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Integral Ad Science Partners with Google, Others for Open Source Viewability

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Amid heightened concern over so-called "walled gardens" hoarding data, worries that fraudulent bots are generating ghost-clicks, and fear that ads were never seen at all, the ad industry is craving transparency more than ever. Companies including Integral Ad Science, Bitly and mParticle are hoping to fill those measurement and data gaps. For its just-released offering, Integral Ad Science has corralled Google, InMobi, MoPub and other big names in mobile advertising as partners in launching open source code for measuring mobile ad viewability.

Scott Knoll, CEO, Integral Ad Science
Scott Knoll, CEO, Integral Ad Science Credit: Integral Ad Science

For IAS, the ultimate goal in offering an open source code is facilitating rapid adoption of a viewability metric that is accepted and adopted across the industry. "It's our code that we're donating to the cause," said Scott Knoll, CEO of IAS. "We just think that we need transparency on everything," he added, noting that open source is the quickest route to that.

Partners in the process of forming a consortium that will employ and build on the open source measurement code include Conversant, Google, InMobi, MoPub, OpenX and The Trade Desk. Apple and Facebook are obviously missing here, though Mr. Knoll suggested that the company has been in discussions with companies that have yet to join officially.

The code works by collecting raw signals that determine whether an ad was delivered in view of the user or not. The idea behind the open sourcing of the code is for others to build on the technology, by, for example, creating tools for reporting on the data. The open source code is only for ad viewability measurement, not ad fraud measurement, said Mr. Knoll, noting that "it would be really easy for the bad guys to get around it."

Bitly, which has transitioned from a provider of branded, shortened URLs to something of a marketing tech provider, introduced a new system recently that allows clients to measure optimized links they use in ads, emails or other communications with consumers. Called OneView, it gives clients a view of campaign performance across disparate marketing tech platforms from firms including Adobe, Salesforce, Oracle, and IBM, or ads served by Google or Facebook. The links generated by Bitly serve as a common thread throughout the variety of software marketers use for email, SMS, display advertising, CRM, marketing automation, and in mobile app environments.

Every time someone clicks one of Bitly's links, the system redirects to Bitly's server, prompting a first- party cookie to be installed on a user's device. That gives Bitly clients purview into how users associated with those cookies interact online.

"The link is the elemental asset to connecting all of them," said Bitly CEO Mark Josephson. "It's the grappling hook to get over the walled gardens."

That "walled gardens" phrase has become industry code in its own right, typically alluding to firms including Google, Facebook and Apple, among the largest controllers of digital and mobile ad campaign measurement data. A ubiquitous gripe among marketers involves the opacity of Facebook and Google campaign performance information, and the inability to compare it readily with marketing efforts on other platforms.

In late September, the Association of National Advertisers called for the industry's top metrics authenticator, the Media Rating Council, to certify Facebook metrics. While the request followed an embarrassing revelation by Facebook that it had botched its internal gauge for measuring video views, it reflected a long-held industry desire for more trustworthy metrics on a platform used by all despite its reluctance to open its data cloak.

Google's own DoubleClick for Publishers mobile metrics were discredited by the MRC in October.

MParticle, which offers technology for data integration across multiple platforms, also recently updated its system to allow for more data integration and transparency. The update lets data from systems for ad attribution, CRM, email, help desk and payments be fed back into the platform to enable more consistent measurement of campaigns and customer interactions and other efforts in a more streamlined way. Data integration partners include Urban Airship, MailChimp and Zendesk.

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CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article erroneously described Integral Ad Science's new open source code for measuring mobile ad viewability as accredited by the Media Rating Council. Integral Ad Science is a Media Rating Council-accredited vendor, but the open source code itself is not accredited.