With a sense of timing that you can draw your own conclusions about, the IAB has sent an open letter to Neilsen//NetRatings and Comscore to ask them to submit to an independent third-party audit of their measurement methods. From the letter:
“We in the marketing-media ecosystem have spent too many years trying to clean up the residue of flawed media-research methodologies. We simply cannot let the Internet, the most accountable medium ever invented, fall into the same bad customs that have hindered older media and angered advertisers for decades.”
To this end, we have asked several times for comScore and Nielsen//NetRatings to agree to audits of your audience measurement processes. Both your companies’ reports have a material impact on interactive marketing and media decision-making; transparency into your methodologies is critical to maintaining advertisers’ confidence in interactive media, particularly now, as marketers allocate more budget to interactive venues. Every major advertising medium receives audited numbers from its key measurement suppliers – but not interactive. Although I understand you have agreed to be audited, I’m not aware that any timetables have been set. The platform is still burning.”
Strong stuff indeed, though I’m not quite sure I understand what “The platform is still burning” actually means. Neilsen and Comscore responded immediately with open letters/press releases of their own (I felt a glimmer of sympathy for the PR departments in both companies, since the IAB letter was published on a Friday and the responses the following Monday – someone’s weekend was ruined). Both responses were of the “Who? Us? Unaccountable? You must have us confused with someone else” variety. To summarize:
- Neilsen: we are already working with the MRC (the Media Rating Council, the audit body recommended by the IAB), so please get off our backs
- Comscore: we are already working with the ARF (Advertising Research Foundation), so please get off our backs
Neither company’s press release was exactly effusive in its welcome of the IAB’s letter (I particularly liked Neilsen’s indignation at the IAB’s “We cannot let the Internet fall into the same bad customs as old media” line); it seems that both companies understand that between them they more or less have the entire market sewn up, and that there’s no business need for them to submit to an audit.
But Comscore wins on pure chutzpah for devoting three paragraphs to their recently published (“seminal”, they say) study into the inaccuracies of cookie-based visitor counts. They go on to offer their services to help establish measurement standards in the industry and eliminate the inaccuracies of cookie/log-based counting. Impressive cojones, Comscore.
For a more intelligent assessment of the dialog between these companies, plus some useful background about the MRC, see this article.