Advertising Research Foundation Absorbs Web Association

The venerable Advertising Research Foundation will incorporate a newer, Web-focused industry association in an effort to stamp out some of the most contentious problems plaguing online advertising.

The ARF — an industry association begun in the 1930’s by the Association of National Advertisers and the American Association of Advertising Agencies (the two largest advertising trade groups) — is one of the largest industry organizations devoted to advertising, marketing and media research.

Beginning this week, that group will absorb the Internet Measurement Initiative, a two-year-old industry association formed to solve issues with Internet audience measurement discrepancies.

It’s good news for the online ad industry, which for years has been stymied by squabbles over discrepancies in reporting and measurement.

For example, publishers — working off log file data — often report different numbers than third-party ad servers, agencies and measurement firms like Jupiter Media Metrix or Nielsen//NetRatings. And agencies, ad servers and publishers often even have different ideas of what exactly constitutes an impression.

The issue has vexed the online ad industry since its inception, but only recently have leaders been calling for serious discussions on the problem. Executives at the Interactive Advertising Bureau, which recently revamped its focus to concentrate on sellers of Web media, has made resolving reporting and measurement issues its chief priority.

Similarly, the ARF-IMI merger aims to represent technology and research firms in hammering out solutions. The ARF represents about 400 advertisers, agencies, research firms and media players, while the IMI (which began as the Radiate Internet Roundtable) includes members like DoubleClick, Nielsen Media Research and Microsoft.

By joining with the more mainstream ARF, the IMI says it will better serve its mission of addressing industry-wide differences in metrics, reporting and definitions.

“The IMI was formed to do one thing — bring the industry together,” said IMI director Peter Fuller, who will stay on with the merged group as a public relations consultant. “By joining the most respected voice in market research, the ARF, we are able to do just that.”

Through the merger, the IMI will become the ARF’s Digital Media Measurement Council, which will set the ARF’s agenda concerning digital media measurement. Spokespeople said the will be chaired by Rande Price, AOL Time Warner’s vice president of research, and an as-yet-unnamed co-chair, and will immediately begin an update of currently used Web definitions and measurement practices.

“We have set an aggressive agenda,” said ARF president Jim Spaeth. “We are pleased to have the IMI join our efforts to unite the industry in one voice and one research authority. Now that the industry is working collectively as one unit to resolve these issues, we will be able to offer and implement solutions quickly.”

The Digital Media Measurement Council’s first meeting is slated for later this month.

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