Measurement guidelines … others have tackled it, can Australia?

Regular readers will know I have a bee in my bonnet about audience measurement online. Frankly, it’s not just broken … it’s completely flawed.

Where does the problem originate? Well – a few things. The medium still claims to be new … 15+ years on. The medium hides behind technology advancement as a reason why it’s seen to be slow to react. Advertisers don’t really care too deeply about measurement (not the same way they do about TV measurement, for instance). Plus, the industry is growing so the unspoken sentiment is to ‘not do anything that might impact the growth of the industry.’

Thing is, the crappy measurement we all cop will impact the growth of the industry. Maybe not now, but soon enough.

A great start would be an industry body initiating a set of guidelines that its members must adhere to. The ABA are doing this, but the problem is no one really answers to them. It is difficult for the ABA to really drive an issue to the level required.

My feeling is a central body needs to take control of this.

In the US, it’s the IAB.

They have a set of guidelines around Audience Measurement that is clear and concise.

You can view it here –

Some key takeouts

– client initiated counting is crucial
– non human activities must be excluded
– caching must be accounted for
– internal traffic must be excluded
– transparency to data users is the paramount goal of the guidelines

We need to remove from all ‘third party’ data any page impression that is not human initiated. ie – any page impression that is a result of a browser auto-refreshing a page really shouldn’t be counted. We should remove the impact this has on time spent metrics.

How hard is it to do this? It would seem to an onlooker it is pretty difficult.

First of all, those using it hide behind sentiment like ‘but we must use full page auto refresh to make sure users have the most updated news’ … not true.

Some hide behind ‘well, everyone else does it so why should we take a stand’ … others really don’t care.

Many claim they ‘can’t afford it’ – baulking at the $12k Nielsen charge (not to mention the ABA cost)  as ‘too expensive’ even though audience measurement through a third party has been a basic cost of running a media business for decades. At the same time, they’re more than happy to talk to corporate advertisers about corporate ad budgets.

And others – and these are the worst kind – do it because without it they don’t have a business.

Thing is – they have a business that exists because of unethical practices. Without being able to position on a completely false platform of engagement, no one would have a reason to use them.

Wow. Just wow.


3 responses to “Measurement guidelines … others have tackled it, can Australia?

  1. joelyrighteous

    I honestly think you hit the nail on the head early in this article when you said:

    “Thing is, the crappy measurement we all cop will impact the growth of the industry. Maybe not now, but soon enough.”

    This is the key problem with the big publishers in Australia, they all want revenue NOW and that feeds through to every aspect of the business operating in a short-sighted manner.

    You see it not only in their use of auto-refresh and unwillingness to be audited, but also in their dislike of taking client side reporting number, their never-ending push to cram more ads onto a page , the insane way in which everyone is pushing online video without a real understanding of how users feel about it and their insane mentality that allows them to charge a premium for placements that sit right next to ads being served via performance networks.

    If I were an advertiser who had not previously bought digital I would be bloody skeptical about the whole thing.

  2. Hence the work the MFA is doing with the ABA and the IAB through its Measurement Council (MC). Many of these issues are NOT easy to resolve as I am sure you realise – otherwise they would already be done.

    In my opinion it’s better to be part of the solution than the pundit. Yourself and Sound Alliance need to be part of that body that actively and vigorously provides that much-needed solution. So … where were you last Thursday when the MC met at what was probably the most important meeting it has had since the Danaher audit of Nielsen Online? Disappointed mate. See you at the next one I hope.

  3. Here’s how it works client-side, I’ve been there.

    Big campaign: big spend on TV, outdoor and print. Of course there has to be an online component to any modern campaign, so they give a tiny sliver to online. Some agency guy in a shiny suit tells the uninformed client buyer how many millions of impressions he’s going to get for your money, across all the big properties.

    Two weeks after the campaign, they come and ask the numbers guy, someone like me, how many sales we made from online ads. The response? Maybe two, with a really piss poor click through rate.

    So the next campaign? Online will get the same tiny sliver, or maybe even less, cos hey at least the TV spots generated a bunch of calls. “This online stuff never works”.

    This is your challenge, industry. You need to make your customers successful, not just take their money.

    Why do you think Google is so rich? They make everyone in the chain successful: the advertiser gets someone who’s actively looking for their product, the searcher finds someone who wants their business so much they’re willing to pay for it, Google gets their slice.

    If you want to grow the online advertising industry, you need to get to the place Google is.

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