File Under “It’s About Freakin’ Time”! Thank you IAB for taking a step towards automating one of the mundane tasks that should not exist in our industry any longer!Hopefully it is not a witch hunt to try and pin discrepancies on the 3rd party ad servers, which has been the case for many years.
Inefficiencies from manual trafficking, reconciliation and discrepancy res0lution has been plaguing agencies and publishers since the introduction of the 3rd part ad serving system in the mid-to-late 90’s. There has never been a credible way to identify the causes of most ad serving discrepancies. Agencies blame publishers, and publishers blame the 3rd party ad serving systems that the agencies employ. This dance has evolved – discrepancies narrowed, but the saga does indeed continue.
As a long time agency guy, I stand by agencies’ (and clients’) need to reconcile media costs based on the numbers that are tracked and analyzed. To this day there exists an industry “accepted” discrepancy between publisher and agency ad server stats (contractually up to 10%, although it has come dropped over the years), which causes undue manual labor in dealing with the investigation and reconciliation process, not to mention a general tension at times between buyer and seller. A technological solution was inevitable, but had to come from the sell side. Since publisher numbers have always a bit higher, due to the server calls occurring a fraction of a second earlier than that of the 3rd party ad server (and other issues), the onus has been on the IAB (ultimately a publisher-interest focused organization) to work with the ad servers to develop and fund an industry level reconciliation system. The agencies (aka the ones holding the bags of client budgets) demand that publishers honor the 3rd party ad server numbers, and there is little motivation to fund the development of an automated system to help publishers reconcile. Agencies look at centralized, apples-to-apples, campaign-level stats and that’s all that matters – in fact, that’s all that should matter. The 3rd party ad server is the backbone to a significant amount of insight generation and campaign optimization. Publishers should (and hopefuly do) recognize that this tool has actually helped to increase the size of the ecosystem over the years.
The IAB’s Impression Exchange Solution will “allow publishers to receive automated 3rd party delivery reports on a daily basis that enable easy integration with publisher systems for comparison with their line items.” This will essentially make it easy (and eventually automate) comparison of log files for each ad served in order to discover mismatched impressions and determine where in the server to server communication and ad deliver process the measurement broke down.
Of course I understand publishers’ perspectives that they are getting shorted or have to over-deliver to ensure that the agencies’ 3rd party ad servers are tracking fullfilled campaign levels. So which numbers are accurate? Well, in a perfect world there would be little to no discrepancy, and hopefully we will move towards that world.
As for which numbers are right, it depends on your definition of right. If you’re an agency or client the definition is simple. If it is not tracked by the centralized ad server, it never happened…or… whatever is not counted doesn’t count.
“I track therefore I am”.