MRC Details Click Measurement Guidelines

George Ivie of MRCThe Click Quality Council has been calling for industry standards to identify both valid and fraudulent clicks. This week, the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) and Media Rating Council (MRC) provided insight into the long-awaited Click Measurement Guidelines, which set parameters for defining and counting clicks.

The guidelines, announced at the end of February, define the click transaction cycle such as when it's initiated, redirected to the ads, and received by the advertiser. They also define filtration procedures--the internal controls that enable a company to filter and count only valid clicks. Other processes are detailed, including documentation, reporting click counts, monitoring invalid clicks and auditing requirements.

"Rich media applications like Ajax can really create complexity in counting impressions and transactions, so we require linkage of Ajax impressions with things like user activity," said George Ivie, MRC executive director and CEO, during a conference call Wednesday. "Don't allow the refresh of an ad unless the user is manipulating the content of the page."

There are several auditing processes. Companies such as such Click Forensics, Austin, Texas, will audit the pay-per-click campaign to make advertisers feel comfortable that publishers are following the guidelines. Auditing will become voluntary. Another type of auditing relies on the MRC. Search marketers would look at the guidelines to determine compliance before reaching out to an auditing organization such as the MRC, which would rely on independent CPAs.

The guidelines also detail a variety of processes. For example, publishers need to make reports that provide insight into invalid clicks available to advertisers and agencies. Publishers should establish procedures to disclose revised, valid click counts when significant invalid click activity is detected for the campaign during a predetermined length of time.

Ivie said the click guidelines are part of a larger project to bring clarity to measuring clicks. The MRC has been working on guidelines for in-game advertising. The group also has partnered with the IAB, Mobile Marketing Association (MMA) and telecom trade group GSMA to develop mobile marketing measurements. The MRC has also been working on guidelines for in-game advertising.

Some challenges for the mobile guidelines center on whether carriers, content providers or ad servers control the transaction and own the click. "As we go through the standards we need to decide on the measurement hooks," he said, adding that it will take at least one year to pull together the mobile standards.

Geographic and location-based targeting are two concepts not in the document today, but MRC will work to create guidelines.

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