ABCi to Audit E-Mail

The Audit Bureau of Circulation’s online unit says it plans to turn its attention to tracking email, in an effort to stamp out concerns over list accuracy and delivery validity — and perhaps help produce some standards along the way.

For direct response service bureaus and email distribution companies, the Chicago-based ABC Interactive said it would study the systems used to create and deliver email campaigns — analyzing internal processes and reporting standards.

Meanwhile, ABCi also said it would provide auditing services for list managers and marketers that would review the results of specific campaigns. ABCi said it would be able to verify the accuracy of lists’ purported size and demographic makeup, their compliance with stated privacy rules, agreed-upon merge/purge activity, delivery and results.

The group’s president and chief executive, Bruce Smith, said the unit’s third-party email verification service would help advertisers and their agencies get more accurate measurement of the performance of their email campaigns — thus benefiting the industry at large.

“We want to offer assurance to list owners as well as advertisers and agencies that email can be a potent marketing medium, by verifying its required activities,” he said.

In addition to detecting problems that might hinder email campaigns’ success, the ABC audit also is intended to be something of a “seal of approval” — signifying that the audited firm is capable of accurately executing and reporting on campaigns, in accordance with contractual requirements. (The same is true for its venerable parent, which is funded and patronized by the print magazine industry.)

As with Web metrics, since the industry has yet to produce any hard-and-fast standards for email marketing, ABCi said that it would generally proceed “in the spirit of full and accurate disclosure, with input from the clients and industry groups.”

In that regard, such an audit practice could help the email marketing industry by weeding out inaccurate procedures and players, and by making it easier for an apples-to-apples comparison of different vendors.

Already, the group is working with associations like the Interactive Advertising Bureau to hammer out standards governing ad serving metrics and reporting, and it is huddling with the Advertising Research Foundation’s Digital Media Measurement Council to create audience auditing standards. Now, it said, it plans to do the same for email.

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