Website auditing is key to winning advertiser’s trust

We hear a lot of talk about how Website owners can deliver targeted, good value, accountable advertising through the Internet. But does reality match the hype?

In practice, a number of stumbling blocks continue to raise con cerns among those, myself included, responsible for handling online media buying.

The reluctance of site owners to be audited remains a major problem. According to Jup iter Communications, less than 20 per cent of ad-supported Websites in the US are audited – and fewer still in the UK.

Even though companies such as ABC//electronic, and BPA International offer an auditing service, site owner take-up has been slow. Clients and agencies must insist on Website audits.

Another questionmark hangs over how far site owners and sales representatives can offer well-segmented audiences.

There are plenty of people trying to do this – among them Doubleclick, EMAP Internet Sales, the Belgium-based IP saleshouse and Adnet of Sweden. Ad serving and reporting services are also offered by software companies such as NetGravity and Focalink.

They all provide the opportunity to target users by criteria such as operating system, domain name, time of day and geography and can confirm impression levels and click-through rates.

That’s all fine, but I’d still argue that detailed demographics on the sites they represent are lacking. This is because of sites failing to request registration by users before allowing access.

Several major online brand owners do demand potentially useful registration details, but they tend not to be affiliated to ad networks which are attempting to become volume suppliers of audiences to advertisers.

Unless site owners raise their game by securing information through registration, the ad networks’ ability to deliver quality demographics remains questionable.

Advertisers have to be demanding of ad sales networks, stating clearly where they want banner ads placed. Too often, campaigns are bought crudely, against a criterion of general rotation, and consider ations of banner ad environments end up being ignored.

Advertisers need to work with the ad networks to ensure we are properly synchronising online activity with above- and below-the-line activity to create accountable campaigns.

We shouldn’t be looking for the cheapest cost-per-thousand. When sponsorships and other initiatives are added to Web campaigns, we can expect to pay a premium.

In essence, we need to encourage ad networks, to move away from commodity selling and challenge site owners to be more creative by adding value to our Web campaigns. And we need to keep pushing for improvements in accountability.

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