Ad Bureau Attempts to Perfect Clicks-to-Cash Methods

Rhett Pardon
NEW YORK — The Interactive Advertising Bureau plans to announce this week new standardized methods in reporting ad-viewership numbers.

While the new effort might not be significant for the online adult industry or most of the web, the drive to streamline data could attract more branding dollars to Internet advertising.

For 10 years, advertisers have relied on web companies to tell them how widely ads are distributed, without third-party confirmation — and many marketers have balked because of just that.

Still today, the Internet can boast only a handful of sites that have their numbers audited and certified after a decade of maturity.

But it’s not the first time the industry has tried to guarantee clicks as currency. Several years ago, publishers moved to filter web surfing from computer programs led by robots or spiders, which access sites for tasks like building indexes for search engines. That effort tried to correct the effects of caching, which is used by American Online and other Internet service providers to store a local copy of Internet content to deliver it faster to subscribers.

The IAB’s new standards will further address these issues. It will also tackle measurement of overall traffic numbers and ad clicks, including "click fraud," which occurs when publishers click on their own ads to inflate numbers. The group also intends to put a crimp on ad-blocking software, which can skew numbers.

By addressing these concerns, more companies might find the Internet an attractive way to market their products or services, particularly as TV, magazines and newspapers are awash in recent scandals and queries arising from their measurement techniques.

IAB’s new standards and audits are voluntary, and they were formulated cooperatively by a number of global advertisers, publishers and Internet technology companies. Double Click, the American Association of Advertising Agencies, the Association of National Advertisers and the Advertising Research Foundation are participating members of the IAB.

In related news, the IAB said that U.S. industry revenue for the third quarter was up 35 percent from a year earlier at a record $2.43 billion. Revenue this year is expected to exceed peak of $8 billion set in 2000, prior to when the dot-com bubble burst.