Online Tearsheeting: Who Will Step Up?

At the recent iMedia Summit in Beaver Creek, Colorado, media buyers from agencies large and small identified a new challenge for the industry. (As if we haven't had enough challenges...) But with every challenge comes opportunity for any of the companies in our space that are positioned to respond to it. The challenge? Online tearsheeting.

Since the first time that a corporate executive bragged to his fellow bigwigs about his company's wide-reaching TV advertising on the golf course, the impact of advertising on the company that funds it has been a factor in the decision to allocate dollars to advertising efforts. People like to see their own advertising. My ex-partner Tim McHale used to talk about Budweiser ads running early in evening sports games, ostensibly because Augie Busch liked to see his ads before he went to bed for the evening.

More importantly, marketers and ad agencies need to see evidence that, in fact, the ad they booked actually ran. In print, for instance, it is standard practice for agencies to request "tearsheets," or ads physically torn from the magazine or newspaper, from the media vendor as evidence that booked ads actually ran.



Why don't we have something similar for the online medium? It probably has something to do with the fact that ads are sold impression-by-impression in online, and that the consumption experience is different for every online visitor to a website. And unless an advertiser buys a persistent sponsorship, an ad that appears on a page to one user might be replaced by a completely different ad when a user visits that page a millisecond later. Since the experience may be different for each user, online tearsheeting has its challenges.

But it's definitely needed. Whether for verification or pure placation of the ego, online tearsheeting is something we should have. But who should provide this for the industry? There are quite a few companies that certainly could do it if they wanted to. Let's see who might be poised to jump into this market sector...

  • Evaliant or AdRelevance - Naturally, the companies that track competitive online campaigns could very easily pick up a good number of online ad executions and show how they were displayed on the page when they ran. This could be a great extension of their service offering.
  • I/PRO - Industry professionals have come to trust I/PRO's brand in the audit space. This would be a natural extension of the brand.
  • DoubleClick, Atlas DMT, Mediaplex or any of the major providers of planning tools - Why not? Since agencies are going to make up the key constituency for an online tearsheeting service, this function could be just another add-on to existing suites of planning tools.
  • Desktop applications like Claria or WhenU - Since these applications are privy to web-wide surfing behavior, they could easily solve the "mass customization" problem by picking up how ad-supported pages look to individual users.

Of course, the online tearsheeting process could be handled by the sites that run advertising themselves, but wouldn't it be easier to pay a service a monthly fee to take care of online tearsheeting?

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