Big things are afoot at the Interactive Advertising Bureau, with the
New York-based trade association expected to reveal its eagerly-awaited
guidelines for impression measurement during Tuesday’s general meeting
in New York City.
Impressions, or more specifically, the controversy surrounding
differences in recording impressions, remains one of the most vexing
issues plaguing online media players.
Since the vast majority of online ad deals are booked based on
impressions, the issue, many believe, is central to proving to major
brand advertisers that the Web is a stable, maturing media industry —
on par or exceeding traditional outlets in delivering a reliable
To recap, the issue arises because the different parties involved in
serving Web ads often use different methods for counting how many
impressions they’ve served in a campaign.
Many publishers instinctively count impressions as equivalent to
page views — counted when a user’s Web browser requests page elements
from the site’s server. Ad networks often count impressions as being
served when traffic is redirected from the publisher’s site to their
own ad counting server. Other ad servers measure an impression when
the ad actually appears, fully-loaded in the browser. Due to a
cancelled page request, a server malfunction, heavy Web traffic, or any
one of a myriad of other problems, a situation could arise in which one
party in the process counts an impression, while a later one does not.
In fact, the problem is so bad that sources close to one major
third-party ad server told internetnews.com last week that its software
solution routinely counted about 50 percent fewer impressions than did
several publishers that it served.
In mid-October, the IAB took tentative steps toward a solution,
releasing an online media-buying glossary intended to combat
miscommunication and set some standards for Web advertising
terminology. However, the group shied away from actually defining an
impression — that is, specifying where in the process of serving an
online an impression is counted — although it did elucidate the
various steps in the process.
On Tuesday, the IAB also is expected to report on the progress of
several related initiatives, such as audience measurement and weeding
out illegitimate traffic from sources such as search engine spiders (a
matter on which the group has been working with organizations like the
Audit Bureau of Circulations and the Advertising Research Foundation’s
Digital Media Measurement Council).
The group is also likely to report on the success of its rich media
guidelines, which were released in early August to mete out
specifications governing load sizes and functionality. Several
prominent technology players criticized the effort as failing to “push
the envelope” of online creative, while others, along the same lines,
felt that the guidelines actually would contribute to industry
stagnation. (The IAB, meanwhile, took the position that standards
would help publishers, networks and rep firms better sell rich media
inventory to advertisers.)
The IAB also is expected to face some tough questions over its new
friendly relationship with Gator.com, an online software player that it
only months ago had called “unfair” and “deceptive.” Chiefly, IAB
leadership criticized Gator’s practice of placing its own banners on
top of those already sold by Web publishers, and said it planned to ask
federal regulators to investigate.
Now the IAB and Gator seem to have struck an agreement to work
together on developing a modified version of its software, which would
sell publishers’ unsold inventory. (Gator, which had filed a suit
against the IAB, agreed to place its legal actions on hold.)
The change in policy came less than a month after the appointment of
Greg Stuart as president and chief executive officer of the group,
which came following a statement indicating that Robin Webster had
taken a leave of absence to care for a family member.
Exactly what the group will say publicly on the matter remains in
doubt, however. An IAB statement announcing the agreement with Gator
also specified that neither party would discuss the relationship until
both were good and ready.
But the group must still justify its decision to its members,
several of which have said they once saw action against Gator.com as a
way to stem the tide of a host of similar plays, like eZula and Spedia.