The on-off romance blossoms
After a stuttering start, online and offline marketing are finally beginning to speak the same language, and the relationship is blooming.
Once a brand has found and engaged its audience, its next challenge is evaluating success. But how can marketers assess the ROI of today’s multi-media, multi-screen, integrated campaigns? What’s the value of a Facebook ’like’ compared to playing a video within a branded creative, a print ad, a branded event, or joining a mailing list?
“Integration between online and offline media is a hugely complex topic and we’re only now starting to understand its intricacies,” says Jack Wallington, head of industry programmes at the Internet Advertising Bureau. “Not least because online and offline media are usually planned, bought and measured in different ways, often by different teams.”
Part of the challenge is the fact that many online metrics are extremely precise, with an exact number of impressions, clicks or actions from a clearly defined audience, the opposite of offline metrics, which rely on panels or surveys of representative groups. The challenge for the industry is to expand existing metrics to include other media or develop new metrics to better understand overall ROI.
In 2010, the online industry approved and launched online audience planning service UKOM as the new UK digital marketing standard, a significant step in bridging the gap between online and offline audience planning. Using a panel-based system, UKOM’s data is structured along the same demographic lines as measurement services such as BARB and RAJAR, and hence is directly comparable to them. This allows online and offline advertising to be planned and then bought in much the same way.
“UKOM has always covered visitors to websites,” explains Wallington. “Recently it has added a video census product which measures video streams, so it can now tell marketers how much online video is being watched, and by which demographics.”
“Brands should also consider today’s path-to-purchase, which includes a mix of online and offline,” he comments. “Research into the ROPO effect - research online, purchase offline - will help brands understand online’s ability to drive offline sales. Attribution, econometric and media-mix modelling can also create snapshots representing the distribution of influence between online and offline.”
Research into the ROPO effect will help brands understand online’s ability to drive offline sales
Nokia has recently integrated its broadcast and social media strategies into one online ad format to extend, enforce and enhance the TV commercial for its new E7 mobile phone. Nokia’s ad campaign debuts the inRoll online video ad format from Tremor Video in the UK. The format allows the brand to instigate an interactive conversation with the consumer, and delivers a highly measurable campaign that can be used to inform its social media strategy.
Today, the core challenge for brands is measurement because more often than not they find themselves, in marketing terms, comparing apples with pears. “We have got a long way to go to find the common playing fields,” comments Piers North, head of strategy at Yahoo!.
Yahoo! operates an ad partnership with Nectar that allows marketers to target the consumers in its network whose behaviour closely resembles that of appropriate consumer segments taken from the Nectar database.
Following the targeting aspect of the campaign, the measurement stage enables Yahoo! and Nectar to create a sector of the audience who didn’t see any of the online advertising and compare how they acted. The result has been a 41% sales uplift.
“Good examples of ROPO have been pioneered by Google with research company GfK, and by Yahoo! Consumer Connect,” comments the IAB’s Wallington. “For example, by matching online exposure of display advertising to their shopping panel, and subsequent purchase of Creme Eggs in Sainsbury’s, Cadbury enjoyed an ROI greater than 3 to 1”
According to North, Yahoo! is seeing a greater desire to measure offline data and offline performance and bring it to the online sphere.
“Advertisers have a lot of data and they are realising they want to work with people like us who have the ability to take that data and turn it into online advertising,” he says.
Clearly different ways of doing things require different ways of measuring them. Visit Wales was a traditional campaign-led organisation which, when digital became part of the mix, needed to move forward on its measurement approaches. “We have moved from traditional metrics around onsite interaction and started to focus on things like the quality of your content network and conversation sentiment,” comments Jon Munro, digital marketing manager at Visit Wales.
Visit Wales works with agency iCrossing on an integrated digital marketing strategy across paid and natural search, social media and content strategy. Recently the ’always on’ nature of digital, the role that third-party brand platforms play and the value of content and engagement offsite has placed additional demands on its measurement and evaluation approach. Closing the gap between online and offline marketing is vital to the brand’s strategy.
“What you have to do is start to get a feel for what happens when you are running TV alongside bits of content across third-party platforms,” says Munro.
Taking into account seven KPIs, Visit Wales is aiming to look at its campaigns from a content-led perspective, whether it is advertising on TV, a comment on Twitter, a blog post or a Facebook piece. “We need to figure out what is the value of that content across our customer journey and develop an ROI around it so we can feed it into the measurement framework,” says Munro.
In a landscape of shifting media and devices, it will be increasingly important for brands to focus on the unified measurement of campaigns across devices.
“When Microsoft Advertising measured the success of a combined TV and online video campaign through a fusion of datasets, we found that online video added incremental reach to the TV campaign,” says Julie Forey, head of research, data and analytics at Microsoft Advertising. “However, this type of analysis is complex and costly and becomes more difficult when a campaign is being measured across multiple platforms,” she adds. “Research agencies need to come up with new cost-effective, multi-platform, cross-media measurement solutions and that is no easy task.”
The frontier is ever-changing but, going forward, more complex insight into online audiences, market segments and digital channels is giving brands greater security in planning digital campaigns - and integrating them with ’traditional’ channels.
Integrating online and offline measurement revolves around attribution models, where you work out the value each channel contributes to the end result. One of the challenges is working out what that metric should be; you need a metric that is comparable across all channels, so the obvious one is comparative spend. The most sophisticated users of attribution modelling, brands such as Argos and Sky, have established models and are now adding new channels such as social media.
One important aspect in attribution modelling is ensuring the tools you use for measurement are independent of the channel, firstly so you can compare the contribution from all channels, and secondly so there is no incentive to influence the results for one channel, as Google Analytics might for paid search, for example. The latest thinking is that attribution modelling works best when it’s done by an independent team within the company. We’ve set up our own attribution model, and the data is verified by our finance team, so it’s independent of the marketing team.
Another example of best practice in this area is to make the links between branding and direct response elements of a campaign as direct as possible. It is possible for attribution models to handle indirect correlation between branding activity and results - sales for example - but now the tools exist to make that correlation more direct. According to Econsultancy, 83% of print campaigns and 61% of TV ads now carry URLs that link directly to a campaign-specific site, and we’re seeing more posters and press ads incorporating QR codes.
The other approach is to get people searching on your brand terms from your branding ads and then you can measure your brand searches; Ford has done a lot of work on this. The drawback is that you then have to buy your brand terms, which can be expensive. The way round it is to create a specific brand term for the campaign, as Compare The Market did with the meerkat.
The newest channel is social media. It’s perfectly possible to track people who ’like’ your brand on Facebook and relate that back to activity on your site, just as you would track a branded search query. And, as you might expect, the value of a Facebook ’like’ is high, because people are influencing their networks. And as that becomes apparent through attribution modelling, I absolutely see the social guys challenging search for campaign spend.