Online consultancy Jupiter Communications predicts Internet advertising revenue will reach $1.9 billion in 1998 and will grow to $4.3 billion by the year 2000, but some advertisers are still hesitant.
"Unsophisticated and sometimes even inaccurate measurement systems have been a real hindrance to many marketers and has kept them at very stable advertising levels," says Jed Breger, media director for Webnet Marketing, Bethesda, Md., whose clients include Cablevision and Network Solutions.
"Advertisers will be excited to spend more money online when the medium proves it is accountable," adds David Dowling, president of Media.com, Grey Interactive's sister agency that handles online strategy and media buying for clients including Procter & Gamble Co. and Dell Computer Corp.
Such comments and attitudes have motivated industry groups including The Coalition for Advertising Supported Information and Entertainment and the Interactive Advertising Bureau to launch initiatives challenging the new-media industry to improve and refine measurement standards and practices.
CASIE, a joint program of the ANA and the American Association of Advertising Agencies, in June released a third edition of its Guiding Principles of Interactive Media Measurement.
"A lot of advertisers are not aware that technology exists to measure actual ads displayed or to measure cached ads," says Robin Webster, senior VP of the ANA and a co-chairman of CASIE.
Similarly, the IAB by this fall plans to establish its own guidelines for audience measurement on the Web that will touch on three major areas: best practices, education and research.
Not only is the industry hoping improved measurement standards will increase ad spending, but that it will help media buyers optimize their planning strategies.
"More attention placed on measurement standards and practices will help us refine our use of the medium and help to generally mature the industry," says Betsy Shannon, managing director of Anderson & Lembke's San Francisco office, which placed some $40 million in online media in 1997 for clients including Microsoft Corp. and Tektronix.
MARKETING GOALS RELEVANT
But the fact the Internet can be measured at all is both a strength and a weakness, says Shawn Conly, Intel Corp.'s worldwide interactive advertising manager. "People always seem to default to the `click-through measurement' regardless of marketing objectives or goals," adds his colleague Claudine Ryan, worldwide interactive marketing program manager. "People seem to only want to focus on the direct response aspect of the medium, when in many cases and for many campaigns it may not be the right sort of measurement."
Another gripe marketers including Intel's Ms. Ryan and Mr. Conly have with measurement is its lack of consistency.
DATA COLLECTION ISSUES
Part of the confusion exists in the fact there is audience-centric measurement and site-centric measurement and that each has its own set of players and problems. Companies including Media Metrix, Relevant Knowledge and NetRatings are competing in the audience measurement arena. And as the field gets more crowded-Nielsen Media Research is expected to soon launch its own product-issues abound regarding panels, how panelists are recruited, if panels are representative and what services they're measuring.
Site-centric measurement companies include Internet Profiles, DoubleClick, FlyCast and NetGravity. Part of the problem is that marketers and media buyers can't find a measurement model that will solve all their problems.
"We are looking for an audience measurement tool, but those are very expensive," says Webnet Marketing's Mr. Breger. "Those can help you achieve a reach frequency module, which will help advertisers a lot because they're used to seeing that type of research."
"A big part of the confusion out there now is that it's hard for people to make sense of both site-centric and audience-centric data," says Mary Ann Packo, president of Media Metrix. "We are trying to marry traditional audience data like unduplicated reach and demographics with more site-centric measures like how many pages are viewed or clickstreams."
LOOKING FOR CONSISTENCY
Not only does CASIE and the IAB want to get industry-wide measurement standards on equal footing, but they also hope improved standards will help to achieve some type of cross-media parity.
One of the things we see starting to happen is that we're getting closer to apples to apples across different media," says Ms. Webster.
"It will help media buyers and advertisers alike once we can truly compare different media to each other and have it make sense. I'm willing to sacrifice accuracy for consistency," half-jokes Mr. Conly. "We're looking for apples to apples, even in the post-buy analysis."