The Media Rating Council (MRC) is an industry-funded organization whose purpose is to review and accredit audience rating services within the media industry and secure a measurement service that is valid, reliable and effective.
The MRC is the result of the Harris Committee Hearings on Broadcast Ratings that took place in the early 1960s. These were public hearings held by a United States Congressional Committee that considered regulation of the TV and radio industries and the purpose and accuracy of audience research. In 1964, the hearings determined that industry self-regulation was preferable to government intervention and the MRC was formed (formerly known as the Broadcast Rating Council).
The MRC is currently composed of about 145 board members from TV and radio broadcasting, cable, print, internet, advertising agencies and trade associations. It is open to any media organization that depends on or utilizes media research, but it does not allow organizations that provide media ratings to be members.
What does the Media Rating Council do?
The MRC accredits audience rating services that are relied upon by buyers and sellers in the digital marketing/advertising industry. Their goal is to provide an increased understanding of the uses and limitations of rating information and to improve the quality of audience measurement and viewability by rating services. Viewability refers to the online advertising metric that attempts to only track impressions that are seen by users. The MRC is responsible for:
- establishing and administrating the Minimum Standards for Rating Research;
- accrediting rating services based on information submitted by each service; and
- using independent certified public accountants (CPA) to audit the activities of the rating services.
Receiving MRC accreditation validates that a rating service abides by the MRC Minimum Standards as well as certain measurement guidelines provided by the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB).
The Minimum Standards created by the MRC include:
- ethics and operations which maintain the quality and integrity of the rating process;
- disclosure standards that define detailed information about a rating service's surveys and methods and how this should be made available to the MRC, CPA, and users; and
- electronic delivery standards that are created to maintain system controls within the service and ensure that it is meeting specific reporting standards.
Guidelines for Media Rating Council accreditation
Rating services that apply for MRC accreditation agree to:
- provide complete information to the MRC;
- act in compliance with MRC Minimum Standards;
- orchestrate the service as it is represented to clients; and
- respect and pay for annual audits.
Before an audit is performed, a rating service must submit to a pre-audit that ensures the company possesses a level of features which indicate the likelihood of it passing the full audit. The independent audit then verifies all the information that was received in the pre-audit.
This annual audit, performed by a specialized team of independent CPA auditors, is the essential element of the MRC's process. The audits that are returned to the MRC include detailed tests and findings of the rating service's metrics, including data processing, sample design, selection, and recruitment plans and compliance with IAB standards.
If a rating service is awarded accreditation by the MRC, then they are allowed to display the MRC logo on their audited research product. This designates their compliance with the MRC Minimum Standards. However, an accreditation does not mean the service's measurements are 100 percent accurate. It just means that the rating service is compliant with the Minimum Standards.
The audits have several beneficial effects. In addition to determining whether a rating service deserves accreditation or whether their accreditation should be continued, the results are used to make quality improvements in the measurement service. The improvements are then instituted either by voluntary action within the rating services or by the MRC as a new condition for accreditation. The audits also have a psychological effect on the rating services. If they know their work may be monitored by CPA auditors, then they are more motivated to produce higher quality work across the rating service.
Media Rating Council certification benefits
As the media industry becomes increasingly complex and consumer behavior evolves on a global scale, the MRC expands and takes on a more proactive role in setting standards that ensure measurements are valid, reliable and effective. Receiving MRC accreditation provides a level of confidence in the audience measurements coming from rating services. This has become increasingly important as major digital advertisers have revealed accounting errors in the data they provide to brands. Therefore, digital marketing companies who have received MRC accreditation see an increase in deals and clientele since customers are more likely to trust their service.
MRC accreditation also benefits brand marketers, vendors and other advertisers. It creates a level of transparency that allows companies to see which rating services they can trust. This affects how they use information about ad impressions and viewable impressions. These measurements are influential for advertisers using video ads, social media and other media based platforms.