Tuesday, 10 November 2009

A Real Step Towards an ROI Metric for Social & Experiential (& Display, Of Course)

Now I'm no media planning guru, my knowledge of the media segments' nuts and bolts is shallow, but if Universal McCann's Digital Director is excited about this, then it's something to wrap our heads around. He writes this in MediaBizBloggers.com today:
It would appear that (among other things) RealVu has developed a technology that allows them to identify when an online ad is "within the viewable area" of a user's screen, and for what duration. So, for ads that are run on a particular Web site that require a user to scroll "below the fold," their ad never gets requested until the user has scrolled to that part of the page.
Makes sense, right? Pretty innocuous you say? On average, across all placements that they have tracked – fully 50% of online ads are never viewed because they are outside of the user's viewable area. Say what?
Now, keep in mind this is a combination of all properties. Some long tail sites are poorly constructed and they may indeed have questionable motives, but this does include Top 100 properties as well. The number of ads that we are paying for that go unseen floored me.

So as I understand it, this technology, via your browser, tracks what you had visible in your window on any give site and records how much time it was visible. Should work on mobile phones as well. Sounds like a simple thing, right? Kind of like People Meters, but this is WAY more useful as it is more like eye-tracking (cameras recording what exactly you were looking at when watching a screen).

What this technology does is leapfrog over and ahead of any tracking we have today because it tells us precisely what web surfers were looking at and for how long. If combined with the old 'click-through' (which was always a suspect metric tool) this could well turn into a real, solid measurement of what is working, or not, with display and video ads on the Internet.
Simple, but HUGE!  Not because it measures tangible actions, per se, but intangible behavior.
The biggest problem the ad industry has with so-called "social marketing" is that it is 100% 'brand engagement' based.  What that means is that every dollar spent in "social media" is not expected to increase sales, but only to raise awareness about the brand.  Hopes (based upon a lot of evangelistic hype) that somehow this "brand engagement" was tied inextricably to brand loyalty/love have been dashed recently when Razorfish, a digital advertising leader, found in a study that consumer activity in social media is all about coupons and contests, not about developing some mysterious and deep lifelong attachment to the brand.

In other words, to date any 'investment' in 'social media' has been based upon gut-feel and following the flock, NOT on any measure of ROI.  As I've repeatedly said, there is no such thing as "word of mouth advertising", and 'social marketing' is nothing but an attempt to influence what people choose to talk about.  Anything carrying the label "social" is inherently NOT an advertising medium (unless you believe that telemarketing is an appropriate advertising medium).  I'm not saying that all the efforts being made in 'social media' today are ineffective -- splashing brand messages across any new medium gets noticed -- only that the spend is unjustified by any of the normal criteria we hear CMOs, CFOs and media mavens constantly harping about, for example...

Ironically, experiential marketing is not enjoying much of a gain in its slice of the media spending mix because marketers are demanding ROI metrics for it, yet "social," with no expectation of any real ROI (sales increases), is winning a significant budget.  However based upon 'gut feel,' testimonials and observation, we all KNOW that XM is actually the most effective marketing medium ever devised -- it has been around since the invention of human trade, swapping seashells for sabre-tooth tiger teeth.

What RealVu's tracking technology offers us, not today, but soon as we figure out how to cross-track and correlate data, is a methodology for accurately measuring not just display or video ads on websites, but the net effect and inter-relationship of both 'social' and experiential efforts on pushing consumers to websites and on to purchase and loyalty.  What I mean by this is that we'll be able to say we spent $X on an event branded for brand ABC's new flavor at which we had primary interaction with Y quantity of people and put coded coupons in all their hands, Z quantity of people spent N amount of seconds on the promo site in front of an online ad (or blog, or tweet, or....), P% clicked on the link and in that test market we saw a Q% increase in the new flavor. Demonstrable, cross-linked ROI.

No, this won't happen tomorrow, but with RealVu's advancements, the day is coming!

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