Archive for the ‘Metrics & measurement’ Category

Hey direct marketers – guess what – you have an attribution problem. You may not realize it yet, but if you are running campaigns in multiple digital marketing channels like search, display, affiliate marketing, and comparison shopping engines, you are double  counting some conversions (sometimes triple counting), over crediting certain channels and under crediting others. Your model needs a fixin.

Attribution reporting tools have been on the market for several years now, but are potentially the most underutilized tools by agencies and advertisers today. In part this is due to the complex nature of the planning involved in making the data actionable – in other words planning to go from attribution reporting to media mix modeling based on the analysis. On the other hand, digital media planners and agencies have been working to the bone and have very little time to innovate and discover new and better ways to work and service their clients.

So when Hollis Thomases from ClickZ reached out to me for input on this important topic, I was more than happy to help. It’s a topic I am quite passionate about. I think she put together a great article that highlights the issue.

Under-utilizing great marketing technology is nothing new. As an industry we have a history of under-utilizing the capabilities of the marketing technologies that are at our fingertips. I’ll never forget when Doubleclick wanted to shut down their Boomerang product, the very first retargeting technology on the market. Our agency was one of a small handful using it, and although circa 2000 it was tough to scale retargeting programs, we managed to run some of the first successful programs for large portfolio companies like Cendant. Fast forward to today. Retargeting has not only become one of the most popular forms of behavioral / data-based targeting, but an entire retargeting industry has sprouted up in the last couple of years.

Granted, there are hundreds of marketing technologies and capabilities pitched to agencies on a regular basis. It’s hard to find the time to vet them all. But we do work in DIGITAL media and and it is important to  be on the lookout for tools and systems that can help provide bottom line impact for clients and agencies. Embrace marketing technologies in particular that help create efficiency in workflow,  accuracy in analytics, and provide better experiences to consumers.

I’d love to hear about any new marketing technology tools that you find useful.

 

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When Fast Company, a publication that I have read and respected for years, published a story based on faulty data, I had to call them out. The story is titled Twitter Crushing Facebook’s Click Through Rate, and is based on research from Social Twist. I think I threw up in my mouth a little when seeing these numbers.

First of all – enough with the click through rate already. It has always been a bad KPI that is not indicative of performance. But more importantly here, CTR is not even the actual metric they are reporting on, and the real value or insight in the data is sort of lost, albeit the lesson of consumers sharing in social platforms like Facebook and Twitter is not much of an insight. File under “DUH!”

Really a CTR rate of 1904% and 287%? This is what happens when you can’t track the denominator (reach/exposure) of your calculation. What they are actually calculating is the volume of responses to shared content and not a CTR, it is actually a more valuable metric and they should try to better define it.

I think that Social Twist’s Tell-a-Friend sharing widget is a great addition for many marketers, but guys, releasing misleading and incorrect stats like this removes some of the credibility and thought leadership from your quest. Research and stats are a great way to get press coverage. Kudos for pulling the wool over the eyes of Fast Company (and surely a number of others), but the industry doesn’t need more fuzzy math market research confusing marketers.

This is just one example, there are so many questionable stats floating around – even from credible companies who are in the business of producing research.

We all love stats and research. Good research does help refine our decision making. But it is no secret that market research is often self serving and misleading. Next time you get blown away by some market research or stats, take a moment to question the research methodologies, determine if there are actually insights provided, and even analyze the motive of the research.You might be surprised how often you  find the data useless, misleading or self serving.

 

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I posted a short piece on the latest Nielsen product in the Laredo Group newsletter in response to many agencies wondering what Nielsen’s new Campaign Ratings system means for them. here’s the answer…

Mention online GRP’s to a group of marketers or agencies and you’ll get reaction ranging from relief to rage. The notion of using the traditional media metric of GRP (technically TRP) has been the source of much debate, and in the crosshairs of the industry’s leading media measurement companies, Nielsen and Comscore, for years.

Let’s remember that the GRP is used in two facets of advertising:

A)  predicting the outcome of specific levels of media weight during planning; and

B)  confirming ratings after campaigns have run

The launch of Nielsen Campaign Ratings is big news, and the tool focuses on the latter measurement.

Nielsen will be working with large web publishers, including Facebook, who will provide anonymous aggregate reach and frequency data in age and gender buckets, which will be combined with Nielsen data from its TV and online panels, resulting in a single report showing R/F and GRPs for specific campaigns. Quantcast had tried to plant the same stake in the ground, from a solely digital perspective, and with a vastly different methodology. Nielsen takes a giant leap forward by partnering with large publishers, and combining the reports with the industry standard Nielsen TV panel.

What Nielsen created here is most valuable to brand advertisers who are trying to maximize R/F against specific audiences across a media mix. The big caveat is that this only uses broad age and gender buckets (and falls short of all the wonderful psychographic profile data used in other tools like @plan) – but that normalizes against the TV targets of most brand advertisers.

With the difference in media currency between digital and traditional media, and previous attempts at comparing cost per point, we can expect to see online buys showing less GRP coverage than planned. In some instances this will result in an increase in digital budget allocation to close the gap, and in other cases, a decrease in budgets due to inefficiency in reaching certain targets as compared to other media. It is generally accepted that a diverse media mix will maximize the realization of R/F goals, but the ideal mix model is not an easy nut to crack.

Nielsen’s new Campaign Ratings system definitely represents the progression of cross media R/F and GRP measurement, however, in the grand scheme of the GRP conversation, I’d argue that the predictive nature of planning with GRP’s is more important.

Official announcement.

Best Buy TV Ad SpendingToday Ad Age reported that Best Buy is shifting more advertising dollars to TV this holiday season.

The consumer electronics giant wouldn’t give exact figures, but it is increasing its spending by a low double- digit percentage. In 2009, it spent $150 million on TV advertising, according to Kantar; network TV ads accounted for $65 million of that figure. To free up funds for TV, the retailer is pulling money away from inserts and trimming distribution in parts of the country where newspaper readership has suffered.

Quoting a Best Buy exec: “When you have big budgets like we do, a 5% to 10% improvement is a big deal.”

What’s Good For The Goose…

Believe it or not, as a digital strategist, I am actually thrilled to see this move and think it is wholeheartedly the right one – because it is supported by sophisticated media mix models that predict the impact and outcome of the media investments. Make no mistake about it – media mix econometric modeling is neither simple nor absolute, but more companies need to attempt to crack this nut. Unfortunately, today a lot of media investment is based on intuition and debate under the guise of collaborative channel planning, rather than a systematic approach to modeling a mix. And BTW – you don’t need a nine figure budget to take a deeper look at the way your media works together. You may not be able to develop the sophistication level of a comprehensive econometric model, but there are so many different ways to analyze your data. It starts with the desire to do so and a lack of aversion to walk outside of your comfort zone – because trust me, that’s where you’ll be very quickly.

Based on the model’s recommendations, Best Buy has also tweaked its digital spending, putting more money into display advertising. And it’s also considering putting more money into events. Mr. Panayiotou said that the model made other suggestions, which the retailer is still evaluating. His team is looking at everything from events to the loyalty program, digital to online search.

The fact of the matter is that all media spend, whether direct response or branding focused, has the same objective – to influence and sell product to consumers. The primary difference is where in the sales cycle you reach a consumer and how long it takes to influence the sale. This is extremely over simplified, but a fact nonetheless.

Media Investment Predictability

The beauty of the concept of GRP’s is that a historical level of media weight could somewhat reliably predict the business outcome in the market. One of the challenges of digital media for large brand advertisers is that, unlike traditional media, it’s hard to predict the outcome in the market as a result of ad spending. To a degree this is because of the small budget allocations to digital, but is also due to the differences in media currency and the lack of significant corollary research on investment impact. Many brands believe in the power of digital media, but most have yet to quantify the marginal increase to their businesses as media dollars get shifted between traditional and digital media. We can talk ad nauseum about how digital is an essential part of the mix (and it is!) – but as an industry we must do a better job at proving it.

Digital Media is Growing Up

Of course, within the digital ecosystem there is significant evolution all around us. The market is still dominated by direct response marketers – and supports these efforts at scale. Most DR marketers have yet to hit a point of diminishing returns and the market is evolving to push that point even further. Even within this space most agencies and marketers fail to use available tools like attribution reporting to properly model a digital mix and prevent duplicate tracking and over-crediting of activation channels like search and retargeting – a huge issue that plagues every multi-channel digital marketer, particularly retailers, whether they take the time to realize it or not.

As marketers get savvier about the word “accountability” not equating to “direct response”, we will see  more branding dollars shifting to the web. But this won’t happen until every company has a champion to drive modeling that incorporates  and measures digital in a more intelligent fashion than is happening  today, where we use disconnected proxy metrics and great salesmanship to feed into brands’ (and often our own) desire to want to believe in digital. DO believe – digital media IS integral to your or your clients’ businesses. But take a systematic approach to how everything works together, because it’s only becoming more  fragmented and complicated. CMO’s today have a tough job, and they are dropping like flies, with an average tenure being less than 2 years. Maybe  the role of the CMO needs a fundamental shift. Maybe the transformation is underway already. Enter the era of the “Chief Modeling Officer”.

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42-15529728File Under “It’s About Freakin’ Time”! Thank you IAB for taking a step towards automating one of the mundane tasks that should not exist in our industry any longer!Hopefully it is not a witch hunt to try and pin discrepancies on the 3rd party ad servers, which has been the case for many years.

Inefficiencies from manual trafficking, reconciliation and discrepancy res0lution has been plaguing agencies and publishers since the introduction of the 3rd part ad serving system in the mid-to-late 90’s. There has never been a credible way to identify the causes of most ad serving discrepancies. Agencies blame publishers, and publishers blame the 3rd party ad serving systems that the agencies employ. This dance has evolved – discrepancies narrowed, but the saga does indeed continue.

As a long time agency guy, I stand by agencies’ (and clients’) need to reconcile media costs based on the  numbers that are tracked and analyzed. To this day there exists an industry “accepted” discrepancy between publisher and agency ad server stats (contractually up to 10%, although it has come dropped over the years), which causes undue manual labor in dealing with the  investigation and reconciliation process, not to mention a general tension at times between buyer and seller. A technological solution was inevitable, but had to come from the sell side. Since publisher numbers have always a bit higher, due to the server calls occurring a fraction of a second earlier than that of the 3rd party ad server (and other issues), the onus has been on the IAB (ultimately a publisher-interest focused organization) to work with the ad servers to develop and fund an industry level reconciliation system. The agencies (aka the ones holding the bags of client budgets) demand that publishers honor the 3rd party ad server numbers, and there is little motivation to fund the development of an automated system to help publishers reconcile. Agencies look at centralized, apples-to-apples, campaign-level stats and that’s all that matters – in fact, that’s all that should matter. The 3rd party ad server is the backbone to a significant amount of  insight generation and campaign optimization. Publishers should (and hopefuly do) recognize that this tool has actually helped to increase the size of the ecosystem over the years.

The IAB’s Impression Exchange Solution will “allow publishers to receive automated 3rd party delivery reports on a daily basis that enable easy integration with publisher systems for comparison with their line items.” This will essentially make it easy (and eventually automate) comparison of log files for each ad served in order to discover mismatched impressions and determine where in the server to server communication and ad deliver process the measurement broke down.

Of course I understand publishers’ perspectives that they are getting shorted or have to over-deliver to ensure that the agencies’ 3rd party ad servers are tracking fullfilled campaign levels. So which numbers are accurate? Well, in a perfect world there would be little to no discrepancy, and hopefully we will move towards that world.

As for which numbers are right, it depends on your definition of right. If you’re an agency or client the definition is simple. If it is not tracked by the centralized ad server, it never happened…or… whatever is not counted doesn’t count.

“I track therefore I am”.

Online GRPAs many readers of this blog know,  I often expose my inner media geek. Since leaving the agency world two years ago, I’ve had the opportunity to share all of the secret digital media sauce amassed throughout a carreer at the healm of an innovative,  nimble and successful digital agency.
 
I now spend my time consulting other agencies and marketers, and presenting digital media planning & buying, and social media marketing training seminars around the country as part of my role at Laredo Group.  In today’s edition of the Laredo Group newsletter, I authored an article about the role of GRP’s in digital media planning, and decided that it is too important a topic not to share with you. Would love to hear your thoughts and comments! Enjoy…
 
To GRP or Not to GRP?
Few topics evoke such passionate debate among senior level media strategists as “the role of the GRP/TRP metric online”. For the purpose of this article, each generic reference to GRP is in actuality a TRP reference, as is the case in most media conversations.
 
Since the dawn of media planning time, media impact has been predicted and evaluated as a function of the relationship of reach and frequency against a defined target universe – essentially the percentage reach against a target multiplied by the frequency:
  • GRP = (Reach/Target Universe x 100) x Frequency
Generally, the Nielsen television universe is used as the denominator in the reach calculation due to its close representation of the actual universe of US households.  Proponents of a related metric, the iGRP, use the online universe of the target as the denominator of the calculation.
 
Allow me to lay out the arguments of both sides…                                     
 
The argument for using GRP’s goes something like this: Advertisers use GRP’s to measure traditional media, so why should online be any different?  Having an apples-to-apples metric allows advertisers to evaluate all media uniformly and in a more integrated fashion as part of a mix.
 
The argument against GRP’s: We shouldn’t fit a square peg of new media dynamics into the round hole of a traditional media planning model.  The GRP doesn’t account for the unique attributes of digital media, such as engagement and relevant targeting.  “Apples-to-apples” comparisons are rare because online targets are more psychographically defined, while traditional GRP evaluations only incorporate demographics.  The iGRP further muddies the proverbial waters by using a different universe than the traditional GRP altogether, thereby countering the primary argument that the GRP provides an apples-to-apples comparison across media.
 
Whether you are for or against the use of GRP’s, nobody will argue against the importance of understanding how reach and frequency affect campaign impact.
There are plenty of ways to measure this influence and develop media mix models without retrofitting the GRP.
 
While the argument focuses around the GRP, the real issue quite simply stems from a difference in media currency, not evaluation metrics.  While the unit of media currency for both traditional and digital media is called the “impression”, the underlying currencies are different.  The currency of traditional media is “audience”, where impressions equal reach. However, digital media impressions are equal to reach x frequency.  As a result there is an over abundance of devalued online ad inventory.  Just think about the impact of the value of $1 if the government just flooded the market with newly minted currency.
 
As an example of these currency differences  – if you buy a spot during a TV program that reaches 1MM viewers, you are buying 1MM impressions, and reach equals 1MM.  Frequency is a function of additional buys.  When you buy 1MM impressions from a particular website, you buy a share of voice, not the total audience. In this instance, your 1MM impressions can yield 1MM people at a frequency of 1, or 50,000 people at a frequency of 20.  In either case your GRP’s would not give you the ability to judge the relationship of reach and frequency of your buy – a frequency cap would.
Online GRP's
The Final Word –
 
With all the breadth of data and analytic tools available, why focus on a metric that aims to predict impact, when impact and influence can be measured?  Make sure that all buys have frequency cap parameters so that you can predict reach and frequency, then measure the metrics that matter based on your objectives. Online, you can actually measure the frequency at which you hit a point of diminishing returns on branding effectiveness, or the frequency at which you achieve your best direct response performance.  After all, isn’t media impact what the GRP tries to predict in the first place?
 
 
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dartmobileIn a move that will surely help to further propel mobile display advertising, OMD, Omnicom’s media buying agency, has officially become the first [influential] agency to mandate that mobile publishers accept 3rd party ad serving tags and bill off of the 3rd party numbers.

Can I get an “amen!”

Mobile 3rd party ad serving is still in its infancy. But it’s moves like this, albeit potentially a bit premature for mandates from what I am hearing about discrepancies between 3rd party and publisher ad servers, that will help force the market to move forward.

Controlling the serving and tracking of campaigns has been part of agencies’ DNA for years now. 3rd party ad serving becoming the standard for mobile is inevitable. Doubleclick and others have been experimenting with mobile ad serving for several years now, but the mobile display ecosystem never seemed quite ripe enough for major roll outs (I guess).

Let’s recap why agencies (and advertisers) use 3rd party ad servers:

– To have immediate access to and glean insight from robust metrics not provided by, nor prioritized by publishers

– To measure all placements on an apples to apples basis and to provide an audit

– To gain more control over creative changes

Since next year has been the year for mobile marketing for at least the last three years, we are at the cusp of finally seeing this prophecy come to fruition. Of course SMS and app marketing are revelling in all their post tipping point glory. If OMD’s move is indicative of where the other major agencies are heading, display, and video are right behind them.