Welcome to the golden era of online ads’ measurement

Newsroom 02/11/2015 | 12:50

In an ever-changing communications industry, where the dynamic is fast and sets the pace for everything we do, where technology offers endless possibilities every single day, research is the key to finding the best way for a brand to communicate in the digital world. As a result, research agencies are keen more than ever to develop new strategies and proprietary tools to help advertising and communication agencies and their clients meet consumers along the way and attempt to satisfy their needs and desires.


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One of the world-leading research agencies, GfK, is now able to identify when a person is exposed to a commercial on several devices (PC, smartphone, tablet etc.) and can offer as seemless a brand experience as possible from the browser to all applications – allowing for an evaluation and a better mapping of the format and the execution’s performance, but also of the campaign in general.

More than that, GfK has announced an innovative collaboration with Facebook that will include evaluation of the ads available on Facebook in holistic solutions, ready for advertisers. The new capability will be launched in November 2015 in the USA, Great Britain, Germany and other specifically-chosen, high digital-traffic markets.

By combining the system of measuring the exposure to commercials on a PC browser with measurement of the exposure of commercials on mobile and app browsers, GfK will succeed  in closing the circuit of the cross-media digital measurement. We have a big exposure and range of partners, such as Facebook, and we will continue to invest in developing our solutions for online ads in order to help marketers better understand the efforts in the digital space. This way, they can offer better integrated and performing campaigns,” said Arno Hummerston, global director, digital market intelligence of GfK.

But how will the new testing solutions attain online ads’ efficiency better than before?  Andreea Coca, digital intelligence market consultant at GfK Romania, affirms that theitesting solutions, both the existing and the new ones, actually go beyond efficiency, to evaluate effectiveness. They contribute to insights about optimizing investment in online advertising, making sure the campaign ends up in full alignment with its intended goals – most often these actually tie back to brand image lifts and sales increases, not solely achieving a reach metric. “Up until now, there was a disconnect, on the one hand, between viewability and engagement with ads, and, on the other hand, between the different devices that a consumer was being exposed to the ad. Our new solution connects both traditional metrics with effectiveness KPIs, as well as unifies the exposure on multiple devices and within the mobile devices on browser and apps,” added Andreea Coca.

Classic ad viewership is decreasing from year to year and the traditional ways of planning and buying digital advertising are changing accordingly. “From the shift to more mature targeting options (behavioral, interest-based, contextual, etc.) offered by the present advertising environment, new metrics are becoming available and according to individual advertising objectives, can be used to drill into more brand-centric measurements. In the end, no matter what specific KPI’s a brand / advertiser might have, it all comes down to data integration – accurately measuring all marketing channels, both online and offline, to be able to gain a holistic view of how each channel influences the final purchase decision along the funnel, and of course, to be able guide future decisions,” said Diana Oancea, digital media manager at BPN.

Understanding the need (and right definition) for an omnichannel approach and having a clear strategy for integrated communication, are the first steps towards establishing the right KPIs for evaluation. However, according to her, understanding that exposure does not necessarily equal interaction with an ad, and it does not translate into engagement which is correctly identifying and attributing a specific impact to the right ad format, or creative, or message, or specific channel. This is on the ‘theory’ side. “On the measurement side, it is about increasing accuracy and unifying the experience. And there have been various stages in which we managed to come this far, from passive measurement of exposure and impact instead of declarative or modeling, to cross-media integration of multiple mediums on the same individual, to cross-media integration of multiple channels, cross-device, on the same individual,” concluded Coca.

Still, more than ever, the need for research prior to launching a campaign seems like a natural decision for all the factors involved. “Before we start a campaign, we perform a consumer analysis – their interests, how many hours they spend online, how often they use mobile devices, etc. Following this research, we start building the strategy in-line with the client’s business objectives. I believe that research is mandatory and the key for any successful campaign,” believes the BPN representative.  Her opinion is also shared by Cecilia Tanasoiu, managing director at Prometheus, who believes that research is paramount to a well-executed campaign, and it should not only be present in the beginning, but also in its every other stage. “Research data should be the fuel of any advertising project. We collect cookie data real-time, therefore our research process is a continuous one, bringing constant improvement to the analytics layer that we employ to shape the information,” added Tanasescu.
Not everybody is in agreement with these statements though. Marius Deak, founder & CEO of Avandor Consumer Profiling, argues that research and insight are a requirement prior to launching any campaign, regardless of its media mix. “Programmatic media allows for real-time data usage in order to determine if a specific ad opportunity should be pursued by advertisers, which doesn’t really solve the problem, but rather moves it into a different zone: the quality of the data being used,” added Deak.


The efficiency of mobile

Search marketing, Facebook ads and real-time bidding promise high target-group coverage and high conversion, without the hassle of complex audience-targeting and efficiency measurement. This is everybody’s dream. However, the majority of clients end up working with agencies, as this process is not as simple as it seems.

Earned media and consumer opinions highly influence the online part of the consumer journey. Display ads amplify the effects of social media communication. Therefore, well designed media placement and proper understanding of social media is crucial for the success of an online campaign.

The world is changing, and advertisers have started to realise that only looking at conversion data is not enough to discern engagement; more tailored metrics are required. This is where a proper research agency can help in order to demonstrate the different layers of online ads’ effects and show how important target audience can be missed with conversion-oriented campaigns. Additionally, research agencies can help change the current situation and also look beyond clicks at how online campaigns influence brand perception, awareness and sentiments.

There are different levels of digital knowledge in most of companies. Making digital easy to understand for all stakeholders is essential to getting the necessary support for digital communication,” explained the GfK representative.

TV drives more short-term sales due to its greater reach – but Facebook drives higher impact among those it reaches, including among audiences that TV does not encompass. Maximizing Facebook reach among a campaign’s target audience will therefore improve the overall effectiveness. So, while the physical and technical characteristics of each channel are different, their effect is comparable if we balance respective reach and impact, according to Hummerston. But what about digital’s and mobile’s efficiency and ways of measuring it?

Vlad Paun, CTO Atelieru.ro, considers that an ad should be as efficient as possible, no matter the media used. “When you take into account that mobile is still growing and so is the mobile ad-spending value, you have to turn your eyes onto mobile ads’ efficiency.  The way users consume ads is always adapting to new technology and it always will. When you are trying to measure the actual number of times a person has been exposed to the ad, you might find out that is almost impossible most of the time. This is due to the fact that ads are served in browsers (mobile or home/office computer) or on mobile apps. Now, this may not seem as a big problem, but if you’re measuring an ad’s impact, it really is,” said Paun.

Digital channels have gained ground by their tracking and measurement possibilities. Therefore, there is no digital metric today that can’t be measured, not even on mobile phones,” argues Cecilia Tanasoiu. The mobile phone is the silent witness of every micro and macro event in our lives, it stores our everyday actions, knows everywhere we go, what music we like and listens to almost all our chats. “Imagine if we could seize all this hyper-geographic information, behavior, lifestyle, preference, phone-type data and use it to create a customized creative that would be displayed alone on the tiny screen. Fortunately, advertisers can do that today. And moreover, they can give back to consumers – an easier way through the store, a personalized offer, a free service on the run – there are so many examples of mobile-enhanced experiences of brands with their consumers. And the consumers’ answer is generally faster and better to this type of communication,” advocates Tanasoiu.

Measuring mobile ads’ performance isn’t hard at all. Google divided the performance of ads into mobile, tablets and desktop – meaning that you can see how your ads performed on mobile or on tablets & desktop. Facebook has also made the same addition into their ad platform and any other platform has a separate view for mobile. Google Analytics is always there to put all the information together, from channels and devices used to reach your website, to specific behavior according to point of entry. For any advertiser today, there is plenty of data available at no cost to be able to make educated decisions for their marketing plans,” said Diana Oancea.

Adding more information to the table, Cecilia Tanasoiu affirms that measuring mobile depends on the tools and extra-data you have. “If your data platform has cross-device information, if the collection and analytics tools go beyond the cookie environment, then measuring is almost the same as for other digital channels. Applying the essential KPIs and tracking the relevant metrics are just the task and ability of the people managing the campaign,” considers the Prometheus managing director.
From his side, Vlad Paun, CTO Atelieru.ro, looks at the fact that the market began shifting focus to the so-called “Vanity metrics”, such as Facebook likes or “views” on YouTube, in measuring campaigns. “It makes sense, having so much data available, but campaigns should stick to the main KPI categories – traffic generation, conversion and revenue metrics,” said Paun.

The entire industry is currently using behavioral (response) metrics to track the efficiency of the mobile ad spend. I think it’s a matter of time until metrics like viewability, time-in-view and engagement will become the standard, and this trend is currently led globally by Facebook and Google,” believes Marius Deak, founder & CEO of Avandor Consumer Profiling.

Taking into account the predictions about the investments in mobile advertising reaching USD 100 million in 2016 (51 percent of all digital investments) and the doubling of that amount by 2019 (70 percent of the total spending in digital advertising), the mobile advertising is the key for every marketing person, according to a GfK Press Release. Still, despite those trends, until now, there hasn’t been a technology able to maximize the investments in online commercials, built on more than metrics of exposure.

Consider what part of that is Facebook. By having Facebook as a partner we have great coverage and scale for our total campaign effectiveness measurement, bridging measurement cross-devices. By having GfK as a partner for Facebook we invest and develop the newest, most innovative consumer-centric solutions, solving privacy and technology challenges by using our consumer panels, and using our expertise to deliver better-performing campaign to marketers,” said Coca.

GfK’s representatives also declare that it has all the instruments that any media agency, publisher or advertisers might need in order to evaluate the complete cross-media image, including the level of impact that it has over the brand.  These types of solutions are currently being used and optimized in the GfK portfolio, including the communication- tracking studies GfK Experience Effects that will be available starting November 2015.

To build lasting brand impact requires a full, cross-media perspective and a true understanding of the objectives and context. To do that, especially in this mobile-dominated territory, we must look to use innovative solutions, such as the one we leveraged here with Facebook, that go beyond a single channel. They need to unify the channels and the platforms and the media in a way that only a robust and digital-led research agency can do. Only then, can you really learn what you need to do and understand exactly how all digital ad spend can be maximized,” added Arno Hummerston.


Romania’s face in front of the changes

The Romanian market is increasingly moving towards understanding the ROI of digital ads, including mobile, but there are limited options available; aside from delivery metrics there is also a lot of modeling, estimations and declarative data being used. In Romania, GfK has just recently started to offer two main approaches for increasing accuracy of measurement and capturing the overall exposure experience. “The first approach focuses on the ROI of a campaign, as it impacts sales, via our Consumer Panel data and monitoring. The second approach focused on the ROI of a campaign, as it impacts brand image, via our Online Panel. Both approaches offer a cross-media view, with the latter now also including cross-device, browser and app experience. The new developments and offerings in this area come as a consequence of our research partners’ more complex needs, and the steady grow of the digital advertising market,” said Andreea Coca.

Hence, when it comes to mobile advertising, GfK’s representative considers that consumer behavior is definitely changing and Romania tends to be quite innovative when it comes to buzz words in this area such as geo-location marketing, m-commerce, in-app, mobile responsive etc. “Nevertheless, while agencies and methodologies, know-how and technology, for both delivery and measurement are in place, the clients’/ brands’ investment is limited. Media studies show that mobile advertising in Romania will see a spectacular growth between 2014 and 2017. However, it does not quite reach a two-digit percentage out of all digital expenditure. Many expected 2015 to be the year of mobile advertising, but we have not quite reached that tipping point,” added Coca.


From the clients’ side

But are clients ready to embrace the new reality and invest in it? “Clients are discovering more and more that engagement with a brand, as a basis for an actual relationship being established between consumers and brand, is the key for committed customers. With an increasingly competitive marketplace and decreasing loyalty, there is the need to 1) be able to catch consumers’ attention among the many touchpoints of interaction, 2) get your message across, and it can be a message that would be tailored differently for various segments, 3) make sure that the reaction to that message is in the expected direction,” explained GfK’s Romania digital intelligence market consultant.

If 7-10 years ago, mobile ads were mostly unheard of and, to be perfectly honest, the penetration indicators would have not supported any efforts in this direction, now things have shifted. It is official – the number of mobile searches on Google surpassed desktop searches and this trend is expected to continue. Also, Facebook announced in the first quarter of this year that 87% of users use Facebook on their mobile devices. It goes without saying that mobile should no longer be an afterthought for any advertiser today. The digital landscape is evolving and it’s high time that all advertisers prioritize their mobile strategy,” added Oancea.

On his turn, Marius Deak emphasizes that the time spent on mobile devices clearly outweighs time spent on traditional web platforms. “Advertising on mobile devices is relatively new and uncharted territory compared to the traditional web platforms. On mobile, screen resolutions are smaller, ad formats occupy a larger portion of the screen, and you don’t really see ads overlapping like you see on some traditional web media,” said Deak.

On top of this is the cross-media behavior of consumers, which, unless accounted for, will fragment your communication, making it lose efficiency and impacting effectiveness even more so. Clients who already understand this and embrace our solutions are those who have a clear focus on and direction for digital, as a strategic channel, while at the same time integrating it fully within their marketing mix. They are the ones who need to understand the incremental effect of each channel and execution or creative, as well as the synergies between them. So far, it is true that these include the large players in mainly the FMCG and Technology & Telecommunication industries, but it is equally important, with even a small advertising budget, to make sure it is being spent maximizing its return,” Andreea Coca told BR.

This is a very complex issue, with many brilliant minds set on solving it. Safe to say that for the moment the technology is somewhat fragmented, and each major player aims to close the access to their data. We’re talking about a cross-device identity war between the global giants, each one of them having specific assets. I think in the long run, there will be more alignment in this space, especially as asked by the advertisers,” added Marius Deak.


Emotion is at the head of every decision

Facts work and convince the client, as well as figures and percentages, but consumers have proven to work differently. “Consumers will respond to brand launches that hit the most potent trends. Wellness, convenience and purity have been firing consumer emotion,” considers Diana Oancea.

Emotion is mostly the creative prerogative and it can shape the user decision at a certain moment in the purchase journey,” also added Cecilia Tanasoiu.
To back this up, recent brain research and psychological studies show that, in fact, there is no decision that is made without emotions. Emotion strongly comes into play when we are faced with too much information, the way it happens online. “In the face of information overload (which is increasing as technology evolves), human beings rely on emotional thinking. Our brains are wired that way to help us cope with too many choices and too many impulses, something the scientist Antonio Damasio defined within his somatic marker hypothesis. The way emotions impact purchase decisions – and the ability to analyze emotions accurately – are key understandings behind a GfK tool that analyzes facial expressions to help automakers measure the effectiveness of their advertising,” said Arno Hummerston.

Called the GfK EMO ScanTM, GfK developed the tool in collaboration with the Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits (IIS) in Erlangen, Germany, and the Emotion Research Group at the University of Geneva (CISA). The software is based on a Sophisticated High-speed Object Recognition Engine (SHORE) that captures facial expressions. By categorizing these facial expressions using a GfK-specific database, a so-called “valence curve” is calculated. The curve illustrates the intensity of positive or negative emotions. This curve is then linked to the content of an advertisement.

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