Three Major Players Come Together To Further Define Measurement Standards

It was last July that I wrote about the IAB’s interest in creating a standardized way of measuring online media, part of a broader goal to standardize the way all media is measured.

Then, last October, Nielsen announced that it was introducing “Nielsen Online Ratings” in an effort to wrap its giant arms around measuring all media. At the time, Steve Hasker President of Media Products of The Nielsen Company said, “Marketers and media companies alike will now have a simpler way to measure the combined reach of TV, the web and even mobile advertising.”

That was the last we heard of standardized measurement – until the IAB’s Leadership Meeting, which just wrapped up March 1. One of the announcements to come out of that meeting was – guess what – an initiative to standardize online and cross-media measurement.

But this time, it seems, the effort may have some legs. The reason? Finally the three organizations that must ultimately cooperate in any measurement venture are coming together: the IAB (Interactive Advertising Bureau), the ANA (Association of National Advertisers) and the 4As (American Association of Advertising Agencies). So now you have advertisers and their agencies, who place the media, working alongside the association that represents the majority of media and technology companies selling online advertising. These three organizations must be serious about getting results, because they have retained leading consulting firm Bain & Company and advisory firm MediaLink to assist in the effort.

The initiative, called “Making Measurement Make Sense,” has three primary objectives:

  1. Define standard metrics and measurement systems that are transparent and consistent to simplify the planning, buying and evaluating of digital media
  2. Drive industry consensus around the solutions they come up with
  3. Establish a measurement governance model that includes a governing body and standards-setting process

Nancy Hill, President and CEO of the 4As, calls the initiative an attempt to “spearhead an ecosystem-wide solution to many of the critical issues in measurement.” She says ad agencies have had to “use, subsidize and staff around increasing numbers of metrics and data” for their media buys. Bob Liodice, President and CEO of the ANA, adds, “Online media has an abundance of metrics, but none that serve as currency across the ecosystem,” while Sherrill Mane, an SVP with the IAB, says the initiative “gives the industry the opportunity to understand how to follow and connect with the consumers targeted by [interactive] campaigns, and how to measure both within digital and across media platforms.”

At this point, the lack of a commonly accepted standard for digital metrics and cross-platform measurement is an industry embarrassment. This should have been resolved long ago – way before online became as dominant as it is today. But too many stakeholders and too many separate agendas made it impossible to find common ground.

The good news is the three industry organizations that count are now on board with the idea of standardization. The bad news is there are absolutely no details available about exactly how they plan to do this. Let’s hope it doesn’t take forever to make it happen.

About Barry Silverstein

Barry Silverstein is a freelance writer/marketing consultant. In addition to writing for ReveNews, he is a contributing writer to, the world’s leading online branding forum. He is the author of three marketing books, The Breakaway Brand (co-author, McGraw-Hill, 2005), Business-to-Business Internet Marketing (Maximum Press, 2003) and Internet Marketing for Technology Companies (Maximum Press, 2003). Barry ran his own Internet and direct marketing agency for twenty years. You can find Barry on Twitter @bdsilv.

7 Responses to Three Major Players Come Together To Further Define Measurement Standards

  1. CT Moore says:

    So a bunch of Ad Hack organizations have come together to collude on how they’re going to force a standard of success down their clients’ throats. Really, is this what we need? “Another” way to measure the success of digital media?

    We’re talking about DIGITAL media. We have CPC and CPA to measure performance. CPM is a bad side-effect from baby-boomers (advertisers and their agencies) trying to keep their “experience” from a bygone era relevant. It’s bullshit.

    As for measuring “engagement”, I doubt they can do any better than Radian6 or PostRank.

    • Pat Grady says:

      your Ad Hack (versus Ad Hoc) is hilarious!

    • Pat Grady says:

      their focus on measuring, versus examining behavior, is almost as funny.

    • I think you missed that this is a red herring. The move is actually a smart one. The IAB and others working on standardization is one step closer for them to seem to federal regulators like the FTC that the industry is capable of policing itself. By creating standards it’s easy for the IAB to point to those who are not in compliance as being a “few bad apples”.

      • CT Moore says:

        Then my worry is that they’ll shakedown the littler guys. Will the IAB really stand up for an affiliate or a blogger? Especially if they monetize through CPA and CPC? I doubt it. I could be wrong, but I doubt it.

        If you’re right, Angel, I can see this becoming a pay-to-play thing — i.e. if you don’t join one of these organization, you’ll be strung out to dry by the FTC.

        I’m skeptical. I see little value for marketers, and possibly extortion from publishers.

  2. Barry Silverstein says:

    Interesting commentary. I do think we’re seeing a pattern of private industry associations and big advertisers starting to work together because they are worried about increasing governmental regulation. The food industry is working on its own labels; the clothing industry is working on a “sustainable clothing” label, etc. I think in this case, the media industry is collaborating in an attempt to preempt government action.

  3. The internet and search engines give the “little guy” a chance to compete against the “big boys” online and in many cases win. Sounds like collusion and should be looked into by the Feds.