Want More Ads? Get Better Metrics

SAN FRANCISCO Digital ad spending, already at an all-time high and still growing, would accelerate even faster if more online media were audited by independent third-party firms, according to a new joint survey by the Audit Bureau of Circulations and NSON Opinion Research.

The survey asked online planners and buyers in North America about key issues in digital marketing. More reliable metrics came out as the top concern.

Two-thirds of the marketers said they are not confident that their ad impressions are accurately measured and reported. Three-quarters said they would be more likely to advertise on Web sites, e-newsletters and search vehicles if those venues were independently audited.

About half said they would increase their budgets in blogs, online video, podcasts and the mobile Web if they offered reliable third-party metrics.

Almost all respondents said the most useful audited Web metrics are site traffic, ad impressions and ad delivery.

“Just as publishers and print advertisers require accuracy and credibility in traditional media information, we’re seeing increased demand for transparency and accountability online,” said Michael Lavery, ABC president and managing director. “Publishers and marketers need to work on getting accurate, credible data to support a medium rich with potential.”

Almost all respondents plan to boost their online ad budgets this year, but said those increases would be greater with reliable metrics.

Interestingly, younger marketing pros were less skeptical of current digital media measurements. Three-quarters of respondents under 25 said they trust metrics provided by online publishers, compared to 22 percent of those older than 55.

As part of the survey, the ABC recommended that advertisers consider campaign audits to verify that ad activity, such as impressions, click-throughs and conversions, is accurately measured during a specific period.

Online ad spending hit a record high in 2006 of $16.8 billion, according to an estimate released yesterday by the Interactive Advertising Bureau. That marks a 34 percent increase from 2005.