I/PRO, which will perform the behavioral segment audits, will use 24/7's analytics program Insight XE as the platform for the new service, called I/PRO Behavioral Audit. At launch--which is expected to be sometime this quarter--I/PRO will audit eight different segments based on standards set by 24/7's behavioral targeting program, OnTarget.
This is not the first service designed to examine the quality of audience segments bought and sold by advertisers and publishers. In October of last year, Revenue Science, a rival provider of behavioral targeting services to 24/7, partnered with audience measurement firm Nielsen//NetRatings to audit the quality of segments sold by Web publishers. Tacoda Systems, another behavioral targeting firm, has another system that identifies and defines audience segments for its publishers.
I/PRO's Behavioral Audit will be the first system that audits the actual audience data publishers sell to advertisers. The Nielsen/Revenue Science system, based on panel data, is approximated; it examines the quality of publisher segments by cross-referencing them with information gleaned from Nielsen's panel of 750,000 Web users.
Derrick Horner, senior vice president and deputy general counsel, 24/7 Real Media, explained that advertisers and agencies want an unbiased, neutral assessment of a Web publishers' behavior segments before they commit to making a purchase, particularly because publishers command a premium for them.
Gary Stein, a Senior Analyst at JupiterResearch, noted that several months ago advertisers and publishers alike were calling for a third party to name, define, and audit publishers' audience segments. Now, he said, the three big names in behavioral targeting have "identified the problem, but they're all going about solving it in a different way."
"What advertisers want is cross-site congruence," he said. The emergence of another big player trying to fix the problem in its own way "confuses things a little bit." For the sake of efficiency, Stein said, "one program will have to succeed over the other," but if that doesn't happen, a neutral organization like the Online Publishers Association would have to step in to get publishers to use one solution.
"Revenue Science and Nielsen have a place in the market that is very useful," opined Chris Butler, chief operating officer of I/PRO, but he said "small- to-mid-size publishers in particular are very misrepresented" by panel-based auditing services. The company said that small- to-mid-size publishers are the core of I/PRO's auditing services.
However, Butler emphasized that the company is looking to become "the gold seal of approval" in behavioral targeting standards and auditing services.
"When it comes to looking at any specific Web site, that's where the model falls apart," David Barlin, VP Marketing, I/PRO, said--because a panel-based approach can't accurately determine such details at home, at work, or at school use, for example. "We look at 100 percent of someone's traffic when doing an analysis," added Butler. "No other auditing service can make that claim."
After a longstanding customer relationship, I/PRO and 24/7 came up with the idea for the Behavioral Audit service. I/PRO uses 24/7's Insight XE to audit publishers' traffic data; both companies recognized the opportunity to extend the relationship into the behavioral targeting space.
The initial audited segments will be travelers, tech-savvy users, investors, women, people with specific health problems, online shoppers, gamers, and music lovers. The company intends to expand its auditing services to up to 600 characteristics.