What does the MRC certification mean?

The Media Rating Council (MRC) is an American independent industry organization whose mission is to ensure valid, reliable and effective audience measurement services. MRC accreditation certifies that a company’s procedures adhere to the MRC’s Minimum Standards for Ratings Research and to applicable measurement guidelines issued by the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB).

The certification process is made in two steps:

  • A pre-audit ensures that the applicant company has developed a certain level of features to indicate there is a good chance of passing the full audit.
  • An independent audit that verifies all the information that the company has provided during the pre-audit.

The precise content of the audit is confidential, but includes a comprehensive review of various dimensions of the business, including:

  •  Client-facing and internal documentation
  • Internal procedures for client onboarding, issue tracking, etc.
  • Compliance with the IAB standards
  • Technical implementation details
  • Live tests and data extractions
  • Platform availability

The MRC delivers a certification and publishes the list of certified technologies on its website. The June 2014 version is available here and updated versions are regularly posted here.

Being accredited by the MRC does not mean that a company perfectly measures all ad-impressions. It means the company has developed a minimum level of features to a certain standard of quality.

The policy of the MRC is to remain neutral. So very little information is provided on their website, and certified companies cannot publicly provide many details of the results of the audit without the MRC’s consent.

So, you must read between the lines of the MRC certification document.

The most interesting line is the “technology approach.” Two main sets of technologies are used by the different ad-viewability vendors: page geometry and browser optimization.

Both have their benefits and limitations, but, unless you are an expert in ad-viewability measurement, you need to following matrix to decode them.

You also need to know that iFrames are HTML pages within pages that block any attempt to reach the top page’s information. They oblige vendors to develop browser-specific technologies to work with iFrames. Between 30% and 50% of ad-impressions are served in an iFrame.

With variations per country, roughly 50% of impressions are served to Chrome and Safari browsers.

So iFrames on Chrome and Safari represent between 15% and 25% of the total inventory.

The following graph shows the maximum success rate that can be expected from vendors, based on the MRC public information and a share of inventory that is a rough estimation made by Alenty in 2013.

This represents the maximum possible success rate; the real success rate is very likely to be below this number. For instance, it may not always be possible to actually detect the banner object that needs to be measured. In this case, the impression must be considered not measurable.

The Alenty technology that AppNexus has acquired in June achieves a real success rate of 98%.

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