Steve Sullivan: January 2011 Archives

The IAB and the industry are making sustained progress toward developing ad verification guidelines. But recently, misleading, even outright false, claims have appeared in newsletters, blogs and the press about where we are—and we thought it was time to set the record straight… At this time there are no industry agreed-upon verification standards. Statements to the contrary are not only incorrect but they threaten the entire process as we embark on the most delicate phase of the guidelines development process. Now more than ever, it is important that speculation on the potential outcomes of this effort not replace actual accomplishments.

For anyone not familiar with the process, or just as a reminder of how we got here, let me take you back to March 2010, when the IAB hosted the first Ad Verification Day in New York City. Randal Rothenberg, IAB’s CEO at that time, shared these concerns with regard to organizations engaged in ad verification:

“These companies are not audited against any industry guidelines for counting impressions. It is our hope that the IAB, working together with organizations like the Media Rating Council, will be able to create a process and a set of open standards for this new type of tool, with the twin goals of creating a brand-friendly environment for marketers while not adding complexity and cost to the ad buying process. Ad Verification Day is our first step in understanding the needs of the market.”

The summit was an opportunity for ad verification services companies to present their solutions to the members and staff of the IAB, as well as agency representatives. It also served as a catalyst for a series of discussions around one main concern: The measurement data resulting from the use of ad verification services was being used as a form of currency by some buyers of media within an ecosystem that already contained industry-accepted mechanisms for third-party measurement audits and accreditations. It was eventually decided that the next logical step was to convene a working group of industry representatives, led by the Media Rating Council (MRC), to develop the audit criteria required for consistent third-party review of the processes, methodologies, and technology behind any organization engaged in the verification of media.

Below is a visual representation of the guideline creation timeline that reflects the progress we are indeed making toward our goal. Estimated intervals are represented in green and are clear indicators of where we currently are in the process.


As we enter the delicate negotiation stage we refer to as “document iteration,” it is important to remember what we are working towards—transparent audit criteria that can be used as a stamp of approval on any company providing ad verification services. The document itself will define the terminology, methodology, and clear expectations that the entire advertising industry has agreed to.

Thank you to those who have contributed thus far in the process or have pledged your future participation. If you have not been involved and would like to have a representative at the table, please email [email protected] and ask to join the “Ad Verification Working Group.”

Most of all, please remember that discretion is crucial as we enter the next stages of development that promise to take us to what we all want—an industry-accepted set of guidelines for ad verification services.

Steve Sullivan is Vice President, Digital Supply Chain, for IAB