The US-based Media Rating Council (MRC), with participation from China Media Assessment Council (CMAC), will execute auditing processes for three third-party digital audience measurement services in China: AdMaster TrackMaster, Miaozhen AdMonitor, and Nielsen Digital Ad Ratings (DAR).
The three services will undergo a full-scope audit to be conducted by independent certified public accountants engaged by MRC. These are scheduled to commence this month and continue until the end of 2017.
Formed in August 2016, CMAC (originally called the China Media Ratings Council until the name changed in October last year) was meant to be a media industry oversight and "self-discipline" association, created to perform a similar function as the MRC performs in the US and elsewhere. Because it is still new and getting familiarised with auditing processes, MRC will be leading and administering the accreditation at the outset for AdMaster, Miaozhen and Nielsen.
More specific responsibilities will be transitioned to CMAC over time, announced the council, as CMAC gains more experience from subsequent audits.
Earlier in 2017, MRC completed pre-assessments of the three companies' information technology control processes. A preassessment involves discussions and documentation reviews to identify in advance deviations from required standards of a full-scope audit. Detailed testing and verification of each service’s measurement methodology will be carried out in the actual audit.
Review sessions are planned in early 2018 with MRC’s international and digital committees and CMAC’s technical committee, and accreditation will be considered for each service (independently) at that time.
AdMaster TrackMaster, Miaozhen AdMonitor and Nielsen DAR were selected as initial accreditation candidates because "they have existing products with capabilities to produce in-target demographic-based gross rating points, based on viewable impressions that are filtered for invalid traffic", according to the MRC.
While not all of their capabilities are widely used in China at present, the three firms are considered to be important in the future maturity of digital marketing measurements. Potentially, a wider group of vendors can apply for accreditation at a later date.
This news comes at a significant time, as it seems that Marc Pritchard's strong words about transparency and measurability across the digital landscape have made it all the way to China, prompting his China counterpart to convey the same message recently (see "P&G China speaking out on irrational KPIs and close-mindedness leading to ad fraud").
Some insiders believe the impact will be limited. "This is definitely a move in the right direction by the MRC, but it's unlikely to have an immediate impact on the way media is being measured in China today," said Ronen Mense, Asia VP at AppsFlyer. "For example, one problem is companies are still 'grading their own homewor'k. like reporting on their own results to brands on the inventory they sold to them, and additionally the impartiality of the companies that are supposed to measure may also be questionable.”
The three Chinese measurement services will hopefully have a better idea of Western benchmarks after this, said Rivi Bloch, SVP of client success at Taptica. "However, previous experience tells us that big companies like Google were not able to work according to any standard outside of the Chinese standard. So although it's a great sign, BAT [Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent] and the like will not accept this easily."
GroupM China CEO Patrick Xu said that a common problem faced by the agency's clients is publishers that are resistant to opening their platforms to tracking vendors, citing infrastructure challenges as their reason (see "GroupM China setting its own brand-safety initiative").
"And even if this process is approved by the government, it will take a few years for it to be completed,” added Bloch.