Last month, comScore released a study that analyzed the branding impact of various display targeting approaches. The study evaluated the ability of six different media buying strategies to drive brand lift in two metrics that aim to measure relevant brand building: brand-related search and visitation to branded Web sites.
The not surprising best option cited for brand advertisers was Retargeting. I believe it to be common advertising wisdom that re-engaging with your current customers is easier (and cheaper) than acquiring new ones. The next two best strategies were: Audience Targeting and Premium Targeting. Audience includes Behavioral Targeting and Social Targeting (what M6D does), and Premium Targeting is based on “high-visibility placements on premium publishers.”
The nice (and for me, not surprising) result is how much better audience-based targeting works compared to premium display buys. The study showed that Audience Targeting drives significantly greater lift in brand-building metrics, at greater reach and a substantially cheaper cost. With results like this, I wonder why more brand advertisers are not adopting Audience Targeting.
I haven’t taken an exhaustive survey of CMOs, but intuition tells me that there are two immediate unknowns that may cause them to hesitate: the context of the ad (the content of the page on which the ad appears) and accepted evaluation metrics on the performance of the campaign.
The former concern is being addressed by companies like AdSafe and DoubleVerify, and we have a nice blog post detailing how we work to ensure brand safety in our media buying. Evaluating online brand-building is more complex.
At M6D, we can provide advertisers with brand relevant data about the prospects to whom we serve ads, and we can tell them how many impressions were served and to how many unique users. We also offer Social Brand Metrics, summaries of online social media behavior of a marketer’s customer base and the people they are connected to (which together comprise our target audience). But the real substance is that brand advertising can actually be measured like direct advertising — once you realize that there is so much more to measurement than the click.
Clicks — cheap (relatively at least), instant, satisfying, universal — are kind of like fast food. And like fast food, clicks might satisfy instantaneous needs, but do they really nourish the brand in a way that builds a long-lasting relationship with a consumer? What we need, and actually can build, are metrics that look beyond the click. Inspired by direct response advertising, M6D has built a system for measuring the brand worthiness of an audience. It’s a bit technical, but here is a paper we published about it (for the math inclined).
The basic premise is that we can evaluate an audience by how many brand relevant actions per-capita are taken in a specific time period. In our most common use case, we’ll define a brand relevant action as a visit to an advertiser’s Web site, where a purchase may or may not have taken place. As demonstrated by the comScore study, brand relevant searches can also be used. As long as the events are relevant to the brand (and it’s usually good to work this out with the brand in advance), they can be considered conversions, enabling measurement of targeting effectiveness and advertising lift. On top of the capability to measure brand conversions, we have built a flexible optimization engine that will determine which of our Social Targeting attributes are needed to build an audience that maximizes these brand relevant actions.
So, while measurement of brand advertising online doesn’t quite match direct response advertising, major innovations are taking place that may soon prove that digital media is ready to capture more brand building. While we can borrow concepts from direct response advertising, we also need to look beyond the click (and click-through-to-purchase) mentality to truly measure brand-building impact. Thanks to comScore for continuing the dialogue on this topic and helping advance innovation.