Ad Impression Measurement Guidelines

Measurement Guidelines and Measurement Certification: Overview

In November 2004, the IAB and its members, with the support of major global organizations involved in the advertising and research disciplines, joined together to issue a global standard for counting online ad impressions.

The initiative marked a number of significant firsts in the advertising industry. It was the first time that any advertising medium had developed a measurement standard that measures the ad itself, as delivered to a consumer, versus other media that measure the programming or content. It was also the first time a medium had launched a “global” measurement standard that has now been accepted by key industry stakeholder organizations in the U.S., Europe, Asia and Latin America. Other media (such as television, radio and magazines) use different measuring techniques depending on country and region. These firsts should be considered major strategic advantages for the Interactive medium.

This landmark effort was intended to free the market from any existing confusion about how ad impressions should be counted and would provide industry transparency to the systems that measure ads. This last part is a critical indication to the maturing of a 10+ year industry.

With a series of ad format-specific guidelines, advertisers, agencies and publishers are better able to gauge the performance of their campaigns by standardizing when and how an ad impression is counted. These guidelines satisfy the needs of the global media-buying community by offering consistent and accurate data, which in turn, will hasten the growth of Internet advertising spending by simplifying the buying and selling process for advertisers, marketers and publishers.

Among other key points, the guidelines offer a detailed definition for counting an ad impression, which is a critical component in establishing consistent and accurate online advertising measurements across publishers and ad serving technologies.

Audited Technology + Audited Process = High Quality Ad Impression Counts

The Guidelines

In 2005, the IAB's Measurement Task Force developed two sets of guidelines, one for global measurement and one for domestic. Download the full guideline reports here:

US Guideline                Global Guidelines

2009 UPDATE: Digital Video Ad Measurement Guidelines

This document was originally published in May 2006 by the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) and its members in collaboration with the Media Rating Council (MRC). The Auto-Play Addendum in Section IX was developed by the IAB’s Digital Video Committee and the MRC and released in December 2009 to address growing concerns over digital video advertisements that played automatically (auto-play) upon a webpage
load.
 
These guidelines, including the Dec 2009 Addendum are meant to be viewed in conjunction with the existing Ad Impression Measurement Guidelines published in 2004.


For more information, please click here.
For a complete copy of the guidelines, please click here.

2007 UPDATE: Rich Internet Application Ad Measurement Guidelines

Rich Internet Applications should be considered any type of website, stand alone application, game, widget, etc., that can dynamically load content and/or advertising without reloading the entire application. For example, web sites that move to a Rich Internet Application experience might make subsequent advertising calls after the first page load without an additional full page load.

For more information, please click here.

For a complete copy of the guidelines, please click here

2007 UPDATE: Rich Media Ad Measurement Guidelines

The guidelines determine at which point a rich media ad impression is counted. Rich media ads are in formats that permit users to interact with them, as opposed to simply being animated. Rich media ad formats include transitional and various over-the-page units such as floating ads, page take-overs and tear-backs. The guidelines are primarily applicable to Internet media companies, ad serving organizations and rich media vendors.

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2008 UPDATE:  Process Guidelines expansion for all Measurement Guidelines

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.  This Addendum, to be used in conjunction with any of the measurement guidelines, outlines the steps necessary to ensure high quality campaign setup and data management procedures.

Publishers or agencies who use an audited ad serving technology platform are encouraged to have the processes used in conjunction with these third party solutions audited.

Find more information click here

For a complete copy of the guidelines, please click here

Audited Technology + Audited Process = High Quality Ad Impression Counts

Auditor Information

The following companies are members of the IAB who have auditing capabilities.  Please contact them for additional information about their particular approaches and fees.  If you are a member and would like to be listed here, please contact [email protected]

Alliance for Audited Media

Neal Lulofs ([email protected])

Richard Bennett ([email protected])

Steve Guenther ([email protected])

AMC Group

Bola Ajere ([email protected])

BPA Worldwide

Peter Black ([email protected])

Richard Murphy (rmurphy@bpa[email protected])

Ernst & Young

Jackson Bazley ([email protected])

Nick Terlizzi ([email protected])

Deloitte & Touche

Christopher Dahl ([email protected])

Tim Davis ([email protected])

ImServices

Richard Bennett ([email protected])

Leo Scullin ([email protected])

PricewaterhouseCoopers

Patrick Monahan ([email protected])

 

PUBLISHERS >

If you are a publisher and
need more information click here 

Auditing & Certification FAQs

AGENCIES & ADVERTISERS >

If you are a Agency or Advertiser and
need more information click here

Auditing & Certification FAQs

 

Get involved

This multi-year initiative furthers the development and implementation of all the key measurement metrics for the online space, including Click measurement, Rich Media measurement, Digial Video measurement, Audience reach and more. If you are interested in participating, please contact [email protected].

FAQs

These frequently asked questions are intended to help you better understand the measurement guidelines and the auditing and certification process. If there is information that is not addressed in these FAQs or in the guidelines themselves, please contact [email protected].

1. When were the Measurement Guidelines first published and by whom?

The IAB, in conjunction with a dozen other global advertising, marketer and internet associations, published the measurement guidelines in November 2004. The IAB Measurement Task Force together with a global consortium of leading bodies within the advertising agency, advertiser, media and research disciplines and technology companies developed these guidelines over 18 months to define a detailed definition and standard for global online ad impression measurement.

2. What do the Measurement Guidelines address?

All of the guidelines offer a detailed definition for counting an online ad impression, the primary currency of the Interactive medium, which is a critical component in establishing consistent and accurate online advertising measurements across publishers and ad serving technologies in the US and around the world.

The guidelines address long-standing marketer and agency concerns about the need for a standardized method of measuring Interactive advertising. By simplifying the buying and selling process for advertisers, marketers and publishers, these guidelines are intended to hasten the growth of Internet advertising spending.

The 2008 update on Process guidelines offer detailed definitions of standard quality control practices for agencies and publishers.  These are especially relevant for companies that use a hosted ad serving solution.

3. Do the original guidelines address the measurement of Click measurement, Digital Video, Rich Media or other key metrics?

No, these measurement guidelines were specifically created to measure impressions related to display advertising. The development of measurement guidelines for the other forms of interactive advertising including rich media, performance priced (click) and broadband have all been either completed or are in process. This is a multi-year initiative for the IAB to create world class standards for advertising measurement and accountability.

4. Why have some companies in the Interactive space have been either audited or committed to the process while others have not? Is there a specific rollout plan for certification?

The IAB membership agreed that the first companies to seek Certification should be those with a proprietary ad-serving technology used in the buying and selling process of interactive advertising. The guidelines further recommend that these ad-serving applications be certified compliant with the guidelines at a minimum annually.

In addition select publishers, networks and ad serving technology providers have chosen to take a leadership position to be among the first to be certified or to commit to a date for certification. This solidifies their and the industry’s commitment that Interactive will be the most accountable mainstream medium.

The 2008 Process Guidelines update sets the stage for a much larger number of companies to seek Certification. Any entity that uses a certified third-party ad serving system will now be able to complete their own certification by adhering and getting audited against the Process Guidelines.  Like with other media, there will be smaller entities that choose not to get audited. This becomes a business decision that each individual company will need to make based on marketplace demands.

The IAB encourages all counting providers in the industry to undergo peer review and provide transparency in how their numbers are reached for the continued growth of the industry.

5. Why are the Guidelines created?

These guidelines are 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 over the past five years with these constituencies identified measurement as a top 3 item regarding their hesitancy to spend media funds in the Interactive medium.

In August, 2003, the AAAAs 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.  The IAB and the industry have continued since 2003 to update the guidelines to include other interactive media and metrics.

6. 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.

Interactive is also the first medium to launch a global measurement standard that has been accepted by all the key industry stakeholder organizations in the U.S., Europe, Asia and Latin America. Other media (such as television, radio and magazines) use different measuring techniques depending on country and region.

7. 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.

8. Who will enforce these Guidelines?

The marketplace, which includes publishers, agencies and advertisers, will enforce the guidelines. With wider adoption and implementation, these guidelines will become the standard against which agencies and advertisers buy and pay for online advertising.

9. Who was involved in the development of the US & Global Measurement Guidelines?

A global consortium of leading bodies within the advertising agency, advertiser, media and research disciplines were actively involved in the development of both the US and Global guidelines. The specific companies that were involved (though many no longer exist as standalone entities) included:

 

U.S. ( * = non-publisher)

·         24/7 Real Media
·         About.com
·         Accipiter*
·         Advertising.com
·         AOL
·         Atlas DMT*
·         BlueStreak *
·         CentrPort*
·         CheckM8*
·         CNET Networks
·         Disney Internet Group
·         DoubleClick*
·         Fastclick
·         Falk North America*
·         Focus Interactive/Excite Network
·         Forbes.com
·         Google
·         I/PRO*
·         Klipmart*
·         MSN
·         NY Times Digital
·         Overture
·         Poindexter Systems*
·         Red Sheriff*/Nielsen NetRatings
·         Value Click
·         Weather Channel Interactive
·         Yahoo!
·         Zedo.com*

International Ad Servers

·         AdTech (Germany)
·         ALLYES (China)
·         Aufeminin (France)
·         CheckM8 (US/UK/Israel)
·         Cossette/Fjord Interactive (Canada)
·         Falk AG (Germany)
·         JNJ Interactive (Korea)
·         Iprom (Slovenia)
·         Predicta (Brazil)

Other Participants

·         ABCE/IFABC (Europe)
·         Advertising Research Foundation (U.S.)
·         Amer. Assoc. of Ad Agencies (U.S.)
·         Association of National Advertisers (U.S.)
·         EACA (Europe)
·         EIAA (Europe)
·         ESOMAR (Europe)
·         IAB Argentina
·         IAB Europe
·         IM Services (U.S.)
·         Interactive Media Association (Brazil)
·         Media Rating Council (U.S.)
·         PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP
·         JIAA (Japan)

10. What is the auditing and certification process?

Auditing and Certification is a standard operating procedure for every advertising medium. Magazines, for example, use a circulation process that is conducted by ABC, for TV & Radio it is an audit by Ernst & Young of Nielsen or Arbitron with oversight from the MRC (the Media Ratings Council), and so on.

The process of auditing and certification is critical to ensuring consistency and trust in a medium. For years, advertisers and agencies have been concerned that the Interactive medium did not have these essential components in place. This concern has been further exacerbated by the discrepancies that have resulted from different counting methodologies by the various ad serving technologies as well as the complexity of these technologies.

The Interactive industry’s challenge is that there is no centralized measurement body as exists in the simple measurements of the other media. We are further challenged by the fact that the guidelines cover both the technology and the processes for executing ad buys. Therefore, because all this is handled at the publisher or agency level, each of those entities need to get audited.

Again this raises the question, does everyone need to get audited and certified? That is a business decision that each needs to make. The questions that arise around that are 1) will those numbers be used for billing, 2) do you need to be consistent with other systems, 3) are you confident that your processes and systems are creating accurate and consistent numbers, and 4) do you have a client or partner that needs to have proof of performance.

Auditing: Third-party independent auditing is encouraged for all ad-serving applications used in the buying and selling process. This auditing is recommended to include both counting methods and processing/controls. Counting method procedures generally include a risk analysis to understand the measurement methods, analytical review, transaction authentication, validation of filtration procedures and measurement recalculations. Process auditing includes examination of the adequacy of site or ad-server applied filtration techniques and the entity’s control procedures and policies.

US Certification Recommendation: All ad-serving applications used in the buying and selling process are recommended to be certified as compliant with the Guidelines at minimum annually. This recommendation is strongly supported by the AAAA and other members of the buying community, for consideration of measurements as currency. 

11. How do Spiders & Robots factor into the auditing process?

One of the main determinants of actual impression counts is the impact that non-human activity may have on the ad serving process. In the past, it is believed that this contributed to wide swings in impression counts.

The IABs MTF made a decision to provide the best filtering of non human activity possible to provide more accurate counts of valuable consumer interaction with the ads. That non-human activity is filtered in two ways: Behavioral filtering (see the guidelines) and using a list of known Spiders & Bots to filter that activity.

The IAB has contracted with ImServices to work with ABCe in Europe to develop a single global Spiders & Bots filtering list. That list includes a comprehensive list of known Spiders & Bots as well as known web browsers. It is overseen by an industry committee that works with ImServices to manage the list and make monthly additions and deletions as needed.

That list and more about Spiders & Bots can be found here.

It is important that you check the IAB site occasionally to confirm that your ad serving technology provider is using the up-to-date list.

This list is also being developed to filter for Spiders & Bots that may impact Page Impressions counts and can therefore be used to filter this activity from a content server.

12. 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.

13. What is the role of the 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.