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“Discrepancies” Abound in Media Impressions say Publishers, Advertisers, Agencies

Published on January 18, 2012

Ask a publisher, ad agency or third-party measurement service for a tally of impressions, and chances are the numbers will not match. The discrepancy boils down to the ad server and measurements the organization uses, a panel of experts told AdExchanger.com. Even if they are within 5%, “I’m not willing to lose 5% extra revenue because of the agency’s choice of ad server,” said Jay Wright, Yield Management Group Leader at Cars.com, an online marketplace. AdExchanger posed the question "What's your take on trends you're seeing with discrepancies in ad delivery reporting today?" the responses boiled down, largely, to “Who is measuring?”

Mitchell Weinstein, director of ad operations at media agency Universal McCann, believes discrepancies stem from using multiple ad servers on a single campaign; one server handles rich media while another handles video, for example. So, “It’s important to identify up front where…billing numbers will come from.” Weinstein hastens to add that revised Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) guidelines of December 2009 did away with far greater discrepancies.

Wright of Cars.com also observes improvement, but still a lack of precision, which can cost a publisher. Cars.com found that some 3rd party servers can routinely return discrepancies of up to 7% between the publisher and ad advertisers’ measurements. Wright is in favor of paying on first-party numbers—picking one measure (perhaps the publisher’s or the advertiser’s) and paying on it; or, have a rate card based on an agency’s choice of server.

While discrepancies are improving with technology, “There still exists a fundamental difference in who’s counting an impression when,” said Daniel Davies, director, US ad operations for Adnetik. The Adnetik technology compiles and resolves data between exchanges, ad networks and publisher sites. “What we sometimes end up with is a handful of varying snapshots, all taken of the same thing, but at slightly different times,” and the number of entities making those measurements grows yearly. Davies sums up the solution very well for most of the panelists: technology and standardization have to keep pace. Davies observes that “computing muscle and stamina backing digital advertising” is keeping the discrepancies from growing in pace with the number of digital ad outlets . That number will not keep growing; it is the responsibility of the industry to find technology that keeps pace.