Net advertising industry thrashes out standards debate in private

Representatives of big business, big advertising, and media old and new met this morning (February 28) in Sydney to discuss issues relating to how advertising and web traffic are measured.

Among the matters to be discussed, "a consideration of census-based standard measurement definitions and a consideration of FASt Auditing principles", with the latter being described as voluntary guidelines.

The meeting is the end result of a five-month consultative process, according to Sara Morton-Stone, general manager of the Australian Association of National Advertisers, which represents the biggest online spenders.

The publishers are welcome at the meeting, but the reporters who work for them are not, as was made clear to The Industry Standard when we contacted the meeting's organisers. This has led some of the initial invitees to question the transparency of the standard-setting process.

Morton-Stone said that as this was the first meeting, it was felt that people would be more willing to speak openly without the press present.

Not all participants agreed that it was necessary to shut observers out of the meeting. Shefrk Bey, vice president Red Gauge (a division of Red Sheriff) for instance said he saw no real problem with having observers there.

One area likely to prompt debate is the vexed question of metrics. It seems there is still plenty of scope for debate in this area.

The guest list reads like the usual who's who of the old-media cartel - Fairfax, Packer and Murdoch, as well as the new-media power players like Yahoo, advertising networks like BMCMedia, new-media buyers like Emitch and ad servers Engage, 24/7 and DoubleClick.

B2B publishing house Reed Business is also attending, although IDG Communications, the publisher of The Industry Standard, withdrew from the meeting on learning that it was closed to the press. Managing director Don Kennedy said the company pulled out because it believed that issues like these needed to be debated openly, and that banning media from the meeting was not conducive to this outcome.

According to a memo sent to the invitees, "The meeting Wednesday will involve the review, ratification and adoption of the current international standard for census-based measurement by the committee."

The memo also outlines the background to the meeting.

"In October 2000, three industry associations, the Advertising Association of National Advertisers (AANA), the Audit Bureau of Circulation's (ABC) and the Internet Industry Association (IIA), came together to propose an industry-wide initiative to develop standard measurement definitions be adopted industry-wide.

"So the AANA and ABC/CAB made presentations to all industry associations: the Advertising Federation of Australia (AFA), The Media Federation (TMF), and the Australian Direct Marketing Association (ADMA) to join together to support this initiative to develop standard measurement definitions for the internet in Australia. These standards were to incorporate the international IFABC standard and also to promote the auditing of those results.

"Once the associations were on board the presentation was made to measurement companies, specialist internet advertising agencies like BMC, Emitch etc as well as ad servers like Engage, 24/7 and DoubleClick and finally publishers like ninemsn, Yahoo, f2, News Interactive, ABC and others were invited to participate."

The memo goes on: "During our meetings it became obvious that the standard for Australia must be expanded from just census (counting) based measurement, to include standard definitions for ratings and to resolve some issues raised by the ad servers."

As anyone who has been involved in standard-setting committees would recognise, that last paragraph is usually code for "Over My Dead Body!"

The Standard has contacted several participants for today's meeting with a view to getting a report on the full and frank exchange of views that emerge behind the locked doors of the 24/7 offices.

For the record, the Australian internet advertising industry's "A" list of invitees includes: Martin Venier from DoubleClick, Jason Scott of NetX, Lyndal Cowling from News Interactive, Liam Walsh from Emitch, Dr Anne Cicognani of OzEmail, Gai Le Roy from ninemsn, Adrian Giles from Sinewave Interactive, Shefrk Bey from Red Sheriff, Anthony Bertini from BMC, Sabrina Antonio from 24/7, Brendon Fitzsimmons from Engage, Helen Overmyer from AC Nielsen, Lesley Brydon from AFMA, Rob Edwards from ADMA, Ian Webster from www.consult, Susie Jones from Yahoo, Gillian Ramsay from the ABC, Mark Henning from AC Nielsen, Michael Duncan from Coles Myer Interactive, Peter Coroneos from the Internet Industry Association, Paul Dovas from the Audit Bureau of Circulation, Jonathon Jephcott from Media Metrix, Patty Keegan from Carat Interactive, Andrew Dent from Reed Business, Ben Gerholt from IDG Communications, Geoff Smith from Morgan Research and Sara Morton-Stone from the AANA.

Story courtesy of The Australian Industry Standard: http://www.thestandardcom.au

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