Trade bodies sound opinions over unified measurement

Trade bodies representing ad agencies, brands and media owners are mounting separate charges to improve online display measurement as part of a wider industry initiative to improve standardisation, especially in the mobile sector.

Trade bodies are mounting separate charges to minimise errors in campaign reporting on mobile devices.

The Association of Online Publishers (AOP), which represents premium publishers, is discussing standardisation of ad units within both its own ranks and with ad agencies.

AOP chair, John Barnes, says the trade body is lobbying its membership to implement standards on display ad units, particularly on mobile and tablet devices, in order to encourage higher returns on their digital inventory.

News of these talks come as more details emerge of the joint initiative by the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB), Mobile Marketing Association (MMA) and the Media Rating Council (MRC). The three are presenting their collective membership with identical mobile application advertising measurement guidelines.

The scheme, first revealed by Marketing Week earlier this year, is currently being led out of the US, with the three bodies taking feedback from members with an overall aim of reducing discrepancies in campaign reporting.

Leo Scullin, head of industry initiatives at the MMA, describes the initiative as a “three-way bid to define “when the ad actually counts” –  or “client-side counting” –  with in-app advertising.

Among the guidelines are a set of definitions, such as what actually constitutes a “viewable ad” – a unit that appears on the screen and is less that 50 per cent obstructed, for a specified period of time – in order to encourage standardisation.

The guidelines also encourage the various members to submit their measurement system for accreditation from independent parties such as Ernst & Young and PricewaterhouseCoopers to gain accreditation, adds Scullin.

“Discrepancies [in the reporting of how many users saw a mobile ad] are always much lower with client-side counting,” he says predicting the initiative will pay dividends, in terms of take-up, from early in 2014, adding that display advertising on desktop had to through the same process approximately 10 years ago.

“The technology on mobile app advertising is not as sophisticated as it is with desktop… If you get compliance from the various parts of the industry then you start to see industry standards emerge.”

Jonathan Mew, director of mobile and operations at the IAB, UK, reports the body is also currently in the process of sounding opinion from its membership here.
“The process is important to help align the different measurement standards and address the issues people might potentially have,” he says.

“The guidelines for measuring display ads on the mobile web have been in place for a while now but that is a bit more straight-forward as you can take guidelines [from the desktop internet] and adapt them slightly. But with in-app advertising [on mobile] the practises of targeting, delivering and counting are slightly more different.”

Separately, the AOP issued a separate appeal to standardise how they measure viewable ad impressions on desktop devices to bolster transparency in the sector, earlier this month (March 6). The trade body says current levels of fragmentation in how ads are served fail to deliver comparable results meaning marketers find it difficult to evaluate their online ad spend and is meeting with digital media agency heads to define a viewable ad impression on a desktop.

Viewpoint: Ronan Shields

As with every other facet of the digital revolution the disruptive force of mobile campaign reporting is throwing up a raft of issues for marketers to tackle. This is nothing new but the issue is one of particular urgency as our mobiles take the leap from becoming ‘the fourth screen’ for media consumption, to becoming the first one we reach for whenever we want to complete everyday tasks –  everything from checking the latest timetable to listening to our favourite radio shows.

Without standardised campaign reporting on these devices marketers will be left with a gaping hole in their media consumption intelligence. In an age when most marketers sing ad naseum about the importance of ‘big data’, the problem of the lack of standards on mobile couldn’t be more apparent.

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