If there’s one adage that everyon e who works in online advertising
should keep in mind, it is that accidents happen
and something is always bound to go wrong as a result.
One major issue that concerns both marketers and publishers
is ensuring that ads appear on intended websites and/or
pages, and that they reach their targeted audiences. To help
overcome this issue, companies began taking part in ad verification,
typically utilizing third-party services to check their
ads for any discrepancies that may be hindering optimal delivery.
Unfortunately, there was never an established set of
criteria that these services, publishers and marketers could
follow to let them know that they were using the same
procedures as one another during the verification process.
Enter the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), an organization
tasked with establishing standards, conducting research
and providing legal support for the online
advertising industry. In short, its goal is to improve efficiency
in and support the growth of the online interactive
Recently, the IAB worked on a new initiative in tandem
with the Media Rating Council (MRC) to create the
Guidelines for the Conduct of Ad Verification. The first,
and very legitimate question that many Web pros may
have upon first hearing about this is, What exactly is ad
verification all about?
Let the Buyer Beware
According to IAB vice president of advertising technology
Steve Sullivan, “Ad verification is a way for a buyer to
verify, during a campaign, that inventory bought with an insertion
order (IO) they signed is fulfilling the contractual
agreement between them and the seller.”
In other words, ad verification is the process of making
sure that a buyer’s ad inventory is adhering to the prearranged
specifications laid out in the initial agreement by alerting the
buyers to any variance from the original deal with the seller.
The verification process allows any issues to come to light
(and be corrected) in the early stages of the campaign to improve
efficiency and save money.
Sullivan is also quick to point out that, “In most cases,
these variances are accidental,” and usually the result of
human, not systemic, error.
Ad verification can be a useful practice for both buyers
and sellers of ads. While buyers can use verification services
to ensure that their ads are valid because they are meeting
the predetermined standards as laid out in the initial contract,
sellers can utilize the process as a sort of self-monitoring
technique, to make sure that ads are performing properly
on their end, which could save them quite the headache in
the long run.
Providing a Blueprint
The framework laid out in the previously mentioned guidelines
aims to provide a set of common methodologies and
practices for ad verification. By presenting this shared set of
standards, the IAB can assure both advertisers and publishers
that companies engaging in ad verification are on the
same, standardized path.
“The guidelines aren’t a how-to for ad verification,” explains
Sullivan. “They represent a criterion that auditors use
in the verification process. What this means is that the
Guidelines for the Conduct of Ad Verification are just that, a
set of benchmarks that verification services will use during
the validation process.”
With the release of the guidelines, the IAB is able to provide
advertising buyers and sellers with information about
common methods and practices in mobile, email and leadgeneration
campaigns of all types that address a variety of topics, including nested iFrames, geo-targeting IP-based
processes and ad-serving prevention, or “ad blocking,”
among other issues.
Let’s look at some of these issues more closely:
iFrames: Many browsers come with unique operational
and/or security considerations, which can cause limited visibility
when verifying advertising content served in nested
iFrames. The guidelines address this issue by recommending
disclosure of the general nature of the verification tools
and the extent to which the content in the iFrame can be
evaluated. Those tasked with verifying the ad are suggested
to assess if the appropriate content was served, that the ad
was appropriately sized to fit the iFrame, and whether the ad
was actually visible.
Geo-targeting: The IAB guidelines also recommend that
that geo-targeting vendors subject their processes to independent
auditing, because the quality and effectiveness of
IP-based geo-targeted ads can vary greatly based on the
vendor. By offering up their services to an unbiased reviewer,
potential customers can get a better idea of the
capabilities of various geo-targeting services, thus allowing
them to select the service best poised to bring them
Ad Blocking: The guidelines also advise that ad blocking
be used in situations where the relevant domain or pagespecific
URL is already on a blocking list for fraud prevention
and competitive separation, or the amount of space that
separates two competing ads from one another on a page. To
ensure that these decisions are made before an ad is served,
the IAB/MRC also recommends that ad blocking should
only be built into ad serving systems.
Why Do We Need This?
In the past, the lack of accountability during the ad verification
process creating tensions between publishers and
marketers, a problem that his organization hopes to quell
with the release of the new guidelines. This lack of accountability
comes from those doing the verifying, which is
typically a third-party verification service provider.
By providing a set of criteria, the IAB is able to ensure
that everyone involved, from publishers to marketers to verification
services, is on the same page and utilizing the same
standards. Ultimately, the organizations hope that this will
promote growth, consistency and great transparency during
the interactive advertising buying and selling process.
The guidelines also give buyers and sellers the option to
be more autonomous and cut out the ad verification middleman,
because the guidelines are pertinent to anyone engaged
in conducting ad verification. For instance, sellers don’t have
to go through a third-party provider to verify the ads they’re
serving; now, they can just follow the guidelines, conduct
their own verification and then be audited against it.
Considering how useful it can be for improving efficiency
and increasing revenue, ad verification probably doesn’t get
quite the amount of coverage it deserves. And now that the
IAB and MRC have taken measures to try to refine the
process for buyers, sellers and verification service providers,
it should become an even more valuable service, especially
for those businesses with large and involved online advertising