The first organised effort to verify circulation claims came in the United States. In 1914, advertisers, advertising agencies and publishers joined in a voluntary cooperative program, based on a common interest in reliable circulation data, to form the Audit Bureau of Circulations.
In the 1920's and 1930's, several other countries established similar organisations.
As advertising and publishing became more important in international marketing, bureaux to verify circulation were organised in various countries.
IFABC was founded in 1963. During the 13th International Advertising Association Congress held in Stockholm that year, audit bureaux leaders established a Working Committee to develop a set of By-laws. These were adopted informally by delegates of ten organisations on May 29, 1963.
Now there are audit bureaux in countries across the world, with the most established offering independent certification for more than 75 years. During the second half of the last century, many new audit bureaux were founded in countries where media trading was growing in sophistication and there was a clear need for greater accountability. Today, with media markets evolving faster than ever, this demand continues.
Self regulation is the guiding principle for every IFABC member. This is based on the conviction that whenever an industry is able to regulate itself with active involvement of al stakeholders, control by government is unnecessary. The IFABC system of published standards, voluntary acceptance of standards by media, impartial circulation audits, and the resulting reliable data, continues to be a constructive, and vital, force in international and national marketing.
Every second year, a General Assembly of members is held. Assemblies have been held in New York, Paris, Munich, Copenhagen, London, Chicago, Madrid, Rio de Janeiro, Stockholm, Tokyo, Toronto, Buenos Aires, Lucerne, New Delhi, Berlin, Washington, D.C., Seville, Sydney, Kuala Lumpur, Bern, London, Cancun and Seoul.
An Important step for the IFABC was the formation of the Global Web Standards Group in 1997, making the IFABC an early pioneer of looking at developing digital standards across boundaries.