Net Firms Want to Standardize Ad Reach Measurement

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A group of 12 online ad firms that includes leading networks 24/7 Media Inc., DoubleClick Inc. and Flycast Communications is expected this week to announce the Advertising Standards Alliance, an organization that, as its first initiative, wants to standardize the way ad reach is measured on the Internet.

"I think the purpose of the standard is to clearly indicate who's responsible for selling the media and who's responsible for serving the media. And I think that's a fairly cloudy issue right now," said Lyn Chitow Oakes, chief operating officer at Flycast.

Despite marketers' repeated characterization of the Net as a one-to-one medium, companies on the ad-serving side want to make sure they get credit for the full extent of the reach they can deliver when placing banners. Sometimes they don't and that results in marketers making ad-buying decisions without "accurate statistics," Oakes said.

In other words, ad networks' reach numbers are being reported lower than they should be by online audience measurement firms like Media Metrix Inc., New York.

Take, for example, a portal such as Yahoo Inc. that might post pages from a separate content provider. If those pages contain banners served by an online ad network, the network "is not getting credit for serving those ads and, therefore, the reach and frequency associated with that network" is wrong, Oakes said.

"It's something we sold. And we all represent various syndicators," said Risa Weledniger, director of research at 24/7 Media. "But we want there to be a way for the ad networks to get credit, and we really want to make it as accurate as possible."

Technology provides the way. The companies plan to attach small tags in the http headers of banners they place on Web pages. The tags will identify the seller of the ad space.

The founding members of ASA - which also includes AdForce, Adsmart, Burst Media, Engage Technologies, Microsoft bCentral, Real Media,, ValueClick and SmartAge - all have pledged to implement the new system within the next six months. Media Metrix and fellow audience measurement firm Nielsen//NetRatings, New York, also have endorsed the standard.

Executives from ASA member companies said the measurement standard is the first of many they hope to introduce.

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