Standardizing the Click-- Finally

The click fraud movement is about to make the leap from the litigious stage of evolution to a much more coherent and promising stage-- bureaucratic evolution. That's right folks, the high-profile class actions have been settled so it's time to get this party started.

Last week, the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) announced that it is launching an industry-wide effort in conjunction with the Media Rating Council (MRC) to help identify the criteria for what can be defined as a click.

The IAB's commitment to issue guidelines to help identify click activity and therefore reduce the impact of fraudulent clicks is almost guaranteed to increase IAB membership and force those standing on the sidelines of the big fake traffic game to get involved. But will this effort really end the click fraud debate?

Why here, why now?
First things first, hats off to the IAB for stepping up as an industry organization in spearheading efforts to do the apparently impossible. To date, Ask.com, Google, LookSmart, Microsoft and Yahoo! are among those who have stepped up to help with industry standardization and identification.

Shortly after receiving the judge's blessing in the highly controversial Lane's Gifts and Collectibles, et al. vs. Google settlement, Yahoo settled its own class action and now both parties are free to pursue industry efforts.

Of course, timing is everything and the IAB has issued a statement that its Click Measurement Guidelines will coincide with the Global Ad Impression Guidelines and recent Broadband Measurement Guidelines.

Click measurement goes far beyond simple directive search advertisements. The IAB will also outline an auditing and certification program for any entity engaged in performance-based advertising-- yet another step toward circumventing fraud beyond the search world.

Complexity defined
It appears the planets are aligned in spite of Pluto being in retrograde.

There are, in fact, multiple players at work here and multiple constituents to be satisfied. There are advertiser associations, agency associations and (heaven help us) government organizations that will all need to lend a hand with getting this thing off the ground.

Having spent a few years working with items like terms and conditions and various standards and guidelines over the years, I can tell you the solution will not come easily and certainly won't come quickly.

If the solution arrives fast and easy it is almost guaranteed to be perceived as feckless.

Patience is a virtue
There will have to be approved standards and auditing bureaus to facilitate any click identification systems. Once initial terms are agreed upon, third parties will have to verify and valuate existing systems gong forward.

Every inch of standardization will be subjected to review and a majority of constituents will have to agree on terms.

To make a long story endless-- there is a light at the end of the tunnel. This is a very positive step forward and at the very least the future of action-based media pricing models is no longer in the hands of a few opportunistic attorneys.

Speaking of carpet baggers
Just as Judge Wapner approved the Lanes Gifts settlement, a few industry malcontents decided to use the situation to their own perceived advantage with public declarations of how their own expertise proved invaluable to plaintiff's council.

Much in the same way that Hitler deserved a pat on the back for not bombing Prague, the precious few that would claim to be in the service of the industry once again proved they were only serving themselves. They should be admonished for their participation in this catastrophic boondoggled miscarriage of the judicial system.

Ninety million dollars with 30 million going to plaintiff's council is no way to end the chapter on click fraud litigation, although the recent Yahoo settlement did offer some hope for prevailing sanity. The IAB and MRC (and I am sure other industry organizations will follow) are now on the case with search sites leading the fight so a real opportunity exists in helping the industry move forward. 

Additional Resources:
The Big Yahoo Click Fraud Settlement 
Debunking Click Fraud
Google's Click Fraud Settlement and You
Click Fraud on the Rise
Why CPA is Not a Cure for Click Fraud
A Click Fraud Solution? 

Kevin Ryan is the chief executive officer of Kinetic Results. Read full bio.

 

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