Tuesday, May 22, 2007
IAB Hosts Historic Summit on Interactive Audience Measurement

Solidifies Industry-Wide Commitment to Transparency in Interactive Metrics

NEW YORK, NY (May 22, 2007) - The Interactive Advertising Bureau today announced the results of an unprecedented summit meeting of media and marketing constituents who gathered in a spirit of collaboration to explore ways of evolving and upgrading the way interactive media is counted and assessed for advertisers.

One of the outcomes was that comScore and Nielsen//NetRatings, two of the largest interactive audience measurement companies, committed to timetables for the auditing of their technologies and processes by a third party auditor. Specifically, Nielsen//NetRatings has formally announced its entrance into a full audit and accreditation process with the Media Rating Council, and comScore is in the final stages of its pre-audit with the MRC and indicated a commitment to finalizing the timeline for a full audit and accreditation within the next 90 days. The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) agreed to work with its full membership and the rest of the industry on updating standards for audience measurement and on marketplace education around the multiple ways Internet traffic can be measured and audience composition and behavior assessed.

These outcomes were among the results of a meeting of advertising and media trade associations with comScore and Nielsen//NetRatings, which was convened and hosted by the IAB at its headquarters in New York, on May 16, 2007.

The ongoing calls for the major panel-based measurement companies to commit to a firm timetable for auditing and accreditation were chief among the concerns motivating the historic cross-industry gathering. Differences in audience measurements between the ratings services and interactive media companies have been a point of contention for years. comScore and Nielsen//NetRatings use sample-based projections to estimate total audience size and composition. Media companies use a census-based approach that relies on server logs. The IAB had asked the companies to help uncover the sources of the discrepancies by undertaking a third party audit. Audits by the Media Rating Council (MRC), an independent body established by the U.S. Congress in 1963, have been a common feature of the conventional media's audience measurement landscape.

At the meeting's outset, Randall Rothenberg, CEO and President of the IAB, called comScore and Nielsen//NetRatings "...the heroes of the interactive marketing and media ecosystem. Starting years ago, and continuing through some very dark days, you took risks based on strong beliefs about where our industries are heading. Because you took those risks, you have built vital, important companies." He also stressed the importance of the interactive industry's need for what other major media have: visibility into syndicated research methodologies.

During the meeting, comScore and Nielsen//NetRatings shared the principles of their respective techniques and emphasized that panel-based data are critical for marketers, agencies, and publishers. The IAB acknowledges that there is a role for both panel-based and server-based metrics in the measurement of audience and both will continue to be used by agencies and advertisers as a combined decision-making tool.

A summary of the summit's detailed outcomes includes:

  • A commitment from comScore and Nielsen//NetRatings to the need for transparency into their audience metrics. Nielsen//NetRatings formally announced its entrance into a full audit and accreditation process with the Media Rating Council. comScore is in the final stages of its pre-audit with the MRC and indicated a commitment to finalizing the timeline for a full audit and accreditation within the next 90 days. This willingness to enhance the credibility of syndicated research represents a highly valuable investment in interactive advertising, and the industry participants applauded the two companies' commitments.
  • The participants agreed that "convergent validity" which combines different yet reliable data sources to provide a deeper and richer understanding of the total audience is important to securing increased growth for interactive advertising. By adjusting for differences in each of the data sets, a clearer picture of the audience is achieved, including audience size and segmentation.
  • The IAB committed to further educating the marketplace about the benefits of both panel-based and server-based data. This builds upon the already-instituted IAB Audience Measurement Working Group to draft guidelines in conjunction with the MRC. The IAB agreed to intensify its efforts to arrive at a definition of unique visitors, page views and time spent. This process will include reviewing the impact of cookie deletion, international traffic, spiders and bots and other potential factors.
  • The IAB reaffirmed it mission of advocating for auditing against all measurement guidelines, whether ad-impression or audience, to increase consistency and reliability in interactive metrics. Therefore the IAB agreed, in response to requests from the audience measurement companies, that it will recommend suspending further audits against the initial audience-metrics guidance in the appendix to the 2004 Ad-Impression Guidelines. Auditing should take place once industry accepted guidelines have been created.
  • All the participating organizations committed themselves to being the foundation of a new cross-industry effort that will provide the marketing and media ecosystem with greater transparency and educate it on best practices for the use of data in interactive planning, buying, and selling.
  • The meeting was attended by an unprecedented range of media and marketing constituents. In addition to the IAB, comScore, and Nielsen//NetRatings, the summit's participants included representatives from the Advertising Research Foundation (ARF), the American Association of Advertising Agencies (AAAA), the Association of National Advertisers (ANA), the Magazine Publishers of America (MPA), the Media Rating Council (MRC), and the Online Publishers Association (OPA).

About the IAB:

Founded in 1996, the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) represents over 300 leading interactive companies that are actively engaged in, and support the sale of Interactive advertising. IAB members are responsible for selling over 86% of online advertising in the United States. On behalf of its members, the IAB evaluates and recommends standards and practices, fields Interactive effectiveness research and educates the advertising industry regarding the use of interactive advertising. For more information, please visit www.iab.net.

IAB Media Contact:
Marla Nitke
Director, Marketing Communications
[email protected]