Measurement Guidelines Agency Information


The creation and implementation of these measurement guidelines are intended to simplify the buying and selling process of interactive advertising. By becoming audited and certified, the billing process excludes discussions about discrepancies in the number of impressions served. The IAB and AAAA strongly recommend that only certified numbers will be used to determine the billing of a campaign. If multiple entities, for example a publisher and an agency, are certified, then the parties need to agree up front as which numbers will be used in the billing process.  In order to achieve certification, an agency or publisher must be audited against measurement guidelines that include the 2008 Process Guidelines expansion.

Between 2005 and 2008, Impression Guidelines were developed for display, rich media, and rich internet applications.  Click and audience measurement guidelines are currently being developed.  This multi-year initiative to develop and implement all the key measurement metrics for the online space is led by industry representatives from IAB member companies.


1. What does it mean if an agency is certified?

For the first time, the 2008 Process Guidelines update allows agencies to undergo a certification audit.  Although an agency may be using an audited third-party ad serving system, the numbers within that system cannot be certified unless an agency undergoes an audit against the 2008 Process Guidelines.  As with all publishers going forward, the Process Guidelines will be included in any audit of an entity because control policies have been found to be integral to the elimination of error and therefore creation of discrepancies.  Once a company is certified, only certified numbers will be used to determine the billing of a campaign. If multiple entities, for example a publisher and an agency, are certified, then the parties need to agree up front as which numbers will be used in the billing process.

2. How do publishers begin the auditing and certification process?

The IAB recommends that those companies interested in beginning the auditing and certification process research all the available options by speaking to those companies who have already completed the process. There are also a small number of auditing bodies who can be reached to answer questions and help lead a company through the audit procedures and costs.  A list of auditing bodies can be found here.

3. Why were the Guidelines created?

These guidelines were created to address long-standing marketer and agency concerns about the need for a standardized method of measuring Interactive advertising and a certification of those counts. Surveys conducted with these constituencies identified measurement as a top reason for their hesitancy to spend more media funds on interactive campaigns.

In August, 2003, the AAAA and the ANA specifically requested that the IAB, as the trade association for the sellers of interactive media, develop a plan to address and resolve this issue. As a result, the IAB created a Measurement Task Force that consisted of publishers, technology providers, networks and vendors to research, refine and approve both the US and Global Interactive Audience Measurement and Advertising Campaign Reporting and Audit Guidelines.

How do these measurement guidelines (the measurement of interactive) differ from the measurement of other media? This is the first time that any advertising medium has developed a measurement standard that measures the ad itself, as delivered to a consumer, versus other media that measure the programming or content. Television, for example, measures the average quarter hour of program via either the much preferred passive measurement of a people meter or in some cases, the low-tech diary method where a consumer has to record what they see. Radio has a similar method to this low-tech diary method. Magazines also only measure what a person claims to have read in a particular issue with no true indication that they actually viewed the ad itself.

4. Will the Guidelines eliminate discrepancies?

All the experts agree that these guidelines (including the 2008 Process Guidelines) should significantly reduce discrepancies but most likely will not eliminate them entirely. However, this is a CRITICAL first step in efforts to greatly reduce the discrepancies of counts between systems.

Impression discrepancy research conducted by the MRC sought to identify the specific reasons for discrepancies that exist between Ad Server and Publisher counts.  The experimental design isolated specific variables in delivered ads to identify test conditions most likely to be associated with significant counting discrepancies.  In audited systems, the research appears to show that very few large discrepancies are caused by technology.  To better educate the industry as to the proper processes and controls that should be associated with audited ad serving technology, the IAB issued the Process Addendum.  The Process Guidelines, to be used in conjunction with any of the measurement guidelines, outline the steps necessary to ensure high quality campaign setup and data management procedures.

By using only certified numbers for billing purposes through the implementation and adoption of these guidelines the operational costs of discrepancies will be greatly reduced. These guidelines are also intended to eliminate the dispute about discrepancies in the impressions served.

If multiple entities (the publisher and its ad server and the agency and its third party ad server for example) in a transaction are certified, then the parties need to agree up front as to which numbers will be used in the billing process for that particular campaign and abide by their agreement once the advertising has run.

The IAB and AAAA urge agencies and publishers to follow these guidelines in an effort to streamline the billing process.

5. What is the IAB’s role?

As the trade association for the Interactive industry, the IAB remains committed to simplifying the buying and selling of interactive advertising with the creation of standards and guidelines such as these. The IAB is not a certifying body but will relay the status of its members as it relates to their compliance with industry established guidelines.

6. What is the role of other industry groups?

Other industry groups like the AAAA, the ANA, the ARF, MRC and others have all played an integral role in the creation of these guidelines and are in complete support of them. Going forward, members of these groups and the marketplace at large will help ensure adoption and further implementation of these guidelines.