IAB Releases Industry’s First Independent Review of Online Site Intercept Studies

Thorough & Public Assessment Kicks Off Wide-Ranging Effort to Improve Research Practices and Reduce Inefficiencies

NEW YORK – The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) released “An Evaluation of Methods Used to Assess the Effectiveness of Advertising on the Internet,” which examines the methodology behind site intercept studies, a common form of consumer advertising effectiveness research. It is the first thorough, public assessment undertaken of the state of online ad effectiveness research. The IAB also announced that it would be leading an industry effort to undertake additional research to ensure that brand-effectiveness studies adhere to established principles for the conduct of market and consumer research.

The report was written by Paul Lavrakas, Ph.D., a renowned research methodology expert, former Chief Research Methodologist for the Nielsen Company and author of Telephone Survey Methods: Sampling, Selection, and Supervision (2nd Edition, SAGE, 1993) as well as four other books covering election polling and the news media. Dr. Lavrakas has also authored numerous other publications and conference papers.

Through a detailed review of relevant academic literature and multiple interviews with experts at research vendors and media companies, Dr. Lavrakas concludes that three prevalent flaws in site intercept studies jeopardize their results:

– The validity of Interactive Advertising Effectiveness (IAE) research is “threatened . . .by the extremely low response rates achieved in most IAE studies”
– The research is also “threatened by the near-exclusive use of quasi-experimental research designs rather than classic experimental designs”
– The research is compromised by “a lack of valid empirical evidence that the statistical weighting adjustments… adequately correct for the biasing effects” created by the two preceding issues.

Dr. Lavrakas said his interviews with researchers indicated they are aware of these methodological flaws and their implications, but have not implemented more rigorous methodologies because of the expense.

“If the phrase ‘marketing science’ is to have any meaning, participants in the ecosystem must demand that their vendors employ rigorous, tested research methodologies, even if doing so costs more,” said Sherrill Mane, Senior Vice President of Industry Services, IAB. “Ad effectiveness research is an important tool for marketers looking to assess the success of branding campaigns, and Dr. Lavrakas’s report is just the first step in the IAB’s efforts to improve the way brand advertising in digital media is measured.”

The IAB Research Council commissioned Dr. Lavrakas to provide a foundation for a comprehensive initiative that will improve online brand effectiveness research. As next steps, the IAB will:

– Launch a cross-industry task force to help the interactive advertising ecosystem better understand how these studies impact the broader supply chain, and suggest ways to minimize potential inefficiencies they may create
– Create a set of U.S. best practices for online brand impact ad effectiveness studies that will include recommendations for marketers, advertising agencies, research vendors and publishers
– Use Dr. Lavrakas’s report to identify and develop valuable research for understanding and improving online ad effectiveness studies

“Dr Lavrakas’s report reveals important action items for this critical area of online research,” said Stephanie Fried, Director of Strategic Digital Research, NBC Universal, and co-chair of the IAB Research Council. “I am looking forward to working via the IAB to help marketers, agencies and publishers unleash the full potential of online ad effectiveness research to deliver robust, reliable and actionable results.”

“There is an enormous volume of brand impact studies being conducted across online media, and we developed this initiative because we saw a marketplace need to help all industry stakeholders identify the correct execution and best practices around their use,” said Dan Murphy, SVP of Interactive Research and Ad Traffic, Univision, and a member of the IAB Research Council.

“An Evaluation of Methods Used to Assess the Effectiveness of Advertising on the Internet” and more information on the IAB’s action plan for improving online brand impact ad effectiveness and can be found on the IAB website at www.iab.net/interceptstudies

About the IAB’s Research Council

The Research Council provides a forum for interactive research practitioners to share findings that support the growth of the industry; it encourages strong methodologies and best practices for research and measurement, and it works with the IAB to design and field important industry research projects and share these findings with key stakeholders.

A complete list of Research Council member companies can be found at http://www.iab.net/member_center/councils_committees_working_groups/councils/research_council

About the IAB:

The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) is comprised of more than 460 leading media and technology companies who are responsible for selling 86% of online advertising in the United States. On behalf of its members, the IAB is dedicated to the growth of the interactive advertising marketplace, of interactive’s share of total marketing spend, and of its members’ share of total marketing spend. The IAB educates marketers, agencies, media companies and the wider business community about the value of interactive advertising. Working with its member companies, the IAB evaluates and recommends standards and practices and fields critical research on interactive advertising. Founded in 1996, the IAB is headquartered in New York City with a Public Policy office in Washington, D.C. For more information, please visit www.iab.net.