AAAA, IAB Agree on Web Media Buying Terms

New Web advertising placement/ordering guidelines out Monday from the American Association of Advertising Agencies and the Internet Advertising Bureau aim to make the creative process easier for advertising agencies, media planners, and media sellers.

The industry groups on Monday jointly issued “standard” contract terms and conditions for agencies and Web publishers, designed to address a number of previously contentious or differing practices for media contracts of one year or less.

Some of the key issues addressed include:

  • Advertisers, agencies, and media companies should post and comply with their company’s privacy policies
  • Ownership of personally identifiable information should be clearly spelled out in the insertion order
  • An agency cannot cancel a campaign 30 days or less prior to the start date, and the first 30 days of a campaign are firm. Effective on the 16th day of the campaign, an agency may give 14 days written notice of cancellation.

The new T&C also offer specific practices and guidelines on a range of other issues, including insertion orders, ad placement and positioning, payment liability, cancellation policies, makegoods, indemnification and privacy.

One longtime concern addressed in particular is sequential liability, which has sparked “spirited debate between media companies and agencies,” officials said. The AAAA’s own recommended terms and conditions for media buying have been in favor of sequential liability, in which agencies cannot be held liable for any media bills unless their clients have compensated them for the buy.

With the new T&C for online media, the IAB is now recommending sequential liability to its members, even though Web publishers have generally been reluctant to accept the concept — since it potentially means delaying or missing out entirely on some media revenue.

The AAAA and IAB are urging their members to agree to the new terms and conditions and to attach them to future insertion orders. But since the new T&C are intended as voluntary guidelines, agencies and Internet media companies can use them as written, modify them to suit a particular situation, or choose to ignore them altogether.

Jeff Minsky, vice president and director of media convergence for RappDigital, said that with new guidelines in place, “media planners and media sellers can go back to the important stuff — creation of good advertising programs that work.”

“Both sides have come together in agreement on most of the issues,” he said. “There are now standardized cancellation terms and agreed upon times for creative delivery. There are now understood lines of payment and financial liability. There are now clearer definitions of data ownership and indemnifications … We can now move forward in a way that will give clients a new sense of confidence in our ability to service their business as professionals.”

The new T&C were developed by a task force made up of AAAA and IAB members — Minsky’s RappDigital was one of the companies on the task force — as well as agency representatives from the Aspen Group and the New Media Coalition. The T&C document “is intended to provide a means of assisting contracting parties in the sometimes-fractious process of Internet media buying,” officials said.

“One of the key objectives for the IAB is to simplify and make easier the buying and selling of interactive advertising for both media companies and agencies, and our work with the AAAA is one of the first steps in that process,” said IAB chief executive officer Robin Webster.

Mike Donahue, AAAA executive vice president of member services, added, “This document, representing both agencies and Internet media companies, is a great coup for all — the terms and conditions are a first step in simplifying an often disorganized space.”

Minsky added, “With the coming together of agencies, advertisers, and media companies to adopt these terms-and-conditions guidelines, there is a new and vibrant recognition that by working together and understanding each other’s issues and needs, we can make the industry as a whole work more efficiently and impactively. That is a sign of maturity and a glimpse of the potential that awaits us as we move past puberty into adulthood.”

But all is not rosy in the Internet advertising world, even with the issuance of these guidelines, Minsky said.

“The much more harrowing issues of how to deal with third-party ad servers and the definition of impressions, clicks, and leads is one that requires every member of the industry to step up and admit that they may have to yet again adapt in order to become a mature industry,” he said.

One of the largest concerns stems from the fact that ad servers — which include the likes of DoubleClick, Engage and 24/7 Media — routinely report differing numbers of visitors and served ads than the publishers themselves.

The IAB said that it and the AAAA will meet “in the near future” to discuss industry-wide issues pertaining to third-party ad servers.

Bob Woods is managing editor of NewMedia, an property.

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