Ad-tracking tool launched to tackle misplacement issue

Web analytics platform WebAbacus has launched a service enabling clients to track the individual websites on which their ads are being seen.

Companies will be invited to sign up to the service, which is in testing, and find out on a daily, weekly or monthly basis, on which sites their ads are appearing. The tool works by embedding data in every ad, which sends data back to WebAbacus every time it is viewed, with details of the site on which it was seen. The tool also reveals the number of times that an ad is clicked through by users.

WebAbacus hopes the service will help to address the problem of ad misplacement. Last year, the misplacement of ads on inappropriate sites involved campaigns for such advertisers as easyCar and eBay, prompting an investigation by the BBC's Panorama programme. Subsequently, the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA) and IASH (Internet Advertising Sales House) conducted an audit of its members to address the issue.

Sean Burton, product manager for WebAbacus, said his company felt "compelled to respond" to the industry's concerns about the lack of control and regulation.

However, some experts have questioned the attraction of the WebAbacus concept to ad networks, arguing that it removes their purpose. The role of online ad networks, such as LBi, is to distribute remnant advertising on behalf of media agencies, avoiding the need to negotiate with possibly hundreds of individual media owners.

Caroline McGuckian, global head of media at LBi, said: "It's a really interesting idea, but a lot of publishers might not accept it in the early stages. In an ideal scenario, it is advantageous, but you have to offset that against whether a network is reputable, and the fact that you're buying inventory at a low rate because you're not certain where it's going to be seen."

But WebAbacus' Burton said his firm was trying to demonstrate alternative methods of ad-tracking. He added: "It's about trying to empower clients so they can understand and monitor effectively where their ads are being placed. Another advantage of our system is that it lets an advertiser know if their creative is being picked up and used elsewhere."


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