Online Advertising Discrepancies and the Daisy Chain Effect: Losing Ad Impressions Along the Way

Recently, an Ad Operations colleague at a publisher contacted me about ad discrepancies.  They started preparing for end of month billing:

  • pulling their primary ad server campaign delivery reports
  • pulling 3rd party ad server campaign delivery reports
  • compressing the data from ad serving sources, and
  • sending it all off to Finance for reconciliation.

The publisher wanted to know, “Where exactly do discrepancies come from?  What causes them?” After a long discussion about some of the known causes of discrepancies, including:

  1. The daisy chain effect
  2. Ad blockers
  3. Defaulting
  4. Multiple definitions of an ‘ad impression’

the publisher then said, “I’m not sure I understand what you mean by the daisy chain effect.”  In an attempt to draw a parallel between online ad discrepancies and real life, I came up with the below scenario.  Enjoy!

…and for those of you that I confused even more- I apologize- it’s not an easy concept to grasp.  For those who would like to carry on a dialog, post a message for me.


The local high school decided to award their students with a treat. The principal called the owner of a concert hall, and finagled a deal for 1000 of his students to go see Britney live. The owner said it was OK to pay him after the show, and the principal said that was fine, he would have his assistant, Mary Pritchard, collect tickets at the door, and Erin Bain, a boy on suspension, count each student as he seated them. Then they would pay the owner an agreed price per student.

That night, Charles McSorley had kids piling up at the concert hall where he worked the door. As each approached him he gave them explicit directions to the box office, right down the hall and to the right, and added a tally of the students to his notebook. Entering the building, the concert goers approached the box office one by one, where Dr. Frank Payne checked their IDs for their age, and sent anyone under 16 to talk to Alex Nevins a little further down the hall to ask if he had any shows available for them to see. The rest were given a ticket to the Britney concert in theater 1, through a door to his left, past the bathrooms and the concessions. The Britney fans flocked to the entrance of theater 1, where Mary Pritchard collected their tickets, and gave them each a form with the instructions to write their name on it and then give it to Dr. Frank Payne on the way out if they liked the show (Payne would then take it upon himself to tell Mary). Finally, Erin Bain escorted each of them to their rows where they could watch the show, thumbing his trusty clicker as each was seated.

The following morning, the crew met up to figure out how well they’d done the night before. Charles had diligently tallied every patron, and said that he had let in 1000 people. Dr. Payne checked the register for the tickets he’d sold, and said that 150 had been turned away to Alex Nevins, and that 840 had been sold tickets to the Britney concert. Mary had kept all of the stubs from the Britney fanatics, and had 750 of them. Erin lifted up his clicker and smiled, having seated 720. Alex, with a shoe-box full of assorted receipts, rattled off three additional shows that he’d sent the youngins to, and how much he was able to talk each into paying. Frank then remembered the happy customers leaving the show, and that three of them had even handed him the form with their name on it. Mary frowned, because Frank had only handed her two of them the night before.

For how many tickets is the principal responsible for paying the concert hall owner? (image courtesy of Operative)

Ad Operations Daisy Chain


Editor’s note: This post was authored by Operative and originally appeared on the Operative Blog.