The Who, What, Where, When and Why of Third-Party Ad Tech Audits

June 26, 2015

With color commentary from Richy Glassberg, CEO of Medialets, a mobile ad serving platform that recently achieved MRC accreditation for mobile video and display ad impressions, click measurement and mobile video, here’s our introduction to the who, what, when, where and why of third-party media audits.

Steve Guenther, VP, Digital Auditing Services
 

Was that ad clicked by a bot?

Did a person really watch that video for a solid minute?

Did that programmatic placement make its way through the exchange  and onto the right sites?

Do these campaign results include fraudulent or nonhuman traffic?

The next time these questions come up, consider how an independent audit can bring more confidence to the answers. An audit brings a level of third-party transparency to conversations between publishers and buyers and the ad tech vendors that serve both.

If you’re new to the idea, the word “audit” itself can seem intimidating. But it doesn’t have to be. In fact, audits that result in an MRC accreditation or IAB certification typically can be completed smoothly and cost-effectively, resulting in competitive advantages, higher market awareness and trust.

With color commentary from Richy Glassberg, CEO of Medialets, a mobile ad serving platform that recently achieved MRC accreditation for mobile video and display ad impressions, click measurement and mobile video, here’s our introduction to the who, what, when, where and why of third-party media audits.
 

What: A Third-Party Platform Audit

Independent audits examine the systems that deliver and track billions of ads across the media ecosystem. An audit goes behind the scenes of a platforms’ systems and processes to ensure that they comply with guidelines and standards established by the IAB or MRC. Auditors examine how measurement methods, processes and controls function, and test to make sure that the data reported is accurate, reliable and consistent. Ultimately, audits help uncover issues behind things like unseen ads, invalid clicks and fraudulent traffic.

The MRC, in fact, now requires all first-time clients to go through a pre-audit assessment to better prepare for a final MRC accreditation audit. This pre-audit can actually help save a significant amount of time and money.
 

 

During the pre-audit assessment, an auditor will help explain how industry standards apply to your business and what’s required to pass the full MRC audit, including: 

  • Providing an overview of the industry-approved standards needed to be MRC accredited.
  • Examining measurement methods, processes and control functions and whether they comply with the MRC’s audit criteria.
  • Providing guidance on areas that need attention before the start of the accreditation audit.
  • Helping coordinate with the MRC and the CPA firm for the full audit.

Auditors can then test the audit procedures the MRC auditors will execute—like transaction testing, reconciliation and pattern analysis—to identify other potential issues.

“With a pre-audit, you’re going to cut your accreditation time in half,” Glassberg explained. “You’re going to lower the dollars you have to pay to get accredited. And your internal work to achieve it is going to be significantly smoother because of the expertise that AAM brings.”
 

Who: Ad Tech Vendors (and Anyone Who Uses One)

Whether you’re a publisher, ad agency, brand or tech platform, there’s a reason to support audits and accreditations, as explained later under “WHY.” Audits can apply to industry-approved standards for ad impressions, viewable ad impressions, click measurement, fraud detection and prevention, audience reach and more.

Medialets, for example, is a third-party mobile ad serving platform. As a VC-funded start-up, they were told they needed to become accredited by the MRC to gain more credibility. “Our clients held a gun to our heads,” Glassberg explained. “We had to prove ourselves.”
 

Where: Reports And Marketing Opportunities

Where does the audit information go? It depends on the type of audit. At the end of a pre-audit, for example, companies get an analysis of their procedures with findings and recommendations. For IAB certifications, the report provides detailed findings related to each audit test performed, which validates processes are compliant with the guidelines. Certified companies also get a “Report of Independent Auditor” that explains the scope of the audit and includes a set of management assertions that have been verified.

The audit also offers marketing opportunities for companies to differentiate themselves. Depending on the type audit, clients that pass are publicized in a few places: 

When: At Least Once a Year

The IAB requires annual audits for companies to maintain their certification status. Same for the MRC to maintain accreditation. The pre-audit assessment process only occurs prior to the first audit and is designed to make the full MRC accreditation happen smoothly, quickly and cost-effectively.

“We avoided mistakes and pitfalls. We got approved in nine months—I think that’s the fastest any tech company has been accredited by far,” explained Glassberg.
 

Why: Trust + Transparency = Results

Fraud, viewability, nonhuman traffic and brand safety are paramount concerns today that threaten a robust and trustworthy digital advertising environment. To have trust, transparency has to happen first. In such a complex, fast-paced programmatic environment, audits help ensure that buyers and sellers know as much as possible about their media partners and practices.

For Medialets, MRC accreditation—supported by AAM—helped improve its products, grow its customer base, sharpen its product development procedures, and achieve industrywide credibility and trust.

“It’s changed everybody’s perceptions of us,” Glassberg said. “It changed us from being seen as a venture capital start-up to an industry leader. We had an immediate surge in new business. I was able to have my engineers work on other things because AAM taught us the right way to do it before we got it wrong and had to redo the work.”

Contact us to learn more about third-party audits.

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