The Interactive Advertising Bureau worked with the Media Rating Council to craft ad verification guidelines in the hopes of limiting discrepancies between ad measurement and ad verification reports.
As more agencies and advertisers employ ad verification technologies to ensure ads appear on intended sites and reach the targeted audience, the IAB wants to standardize verification reporting. The organization is looking for public comments on the guidelines to be submitted by December.
“The MRC came to us and said there are companies that do verification services and want to be audited, and we don’t have any way of auditing because we don’t have any criteria,” said Steve Sullivan, VP digital supply chain solutions for the IAB. Sullivan said ad verification companies want the MRC stamp of approval on their reporting data, while already MRC-accredited measurement firms want verification services to undergo the MRC scrutiny their own methodologies have been subject to.
“The need arose for companies doing ad verification to be audited in a similar way to companies that already had their counts audited,” said Sullivan. ComScore and Nielsen have been audited by the MRC.
The proposed Guidelines for the Conduct of Ad Verification – developed to provide the MRC with criteria for auditing – call for standards for ad blocking, ad serving in iframes, and geotargeting.
Ad blocking, which prevents ads from being served in inappropriate content, should be performed at the ad server level, according to the proposed guidelines. In some cases, the ad blocking occurs at the ad verification level, resulting in differences in the number of impressions reported by the ad server and the verification system.
The guidelines also call for standards for nested iframes. The problem is that iframes serve content and ads from domains other than the one a publisher site is on. Sites with iframes that employ ad verification systems may not have the full picture of which ads are showing up on their sites.
Third party geotargeting firms also provide data that may differ from that of ad verification services. The IAB hopes the guidelines reduce those discrepancies, or at least give advertisers a standardized approximation of what an acceptable discrepancy might be. For instance, geotargeting company data might show that 20 IP addresses exist in a given city, while an ad verification service might show 30. The result is that the ad verification system would report the ads didn’t reach all of the intended target audience.
The IAB hopes that an MRC audit at least would reveal what an expected discrepancy should be when targeting certain locales. For example, when targeting Minneapolis, advertisers would know ahead of time that the ad verification system and geotargeting systems are always off around 20 percent.
The proposed guidelines were created over a period of around six months by an IAB working group including ad verification firms, publishers, and ad agencies.