When it comes to digital advertising, we often spend our time pouring over data in order to create planning, modeling, targeting and buying efficiencies. It’s very easy to get caught up in the process when, in the end, all anyone wants to know is “did it actually work?”
TV has historically controlled the lion’s share of ad budgets, primarily because we have several decades of effectiveness research proving that the medium is very good at driving brand equity and in-market sales lift.
Digital media continues to scrap and claw for those TV dollars, in large part, because we’re still in the early phases of proving out the value of the channel. That said, as digital becomes increasingly effective at demonstrating quantifiable results and as video ad inventory grows, we’re witnessing a clear paradigm shift that is putting it in the same conversation as TV.
Digital ad campaigns drive both brand and sales lift. The methods of evaluating the delivery and performance of campaigns are rapidly improving as we consider three aspects of measurement: ad viewability, branding lift, and sales lift.
Ad Viewability Improves Accuracy of Effectiveness Measurement
The topic of digital ad viewability has been a hot one over the past year. With roughly 50 percent of ads never have an opportunity to be seen by a consumer, it’s easy to understand why.
The industry’s move towards a viewable impression standard is significant for a couple of reasons:
It puts digital advertising on a level playing field with TV in that both are now based on the same ‘opportunity-to-see’ standard. These common parameters can certainly help facilitate the flow of dollars toward digital.
The use of viewable impressions can dramatically improve effectiveness research. When campaigns are evaluated on a served impression basis, the reported lift metrics are diluted by all of the impressions that were delivered but never seen and therefore had no ability to influence consumer behavior. Evaluating campaigns on a viewable impression basis promises to give viewable ads the credit they actually deserve in driving performance.
Branding Lift Metrics Provide Useful Benchmarks for Digital
Branding advertising, which accounts for 70 percent of all traditional advertising, has traditionally relied on a variety of brand-related post-exposure success metrics, such as:
Unaided brand recall.
Aided brand recall.
Likelihood of visitation to the online/offline store.
Likelihood of purchase.
Likelihood to recommend.
These metrics are very useful in showing changes in how consumers’ thoughts, feelings and emotions toward a brand, and they often correlate with lifts in in-market sales. Of all campaign evaluation metrics, these have tended to be the easiest and most cost-effective to collect from a research standpoint.
These metrics are also useful because there are years and years of industry norms collected around these metrics, which gives historical perspective and the ability to benchmark. These metrics have withstood the test of time, and in cases where assessing actual sales is not a reality, they have served as a strong surrogate for this metric of success.
Sales Lift Measurement Leveraging Big Data for Improved Insights
Quantifying in-store (or online) sales lift is perhaps the most direct, and therefore valuable, metric for marketers.
Over the years, the digital ad industry has had the ability to tie campaign exposure to in-store sales through the use of anonymized database matching between online panels and household-level sales databases (e.g. supermarket loyalty cards). While this clever application has helped close the loop between exposure and sales, sample size constraints can sometimes get in the way of performing more granular analysis.
However, new applications that integrate big data sources into traditional effectiveness measurement has opened the door to substantially increased sample sizes, which not only improves the statistical reliability of the reported results, but also opens up new avenues of analysis.
As you can imagine, many marketers salivate at the possibilities of being able to have a scalable and repeatable methods for quantifying how well digital ads drive sales.
Better Effectiveness Measurement Can Drive Dollars to Digital
These recent innovations in digital advertising measurement are changing the way we think about effectiveness. Proper assignment of credit for digital ad campaigns plus improved granularity of analysis means a better gauge of results. A significantly improved ability to prove the impact of digital advertising means that branding ad dollars can be expected to continue to shift to the Internet.
A quick history lesson for readers.
In 1989, British physicist Tim Berners-Lee invented what would be called the “World Wide Web.” The first trials were held in December 1990 at the laboratories of CERN, the major research laboratory in Geneva that’s better known today as the home of the Large Hadron Collider.
On April 30, 1993, CERN published a statement — on the Web, no less! — that made the technology behind the World Wide Web available on a royalty-free basis. (Specifically, this was the software required to run a Web server, a basic browser, and a library of code.)
And thus the modern public Web was born, at info.cern.ch.
The first Web site in the world was, understandably, dedicated to the World Wide Web project itself. (For Apple geeks reading this, it was hosted on Berners-Lee’s NeXT computer.) The Web site described what the Web was and instructed how to access others’ documents.
That original NeXT machine is still at CERN, but the world’s first Web site is no longer online at its original address.