Jupiter Rolls Out Campaign Measurement Service

On the heels of the termination of its proposed buyout by NetRatings, online research and measurement firm Jupiter Media Metrix is rolling out a new service to measure Web ad campaigns.

The service, dubbed Campaign Analysis, is intended to provide a solution to the prickly problem of discrepancies, which has long plagued online advertising, with ad servers and publishers routinely posting different figures for impression-based campaigns.

A months-long push to address the impression-counting issue, led by industry groups like the Interactive Advertising Bureau, culminated in recent weeks in formalized guidelines on the matter. However, those rules still allow room for publishers and third-party servers to disagree over the number of impressions served in a campaign.

Now, Jupiter hopes to step in by offering itself as an impartial means to track ad impressions, circumventing the publisher-versus-server debate altogether.

The company’s service, which relies on users’ Web browsers to detect ad delivery, theoretically should be more accurate than the commonly accepted processes of measuring during the page- or ad-serving process — since it aims to register an impression only after an ad fully appears in a browser (a metric referred to informally as “opportunity to see.”)

Jupiter’s process involves serving a transparent GIF image — also known as a “Web bug” — along with an ad. Jupiter’s servers detect the serving of that image, which it counts as a valid impression, and can also glean rudimentary geographic and demographic information from the viewer’s browser.

In conjunction with cookies, the service could be used to track online campaigns’ effectiveness — detecting whether a viewer of an ad eventually visited the advertiser’s site, for instance.

Similarly, the service could use cookies to calculate campaigns’ reach and frequency, two metrics derived from broadcast media that have received some acclaim as alternatives to impression-based selling.

The service also could have applications in e-mail, and in affiliate marketing — to accurately track and compensate affiliates’ referrals to merchants.

“Jupiter Media Metrix will help remove the ambiguity and skepticism over the definition of an ad impression by reporting only what is loaded in the Web browser, not what is served,” said Seth Segel, senior vice president at Jupiter. “The service will grow overall confidence in online advertising and marketing by taking the uncertainty out of ad- impression counts and moving it toward a pay-for-performance model, such as in traditional media.”

While embedding Web bugs into pages to track ads is nothing new — the technique has long been used by publishers and ad servers — Jupiter’s position as a relatively neutral party in the ad serving process could weigh heavily in its favor.

Still, it’s uncertain whether Jupiter’s process will become more than an add-on offering to its existing site traffic ASP. For one reason, the IAB has promised a more detailed study into publisher- and ad server-side processes, and is working with the Audit Bureau of Circulations’ interactive unit to develop figures for how much either process miscounts a campaign’s actual impressions.

As a result, agencies could use the IAB/ABCi data as an alternative to Jupiter’s service in counting impressions.

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