Looking to other media
This problem came up and was solved a long time ago in paper advertising. Newspapers and magazines were forced by increasing competition and pressure from advertisers to prove claims that their publications were reaching X number of potential customers.The ABC, and a few other known and certified organizations like it, have been grilling publications semi-annually ever since, checking their circulation records and printing records to be sure that the number of publications being printed and circulated was the same that the publication claimed. Its a pain for publications, but its a lot easier than having to prove to every advertiser individually that youre living up to your promises. Auditing traffic online is potentially a lot more precise and less labor-intensive than auditing circulation in print. Searchable logs already exist, and youd better believe the search engines have a lot better data on usage, fraud profiles and sources of fraudulent activity than theyre offering to advertisers right now. Click here to read more about the increasing concern over fraudulent clicks. It would give all online advertisers a way to demonstrate theyre on the up-and-up without spilling all their secret beans to their competitors. And it would give the advertisers some peace of mind. It would also change some ad prices, ad promises and the anti-fraud practices of some of the more lax search engines real quick. But it would also keep the fraud/anti-fraud forces from staging the kind of endless NASCAR race currently under way between the forces of spam and anti-spam and virus/anti-virus. It wouldnt be perfect, but it doesnt need to be. It just needs to define and enforce a level of trust between companies that buy ads and those that sell them. And it would keep a lot of knickers un-twust.
They established and subscribed to a publishing-specific audit process run by the ABC (Audit Bureau of Circulations), which was established in 1914.