Responding to advertisers' need for third-party verification of online ad delivery, Microsoft Corp. last week said it has hired accounting firm Coopers & Lybrand to audit its ad tracking reports.
The verified tracking reports, which Microsoft generates in-house using its own software and ad management software from Accipiter, will be delivered to advertisers on Microsoft's 10 Web sites, including MSN.com, MSNBC, Slate, Expedia, Microsoft Investor, Cinemania, The Internet Gaming Zone, Mungo Park, Music Central and On Computers.
"A lot of Microsoft sites are very appealing to advertisers," said Rishad Tobaccowala, president of Leo Burnett USA's Giant Step interactive agency, Chicago.
"In addition to having third-party auditing, it makes a pretty awesome one-two punch," he said.
Steve Goldberg, group manager of Microsoft's advertising business unit, said many of Microsoft's advertisers have been asking for independent verification of its ad tracking reports.
"We believe that for our advertisers, the one question we can answer with the most confidence is, how many times the [online] advertising ran, and if the tracking reports we provide are accurate," he said.
Microsoft has used Internet Profiles Corp. for its traffic auditing, but it did not subscribe to I/PRO's post-buy reports, which track ads and click-throughs delivered. With a monthly cost of $100 per client, the reports were too expensive, said Mr. Goldberg, noting that Microsoft has over 200 clients that require reports.
While declining to say what Microsoft will pay Coopers & Lybrand, he said the fees are significantly lower than ad tracking reports provided by I/PRO and other media auditing competitors including BPA International and Audit Bureau of Circulations Interactive.
COOPERS TO VERIFY PROCESS
Rather than deliver independent reports, Coopers & Lybrand will verify the process by which Microsoft prepares ad tracking reports, validating that the reports are accurate. It will spot check some reports and occasionally send a "dummy" order through the system to verify the process.
Media buyers say the method of auditing the process, rather than providing audited ad tracking reports for each client, is sufficient.
"I'm comfortable with an auditor checking 8% to 10% of [advertiser] reports, if the process is audited," said John Nardone, director of media research at TN Technologies Modem Media, Westport, Conn.
"This will add a comfort level to a number of clients who ask me routinely, `When will this be available?' " added Mr. Nardone, who along with Mr. Tobaccowala has been very vocal about the need for third-party verification of ad delivery.
Copyright October 1997, Crain Communications Inc.