Web Measurement Standard Eyes 2013 Debut

The Making Measurement Make Sense initiative, launched by the IAB, ANA and 4As in 2011, and intended to standardize online audience measurement, is expected to roll out later this year. “We wanted to make a systematic taxonomy and classification system that everyone could incorporate into the transaction process," said IAB's Sherrill Mane.
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A common standard for online metrics from served to viewable impressions will arrive on schedule later this year, according to the Interactive Advertising Bureau, capping off a period of intense pilot testing in 2012.

The shift is a major goal of the Making Measurement Make Sense (3MS) initiative, a joint venture of the IAB, the Association of National Advertisers and the American Association of Advertising Agencies (4As), which launched the effort in 2011.

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“We have gone forward and conducted these massive pilot tests and we now know what our outstanding issues are,” said Sherrill Mane, senior VP of research, analytics and measurement at the IAB. “We are still on target for having a viewable impression standard definition in 2013.”

The new standard would mean a sea change in the often wildly divergent world of online measurement. Those inconsistencies have had a hampering effect on digital and cross-platform ad sales, though, fittingly, the size of that problem is hard to measure.

The 3MS response has been to lay out five guiding principles for measurement. The first was to transition from a served impression to a viewed impression, better ensuring that content measured is actually seen by users. The second principle seeks to use gross rating points as a transactional currency, while the third deals with ad classification and taxonomies.

“We wanted to make a systematic taxonomy and classification system that everyone could incorporate into the transaction process, and then you could start building up normative databases where you could start testing against different brand strategic goals,” Mane said.

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The fourth and fifth guiding principles of the initiative deal with added value beyond the act of counting the ad exposure, working toward systematic metrics for social media and making digital media increasingly compatible and integrated with other media.

Mane said the New York-based Media Rating Council, a nonprofit organization, has become the conduit through which 3MS’s new metrics will evolve. “They have taken over oversight of writing the standards for the viewable impression,” she said. “They are the industry body that exists that will be the standard-setting place for the future.”

She also noted that some hiccups toward standardization have revealed themselves in recent months. One formidable one was an iframe, a kind of virtual security container that was designed to protect the integrity of the content that resides within it from being corrupted. Iframes protect the parts of a page — like advertisements — that aren’t controlled by the publisher, but “in many cases they make it hard to determine whether an ad is viewable or not because you can’t see through them,” Mane said.

One upshot of identifying the problem was that technology personnel at the IAB and its members companies have been able to troubleshoot a solution that enables iframes to preserve their security function while becoming transparent for measurement — the same frames solution.

Another challenge that has emerged concerns large, high-impact online ads that serve as the Internet equivalent of a full-page ad. Mane said the new proposed minimum standard for an ad to be counted as viewable is 50% of pixels in view for a minimum of one second.

Mane said the new standards’ impact will be felt first by publishers, who will use them to recast their inventory and reforecasting their revenue.

“The publishers are really the ones who are going to be readjusting and redoing,” she said. “They can redesign their sites. They can create new user experiences that optimize the ad, as well as the content. Right now there are a lot of ads being put on sites that may or may not be viewable or optimize the viewability.”

Behind publishers, the buying community will have greater confidence that their ads are being seen. Ultimately, the Mane said the goal is for the whole price value relationship in the marketplace to be adjusted because there will less total ad inventory in the market, but a larger proportion of that stock will be better inventory.

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