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Opportunities in Mobile Messaging (Part 1)

Opportunities in Mobile Messaging (Part 1) Kevin Ryan

Kevin Ryan: All right, good morning everybody. I am Kevin Ryan, iMedia's search editor, among other things. Welcome to the Working Group presentation: Mobile Marketing -- a very hot topic in today's business. We have two very distinguished speakers today to share with you some of their key insights into this space, kind of what's happening and what's going on. We'll do a couple of 20-minute presentations and then we'll leave lots of time at the end for Q&A, so please save your questions for the end.

We have Courtney Jane Acuff, who is currently heading Digits, a part of Starcom MediaVest. And, also Mr. John Zaccario, who is the VP of product management and emerging sales at ESPN. Both are big veterans in the business and have been doing it for quite some time. Please welcome both and let's get rolling.

Courtney Jane Acuff: Great. We have heard today, and yesterday -- I was actually just saying that in the past 24 hours I have heard more about mobile, and cell phones, and Boost and Motorola and all of those sort of third screen entities coming together, honestly than I have in probably the last two years -- which for someone like me, in my position, is great. It means that we are finally talking about a marketplace that is viable, for our advertisers, for content providers, and on down the road. 

In the little write-up of our session today, there were a couple of questions and one was, "What's changed the most?" Well, what's changed the most is, we actually now can put logos of advertisers up on a screen who have participated in this marketplace. This switch, from sort of early 2004 to right now, 2005 has been huge. We now have advertisers participating in the space beyond just your record labels and your movie studios, and that was great -- they came into the marketplace and taught everybody else how you can improve it and what can be happening. So, really what we are looking at now is a scalable marketplace that has viability beyond just the teen and the young adult market. So, if you have older consumers, there is a way and a touchstone to reach them. John and I will actually talk about that with a case study we did for males with ESPN. 

So, we have gone from the brick to the razor (thin), and that is a great visual to talk about what we have in terms of the scale, the usage, and the opportunity to engage. Again, viability has come with individuals using their cell phones beyond just voice-to-voice communications. That is actually one of the last things that you use your phones for these days. It is now about the features and the functions, and you controlling an experience that really encompasses sight, sound and emotion. It's all in one, and it represents probably the most personal (in my opinion) consumer-controlled device that you have.

Everything that we talk about with internet, and broadband, and next generation TV -- that's awesome, and that's the roots and the foundation of my heritage. But, now we have an opportunity to really take the era of visual engagement and put it into a device that I the consumer control. 

So, Starcom IP, in an effort to take advantage of what we were seeing in terms of the consumer marketplace, dedicated expertise to that area. We as an agency … part of the session is to talk about how agencies are approaching it, how content providers are approaching it, and how we come together. We decided that it wasn't something we could just watch anymore. So, we dedicated initiatives in the end of 2003, beginning of 2004, to conduct a research study -- qualitative and quantitative -- to actually understand if we were working, from a consumer standpoint, with engagement and opportunities that we could then turn into something on behalf of our advertisers. So, instead of having a large advertiser come to us and say, "We want in," we actually took the consumer approach and went out to consumers and said, "How would you like to engage with us on this device that is always on and always with you and most personable?" 

We have allocated clients, which also is a huge shift, I think. I am not sure how many other agencies out there actually have allocated clients. There are certainly clients outside of our organization that are in the space, but having an allocated client means that we are involved at a strategy level. It is not an afterthought. So, it fully is integrated into, usually the digital piece of it, but more and more in the entertainment piece of it, in the traditional piece of it, and the print piece of it. We really put together an approach and a perspective that leads mobile extensions to be something that are a value to the consumer, not something that we just tack on and say, "Let's test it." There have been enough marketers who have tested and it is really now our opportunity to learn, quite frankly from some of their mistakes, and put into market something that we actually think the consumer is going to want and going to be receptive to.

Part of having John here today is to talk about that last bullet point in terms of how we have deployed uniquely concepted ideas that really take advantage of what we can do today while keeping an eye on what is happening tomorrow. There are lots of bugs that you hear about that actually if you were to sit down and talk to John or me, it's just not possible -- yet. It's going to be, but in terms of setting expectations, we have really been able to work together as an agency, on behalf of an advertiser, with the content provider and put out programs that are actionable and executable today (and you will get a sneak peak at some of those things from John's end), while keeping an eye on what is happening down the road so that we can be ready to talk about those advertising models, which by the way, not many exist, which is part of the problem. So, starting to see some of that come together and understand where we can maybe create those advertising models, and/or work with the various entities that are involved in the space to put the advertiser's perspective forward.

Tomorrow: ESPN's John Zaccario provides the content provider perspective.

Kevin Ryan is iMedia's search editor and the chief executive officer of Kinetic Results. Read full bio here.

Now that I've sufficiently disparaged the last cookie, let me pour more kerosene on the fire and say that there is no such thing as an online brand ad or an online direct response ad. Period. It does not make a difference. They are artificial constructs, hold-overs from traditional advertising.

"Huh?" you say. I know you want to skewer me for that one, but hear me out. There's logic to my madness and a point to all this.

The common view is that direct response creative is designed to elicit a measurable response, and that brand ads are designed to change attitudes. But if you think about it for just a moment, if your brand ad doesn't change attitudes that translate into eliciting a measurable response, it's not doing your brand one bit of good. You know that. So stop differentiating, unless it'll make you feel better knowing that everyone now has a positive view of your brand as you go out of business.

It's not necessarily your fault. The hold-over comes from direct response in offline, where ads are designed for trackability and specificity -- that offline direct mail piece with a special offer. A consumer gets it in the mail and responds. Bingo! It's tracked back to the source ID of mailing, catalog or coupon book… of an individual. A television infomercial running spot ZIP codes in PRIZM clusters results in a consumer picking up the phone. There is a conversion cycle to direct response offline. When someone responds, you know who it is. You figure out your cost to produce the offer, count the orders or layer in the conversion rate, and voila. X in, Y out and a bunch of Zs who you can now remarket to because you have their contact info.

But the brand's television commercial, radio or outdoor ad that just communicates "Phone. Sexy." has no individually trackable conversion cycle because you never know when an individual is exposed. You only have group data. Econometric modeling indicates media weights that increase responses, sales, etc… but it is in the meta. You don't know who it is.

That's where the fallacy of classifying things the same way in online advertising emerges. Online, you can track brand ads: who saw them and who responded. An individual (OK, an IP, stop being picky). You can also track how their attitudes change with exposed and non-exposed groups with as much, or more accuracy, than you can track with many direct-response programs offline. When you plug into the internet, your cookies are you. It's not the creative that defines whether something is a direct response ad or a brand ad. It is the medium and the trackability of individuals in that medium.

Do you see where I'm going with this yet? That is why attribution is crucial. Because you can track creative of various types, and impact, it is crucial that the combinations of exposures are better understood. So, the next time you hear someone say "It's a brand ad," when you ask about measurement, look at them calmly and say, "You're an idiot. Now let me tell you why."

Online marketers have adopted offline methodologies and terminologies because it's the only universally understood way to justify being able to produce something that is richer, more communicative, more immersive and capable of driving a shift in consumer attitude. They couch it under the auspices of "It's a brand ad." They separate their campaigns into direct response and brand advertising.

I understand the need to speak a universal language with the folks wielding offline dollars, but the problem is that online marketers are still judging performance on cookie data. As a result, brand advertising gets reported on with the same metrics as the rest, and when cost is layered in, online tanks in comparison.

Granted, some marketers use two different cookies for these purposes, but that's akin to creating two admission lines at a club and separating pretty and ugly people into groups before they walk through the same door, but the pretty people pay four times as much for the privilege of getting in. In that environment, the last cookie in each group still wins, because consumers in the club still have just as much chance going home with an ugly person as a pretty one.

Artificial assignment is dangerous. The banner you view as your direct response ad may actually be your best brand ad. It may communicate most effectively what your brand actually is, not what you want your brand to be. Most brand marketers have a very different view of what their brand is than their consumers do. That is because clients operate on a day-to-day level with their brand. They know it. Live it. It's a closed universe. But your brand is not what you think it is. It's not what your agency -- or even your CEO -- thinks it is.

It's what your consumers think it is.

There are other ways to tackle attribution than the myopic view of clicks and view-thru. What every business should do is define what would make the campaign a success, and then ask how they can measure that. Unfortunately many brands do this after the fact. They look at the available data that they can get from running a campaign online and what the system has measured and then decide whether the campaign is a success. I cannot stress enough that a more strategic approach is necessary.

You must go beyond the metrics that are easily provided by ad delivery systems. You have to develop a metric that gives you the data you need to be actionable about your business, instead of just lifting that report on the number of users that a campaign drove in views and clicks every week. The reported metric must be quickly actionable. Often, people seek to get at every little piece of data. They want to know everything. That is fine, but you will end up being mired in data atrophy. Does it take months for you to get an internal report through on the long-term value of your users? Then do not build it into your ongoing metric and actionable reporting. Measure that quarterly so you stay on track. But anything that you build as your optimization metric must be able to be pulled and reported, tracked and acted upon quickly. Enough data is enough.

Back to our phone example: Are you introducing a new phone brand that no one has ever heard of? You want consumers to get familiar with the features of the device and check out content on your site about it; and you want to tie the metric into priming them for purchase. In this case, PPTI (pages [of content viewed] per thousand impressions) could give you how much information a user who has seen an online ad, and been cookied, has absorbed on your site.

Think of it as a proxy for consumption of information -- priming consumers for conversion later in the cycle. You can optimize against that metric by modifying your creative and shifting your media plan. The trick is to use actionable metrics or even create ones for your business that go beyond the norm that you can optimize against.

Are you an online brand? A service? Do visits to site-per-consumer translate into income? You can use you own site data to track retention and the frequency with which users go to your site who have seen an ad. Are they coming back? How often? Layer in the cookie data and you have an exposed and a non-exposed group to track the differences in your user base. New visitors will have different performance characteristics from returning visitors. You can adapt your media plan and set target goals for the number of new users you acquire. Find an optimal balance of exposure.

How many times were your targets exposed to your online creative? More importantly, what combination of online creative were they exposed to and what creative is actually driving conversion?

Yes, that brings us back to attribution. There are a number of tools at your disposal to tackle those questions. It all depends on what you are measuring and what you are trying to accomplish. Here are some of them:

  • Advanced analytics
    Advanced analytics systems like Visual Sciences can start to get at attribution. This tool can slosh through the multiple exposures and both feed data back into your own systems and absorb data from them. Do you have user data on someone who has one of your services but not another? A customer has cable, but not high-speed internet or a phone line? Why should you be wasting money serving ad impressions to that person for cable? Visual Sciences can identify these types of customers and deliver ads for just the services they don't have through your ad serving system. Even better, it can identify people who have combinations of services, or no services at all, and help serve customized offers to that audience. 
    Basically, this is a way to circumvent attribution through custom delivery. The problem is if you're serving multiple pieces of creative you still cannot acurately  determine what the weight of each piece was in the conversion decision, but you can get at the cumulative effect and at least eliminate negative weight on the campaign. It's analytic nirvana, but, of course, it comes at a price.

  • Ad serving sequencing
    Ad serving systems like Atlas are starting to tackle this issue of the multiple effects of various pieces to your campaign with sequencing. Sequencing can be very effective in circumventing attribution because it immediately acknowledges that it is a cumulative effect. Do you have someone who has not been exposed to your online ad before? You should speak to them differently than someone who already comes to your site. Naturally, online is a bit more advanced than Burma-Shave, famous for its highway sequential postings. Remember "Every shaver / now can snore / six more minutes / than before / by using / Burma-Shave"? That won't work online. You have to acknowledge previous banners in an attempt to move the customer along a conversion path toward your brand.

    1. Phone introduction banner

    2. Phone lifestyle banner

    3. Phone feature banner

    4. Phone purchase banner

    5. Phone survey banner

      1. served to nonresponders of "Phone purchase" banner with quick click in banner [not interested now / will never be interested / interested but not now keep me updated]

      2. use results to negative match and remove users from system who will never be interested, for more efficient follow-up

    6. Phone discount banner

      1. Delayed serving of discount when available specifically targeted to those users who were interested but not now, and non-responders 

    Sequencing allows you to model the cumulative effect of your online advertising, guide people along a path and control how someone is exposed to your brand. Attribution is eliminated because it is the cumulative effect that is important. The problem? You are creating the path for someone to follow: your path. 

  • Creative performance and targeting
    Creative performance optimization can be used to automate attribution. Systems like [x+1] can use creative optimization technology to maximize what you put into the system, but that is just using their algorithm to creatively optimize the most likely respondents. In essence, the system is deciding attribution for you. It can't create better creative for you, or get at what the impact of that creative is on changing people's perceptions. It can, however, put the creative your consumer is most likely to respond to in front of them. You are not shifting who your consumer is, or their perceptions, but you are getting the best odds that the ads you have will resonate with the most likely responders to those ads.

    Running on TACODA's network can enable you to behaviorally target your online advertising. They can provide you a chart that shows categories of users who are currently responding to your creative. Just remember to ask yourself if the consumers who are most likely to respond are the targets you need for long-term growth. If they're not, then by using behavioral targeting you may be taking a performance hit on your advertising.

    This is a reflection of what the consumer already believes your brand to be. Shifting perceptions, and attributing those shifts, takes different methods.   

  • Tracking attitudinal shifts and customer satisfaction

    If you want to track how your online creative is affecting your brand perception and measure the attitudinal impact of your online advertising, you can use cookie data, but only as a tool in conjunction with research. When the average clickthrough rate for a banner is less than 1 in 400 and average viewthrough is less than 1 in 50, cumulative attitudinal (non-clickthrough) impact through survey-based systems helps circumvent the single source attribution of the last cookie.

    This is essentially what the system sees when all you track is clicks. Every box is an online ad, but all your system sees is the last one from the click. One red box. One user. Do you run all that advertising for that one red box? Of course not. Do all of the other impressions have an effect? Of course they do. So why aren't you measuring it?

    It gets a little better if you cookie everyone who sees an online ad. Every box is an online ad -- one cookie. The yellow boxes are viewthroughs, consumers who saw an online ad and then went to your site, at around 1 percent. The lone red box is still that one consumer who clicked. It gets obvious fairly quickly that this is still very pathetic.


    When you look at your online campaigns together -- with every slightly shaded box representing a different piece of creative that you are running -- you start to measure the overall impact of the creative, not as isolated banners, but each strategic piece, their frequencies, the messaging. All those cookies are important.

    It is the combination of all three of these that shows you the real impact of your online advertising. When you implement a more holistic view of your online programs, you can rise above the myopic maximization of one data point, be it clickthrough or viewthrough, and start to optimize on what the work is actually doing for you in the macro.

    Every brand should be tracking KPI (key performance indicators.) KPIs deal with the macro -- the four or five main indicators in brand perception that translate into increased product usage. They are often integrated and layer up from a bevy of survey questions and more granular data.

    The key thing is to have your survey data all layer up into core strategies. I have four strategic pillars that guide all of the work we do. Every program, every banner, every project must layer up into one of those four pillars for us to produce it, sponsor it, buy it, run it. Cascading down from that and into those pillars are the segments we target, the media we use to reach those segments, the measures we use, the metrics we judge the programs on and the creative we run against it. In this way, the strategies guide your creative, not the metrics. The metrics tell you how well, or how efficient, you are being in communicating them.

    The creative you produce online should layer up; breaking down the barriers. If it doesn't, you are not a strategic marketer, but just a creative optimizer. The survey data layered in enables you to track that movement in brand perception that translates to higher product usage online. How?

    InsightExpress' AdInsights enables you to measure the attitudinal impact of online advertising initiatives, by enabling tracking of some key attitudinal dimensions including: unaided/aided brand awareness, purchase intent, persuasion, brand favorability and more. It does this by presenting a survey to users on a number of different websites who were exposed to your online ad. On the same set of websites an identical survey is presented to individuals who were not exposed to your ad. The difference between the responses from the exposed group and the unexposed group is the attitudinal impact of your campaign. Results are concise, simple and easy to communicate.

    If you layer in performance cookie data on your own site, you get a more complete picture. Are you using an attack strategy against one of your competitors? Or do your ads speak to the differentiation of your product? This is where it will show up.

    There are two key considerations. (1) You should not take snapshots, only running the survey once. It's the movement that's important. If you cannot afford monthly, do it at least quarterly or don't do it all. Your money will be wasted as there are usually too many variables and seasonal issues that affect the movement. (2) You will find that pulling the lever on your optimization metrics often has cascading effects on the attitudinal results. Want more visits to your site? Just use subversion tactics in your online, but remember that the cascading effect will be an attitudinal shift and it may not be positive. Your goal is to always have one optimization shift result in a cascading positive effect on the attitudinal scale

    Other systems like Dynamic Logic studies seek to demonstrate the overall effect of both offline and online, but they are expensive and thus are used by many brands to take snapshots. That's fine if you need to justify up the management structure the value of online advertising, which is, unfortunately, still a common need. However, it's the movement of what you are tracking over time that's important, and that requires a scheduled series. If you cannot use them on an ongoing basis, it is better to go with something you can afford.

    But it is not all about your online advertising. Your online may be brilliant, it may speak to your strategic objectives and communicate everything you need to move the barriers-to-growth for your business. You may have great media planners who know how to provide efficiency in your plans. You may be maximizing volume, targeting to bring in the right quality of user, and the consideration impact of your creative may shift measured perceptions. But eventually online, they have to land somewhere: your site.

    Companies like ForeSee provide customer satisfaction research. Although accuracy depends on the number of respondents, the advantage is that you get competitor data as well. This is the type of study that layers up into your KPIs. ForeSee owns and applies the proven and predictive methodology of The American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) to measurement of online customer satisfaction to help clients determine how to improve customer satisfaction and have the greatest impact on ROI.

    Another measure is your Net Promoter Score. Would you recommend a site to a friend or colleague? That's the simple question Net Promoter seeks to answer. It tracks promoters and detractors and produces a simple measure of an organization's performance through its customers' eyes.

These methods do not get at the attribution of an individual online ad, nor are they meant to, but they help provide the basis for looking at the impact of your online programs. With each, a combination metric of both cookie-based data and survey, or tracking, data can help paint the broader picture of the effect of your online efforts -- the cumulative effect.

So how do you get at attribution of your online efforts without advanced analytics systems? You can start to get at the attitudinal shifts using some of the systems I outlined, and the results should appear in your non-cookie survey data of attitudinal impact, but that requires resources that many clients cannot afford.

If everyone is going to benefit, we need a better system for our day-to-day tracking; a system that accounts for the weight of each cookie and consideration impact of your brand -- an additive cookie system.

What's the consideration impact of a button? One? A skyscraper? Three? A leaderboard? Four? Rich media? Six? A homepage takeover? Ten? Much of it will have to do with the actual creative you are running, but the placements themselves carry weight. Incorporation of an additive weighted cookie system, each cookie modifying the previous, instead of replacing it, could provide marketers with tipping points where the influence breaks through in truly measurable ways. And it would benefit all online advertisers and publishers. They would both have an actual measure of the placements true value to the advertiser, not an arbitrary assignment of price based on demand.

Please, someone, anyone -- help provide the industry with the tools we need, universal measuring tools, that can get at what we need as marketers to do our jobs, because the system we have, quite honestly, sucks.

In the end, it is up to you to strategically address what aspects, what strategies, what metrics will be measured and optimized against. Develop the metrics for your business and for your goals. Once you do, you will have a roadmap for moving your brand forward with online programs. What you are measuring is important. Do not cycle through the same old way of looking at online or you will never start to move your business, your whole business, forward.

You're measuring the wrong thing. Worst of all? You know it.

Kevin Ryan founded the strategic consulting firm Motivity Marketing in April 2007. Ryan is known throughout the world as an interactive marketing thought leader, particularly in the search marketing arena. Today's Motivity is a group of...

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