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MRC Releases Final Version of Standards for Outcomes Measurement and Data Quality

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NEW YORK—In a notable advance in the industry’s longstanding efforts to measure how well ads actually impact sales and the objectives of a marketing campaign, the Media Rating Council (MRC) has released the final version of its Outcomes and Data Quality Standards. 

The document is the end result of a project led by  MRC that included a working group representing over 100 organizations from across the advertising and media industries, with the endorsement of the Association of National Advertisers (ANA), the 4As, and the Association of Canadian Advertisers (ACA). 

The Standards address various Outcomes measures and approaches, including attribution and  Multi-Touch Attribution, Market Mix Modeling, and experiments, as well as the underlying data  quality associated with these methods. 

“These standards represent the realization of a new and critical phase of a long-term effort by  MRC, in cooperation with other industry trade associations, to enhance advertising  measurement,” noted MRC executive director and CEO George W. Ivie. “This initiative began  more than a decade ago with projects designed to standardize measures of ad delivery, and has  now progressed to the measurement of business outcomes that are associated with ad exposure.” 

“With marketers increasingly looking to outcomes as the primary determinant of ad spend  effectiveness, it is critical that the industry has a clear set of standards against which providers of  attribution measurement can be assessed,” added ANA group executive vice president Bill Tucker. “Of particular  importance, these Standards were developed in conjunction with marketers, ensuring that they  represent and address our needs. ANA members have called for the development of outcome  standards as an industry priority, and we are pleased to have supported and participated in this  significant endeavor.” 

“With commercial performance and outcome-based compensation models becoming more  mainstream, the creation of these Standards offers a roadmap for the requirements around data  collection for advertisers and marketers,” says Ashwini Karandikar, executive vice president media, tech and data at the 4As.. “This framework is an important baseline because it enables independent, validated  data to be more consistently measured and connected to outcomes.” 

The release follows a public comment period on a draft version of the document that occurred  over the Summer. Feedback from comments received was considered, and, in certain instances,  incorporated, although the substance of the final version does not differ significantly from the  earlier draft. 

Key provisions include: 

  • Outcomes analyzed, associated or attributed to media and advertising activities should be  relevant, logical and aligned with user goals, while supported by consistent definitions and approaches.  
  • Intent must be directly observable or inferred based on behavior using empirically  supported approaches.
  • Interactions with ads and content must be clearly defined and empirically supported.
  • A base of viewable impressions is required as an option for attribution of Outcomes; SIVT filtration is also required.
  • The source and nature of datasets must be generally disclosed to users along with details  of collection parameters, editing and cleaning applied as well as known biases or  limitations associated to it.
  • Care must be taken to properly disclose the methodology for measuring and reporting  ROI and ROAS and inferences associated with them.
  • These Standards encourage Cross-Media coverage for measurement of ad and media exposure, but do not require all measures of Outcomes to include Cross-Media  measurement.
  • Viewability should not be used to imply presence of a user or that an ad has been  viewed/seen.
  • Outcomes measurement providers should consider Advertising Exposure or contact by  the consumer as well as their Attention or impact for any audience if causality is to be  assessed.
  • Single-touch attribution use cases are generally limited to a specific campaign  objective/product type. 
  • The process and support for determining which exposures are attributed and the weights  or values assigned to them must be robust and demonstrable for audit purposes of MTA  methodologies. 
  • The results of RCT exercises and non-experimental methodologies must be treated as  estimates and must adhere to statistical and sample-based requirements of the MRC  Minimum Standards.

“With the issuance of these final Standards, the ad industry now has detailed provisions against  which outcome based measurement can be vetted against,” says Judy Davey, vice president,  media policy and marketing capabilities, the ACA. “We encourage all providers of attribution  to seek accreditation against the MRC Standards, as this will be a key factor in helping to  advance the use of outcome based measurement and enable innovation. The ACA is delighted to  provide our endorsement to these Standards.” 

The Standards can be found at www.mediaratingcouncil.org (opens in new tab). Those who wish to learn more  about the MRC accreditation process can contact MRC at staff@mediaratingcouncil.org. 

George Winslow is the senior content producer for TV Tech. He has written about the television, media and technology industries for nearly 30 years for such publications as Broadcasting & Cable, Multichannel News and TV Tech. Over the years, he has edited a number of magazines, including Multichannel News International and World Screen, and moderated panels at such major industry events as NAB and MIP TV. He has published two books and dozens of encyclopedia articles on such subjects as the media, New York City history and economics.