Coalition weighs online consumer ads

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Coming to the web: Ads promoting ads.

The Future of Advertising Stakeholders coalition is considering a public service-style campaign telling users about the issues of privacy and the consumer benefits of online advertising and targeting.

"The hurdle that we have to get over is for consumers to understand, embrace and demand targeted advertising that is going to be more relevant to them," said FAST Chairman Rich LeFurgy, also founding chairman of the Internet Advertising Bureau.

FAST, a group that grew out of last August's advertising summit hosted by Procter & Gamble Co., in coming months plans to research consumer perceptions about the issues, and Mr. LeFurgy said a campaign could be on the Web before yearend.


If FAST proceeds with plans, it would seek creative submissions from agencies and donated space from online media.

Mr. LeFurgy said the online industry hasn't fully told its story that consumers who divulge personal information will be rewarded with more pertinent content, promotions and advertising.

"We're at a crucial time where privacy is your friend and not your enemy," Mr. LeFurgy said. "It's up to online media companies as well as marketers to responsibly respect the rights of consumers so there will be more and more trust."

FAST has tackled issues, such as developing specifications for interstitial ads and standard insertion orders.

"Everyone wants to raise their hand for the convergence workshop, but it's harder to get the day to day industry players to work together on an insertion order," Mr. LeFurgy said. "The unsung heroes of the Internet are working out these really important and, in some cases, really gritty issues."

During the next year, FAST will develop case studies, promote best practices and develop standards for audits of online campaigns, he said.

FAST, meanwhile, is in the final stages of preparing a key study that shows Web audience measurement services capture 93% of the traffic recorded on sites' server logs, but drastically overreport and underreport results of some individual sites.

In a draft of the study that shows extremes, the measurement service data caught only 15% of the traffic logged in one count while its number was triple that of the logged traffic in another. The report explores panel-based measurement services, such as Media Metrix and Nielsen/NetRatings.


Mr. LeFurgy stressed "the level of accuracy that the audience measurement companies are providing is very, very high," but said the study aims to explore why there are discrepancies.

A Media Metrix spokeswoman cited various reasons for the differences: Server logs are inflated by factors such as foreign traffic and visits by spiders--programs that crawl around the Web to retrieve Web pages--while panels record visits by actual people and include viewership of cached sites that logs miss.

Manish Bhatia, VP-interactive services at Nielsen/NetRatings, noted his service tracks only home use, so that leaves out office traffic. There is a role for both panel research and log reports, he said.

Copyright August 1999, Crain Communications Inc.

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