A Commitment to Transparency
One of the more complex challenges digital measurement and analytics providers grapple with these days is the servicing of dual but paradoxical masters: the protection of intellectual property on the one hand, and the fundamental value of openness and transparency on the other.
Traditional consumers of audience measurement might immediately assume that transparency should always, and under all circumstances, trump the protection of IP. But in the digital space, audience measurement—like so many other things—gets complex. One example of the kind of IP that a measurement company must keep proprietary is the detail around their techniques for identification and filtration of Non-Human Traffic, or NHT. As readers of the ongoing Mike Shields series in Adweek know all too well, there are bad actors actively working to game measurement systems in order to defraud publishers and advertisers for their own gain. My colleague Brian Pugh wrote about our ongoing efforts to deal with NHT here, and then again here. Measurement companies, even ones committed to transparency, must stay one step ahead of these bad actors.
That said, Comscore remains intensely committed to the values of transparency, openness and disclosure. One of the best ways to provide users with an appropriate level of transparency into methods, methodologies, practices and techniques, is to engage with third-party, outside auditors. Comscore first formally engaged with such audit bodies in the summer of 2006, when I was retained as a consultant to represent Comscore to the Media Rating Council (MRC). Eight months later I officially came aboard as Chief Research Officer, and our audit efforts have expanded almost geometrically ever since.
Readers may know that Comscore Direct has been MRC-accredited since 2011, and that the vCE Validation module (which includes Viewability, Brand Safety, In-Geo, and NHT) has been MRC-accredited since 2012. I’m often asked when Media Metrix will be MRC-accredited, and I am loathe to answer, because ultimately that’s up to the audit committee and the MRC Board of Directors (and let’s face it, if I say something cocky in print, I’ll only tick them off). But I can say that we’ve completed all the auditing, and all the required re-auditing, there are no outstanding violations to be addressed. We are currently in the process of responding to the list of questions the Committee has on the audit findings. We will remain engaged in that process for as long as it takes.
We are committed to the audit process, and to expanding the scope of our accreditations when and where we can. In that spirit, today we’re announcing an expansion of the vCE Validation accreditation, to include two new audience-related metrics: Daily Unique Cookies, and Gross Rating Points. Both metrics have been added to the vCE Validation Module. Daily Unique Cookies is a first step toward getting campaign-specific reach measurement accredited; likewise, GRPs (campaign-level total Gross Rating Points) is a step toward bringing campaign-level Viewability reporting and GRP reporting (the top-two points in the 5 core 3MS measurement principles) together in a single reporting interface. Because these metrics are included in the vCE Validation module, we have submitted both to the MRC for audit, and have received accreditation for them.
In addition, when the MRC re-accredited Comscore Direct in January 2014, the accreditation was extended to include the metric of Unique Cookies as reported in that offering. Comscore Direct is the platform through which we report census data back to tagging publishers; this census data then becomes a part of the Media Metrix UDM offering. Originally only the Comscore Direct Census Beacon Hit data was accredited, for the simple reason that at the time of the original audit, we didn’t yet include Unique Cookies in the interface. But this time around, the Unique Cookie metric has been added to the scope of the audit, and has been accredited.
But as far as Comscore auditing is concerned, the MRC is only the beginning.
In the UK, the Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC) has been auditing our GSMA mobile offering regularly since 2011; we currently undergo two such audits a year. ABC UK also audits Comscore Direct, as well as conducting two separate vCE Validation audits—for Content Verification, and for Viewability.
In France, CESP has been engaged to audit MMX (that’s the way the service known as Media Metrix is branded in Europe).
And in Mexico, this year CIM will be auditing vCE Validation.
Our ongoing audit plans are ambitious. Here in the US, once we complete the Media Metrix accreditation, we will turn our attention to Video Metrix, Mobile Metrix, and then to Media Metrix Multi-Platform (which combines and de-duplicates the three core audience services—Media Metrix, Video Metrix and Mobile Metrix). We put the vCE Audience audit to bed without disposition last summer, when we announced the migration from vCE Audience 1.0 to 2.0. We plan to commence the vCE Audience 2.0 MRC audit shortly; that was held up pending several notable developments and announcements, not least of which was the recent announced integration of vCE Audience into Google’s DoubleClick.
In an environment where more and more different types of metrics and analytics providers compete for your precious budget dollars, the accreditation process has become increasingly important. When I joined Comscore in 2007, I wasn’t sure if the MRC would be relevant in the digital age. But they’ve proved to be more relevant than ever before, and an indispensable part of helping to make digital measurement make sense. We look forward to continued cooperation with the MRC, and with other similar bodies around the world, as we endeavor to provide users with confidence that our methods and deliverables have been thoroughly vetted, and that they continue to meet the highest industry standards for measurement and accountability.
For the latest updates on our industry audits, please see our Third-Party Accreditation, Certification and Review page.