Time to Define The Online Impression
Sharon Katz of Modem Media recently stated that over $250,000 was spent by Modem in the last year on discrepancy resolution alone. Other Interactive agencies have stated that 30% of invoices received from sites are discrepant.
If agencies are to become profitable in Interactive, these problems need to be fixed.
We also stated the need for acceptance of third party numbers for proof of performance. If we have one standard, the numbers between site and third party server should be equivalent (agencies are willing to accept +10% as stated in the recently issued terms and conditions), thus simplifying the POP process.
Most agree that the ideal definition of an impression would be an ad fully loaded to the browser. We also recognize that this is not yet practical, as only Solbright has deployed such technology. It should, however be the long-term goal. In previous industry discussions, there seemed to be a split between use of the 302 Redirect counting method and total download from the server. The agencies appeared to be on the side of total download while the sites and third party servers appeared to be split.
Facts came to light last week that changed all of that. In a white paper dated January of 2001, DoubleClick defines its counting procedure as a 302 Redirect. This was news to us and will be news to many other Interactive agencies, as DoubleClick has done no apparent press on this white paper, which represents a change from their previous impression definition of a total download. They now state that the change was put in place "up to two years ago". And yet in industry meetings, panels and discussions, the perception that they were using the full download was never corrected. And, there is some question as to whether their sales management was even properly educated about this.
Additionally, they state that the white paper was actually issued earlier, which is probably true but not evident on their site. There is no mention in the white paper that they formerly counted using a different process or that other methods of counting even exist. Their motives behind lack of public discussion regarding such a change should be brought into question. If they are to be an industry leader, they must be above reproach. It is possible that we will need an industry body to oversee compliance of new standards should we implement them.
Now, the good news. With this change, almost all of the industry is now using 302 Redirect as the basis for counting an impression. Whether we think this is the penultimate definition or not, we have an easy task ahead of us, if we can get the various industry bodies to sit down at the table together.
In the Interactive Insertion Order Terms and Conditions recently issued by the IAB and the AAAA's, acceptance of third party servers was omitted due to apparent counting definition differences. If most of the major entities are going to agree to the 302 Redirect, why can't we get this agreement done and move ahead?
A lot of the delay has to do with the industry bodies. The IAB has a study that is going to be done by a top independent accounting firm. No timetable for completion has been presented to the industry. The AAAA's have a committee "discussing" the issue. They also do not have a deadline or firm timetable. The major sites are standing pat. The time has come to get all of the major entities in a room together and accept the 302 Redirect as the standard. Then, agreement to using third party servers for POP should be an easy agreement.
It is time to cut short the studies and discussions and put this to bed. Worst case, it must be completed this summer before plans and buys are put into place for the holidays and next year.
We'll be glad to be at the table, just tell us when and where.
David L. Smith is President of Mediasmith, Inc., a San Francisco and New York based Integrated Interactive Media Agency and Consultant and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org