim Meskauskas, "we need quantifiable online advertising components that allow the online space to be calculated like the rest of the media."

The industry is clamoring for it, according to a small Internet Profiles survey of advertising executives working in both online and offline media. Seventy two percent of respondents cited measurement standards as the greatest factor necessary to make online advertising more effective. The issue has plagued the medium since its inception, says Stewart, but it took the work of a paid staff at IAB-the first hired only a year ago-to drive the initiative.

But some industry executives don't think the new guidelines will increase online spending.

"Some of the more sophisticated online advertisers may be comforted by the issuance of guidelines, but it won't affect pharma clients' efforts in the medium," says David Capano, director of media and interactive services for Adair-Greene. "If they've been ardent users, they'll continue to be. But economic factors, ROI, and overall contribution to the communication effort will have a much more profound impact."

An IAB-led consortium that includes representatives from the Advertising Research Foundation, Media Rating Council, the American Association of Advertising Agencies, and the Association of National Advertisers developed the guidelines based on a PricewaterhouseCoopers study profiling ad networks', websites', and portals' measurement processes.

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