Online advertising effectiveness measurement - ComScore AdEffx tool and implications

07/04/2011

If measuring online ad effectiveness was just about counting clicks, life would be simple. Alas, what most consumer marketers are interested in is the brand uplift effect and the reach of the campaign among the target audience. Both are vital for getting marketing effectiveness insights about a campaign and the budget - but both prove elusive most of the time. As ComScore’s AdEffx Campaign Essentials tool reaches Europe, Danny Meadows-Klue argues they might be one step closer to solving the problem. Here’s why…

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Pitched as a way to report the GRPs of online, the tool is a heavyweight that comes from the research house famous for the large sample size. That scale of audience means ComScore is well-placed to unlock daily audience measurement approaches such as the traditional post-buy metrics like Reach and Frequency. Their dashboard plays to media planners who are pressured by brands to come up with adequate reach and frequency numbers for online campaigns, as well as the type of ongoing optimisation campaigns deserve.

ComScore’s Mike Shaw sees this as a game-changer because agencies “can now accurately, quickly and confidently verify that their online campaigns were delivered to the correct audience with the desired reach and frequency.”

But convincing the industry will prove tougher. Measurement companies continue to fight turf wars over their methodologies, and the industry in most countries has refused to place the majority of media planning and buying behind one single approach – even when there is a single agreed currency. The diversity of online media opportunities is partly to blame, but so too are the entrenched positions of stakeholders. Media planners trained in traditional TV favour GRPs, while digitally native media planners will look more for the high affinity sites for creating stronger customer engagement. Ecommerce specialists look at lifetime value, and PR agencies think about what builds the earned media. That’s far from a recipe for agreement.

However, for all the fighting, a good tool tends to find its use regardless of vested interests. ComScore’s announcement here in Europe has been long awaited. AdEffx Campaign Essentials has had two years live testing in North America that ironed out the bugs. ComScore are telling us they’ve beta tested in Europe already which will bolster the confidence of media directors that this will be a safe bet. Shaw’s belief is that there are five key features agencies will gravitate towards:

* Demonstrating the actual audience composition reached for specific media buys

* Optimising publishers, placements and creatives - based on performance

* Comparing the performance of online and offline media plans by using the same post-buy measures that are used in TV, such as reach, frequency and GRPs

* Creating custom segmentation to allow reporting for specific audience target groups

* Using the interactive online interface for daily in-flight campaign optimisation

Maybe it’s no surprise that with that promise it’s gaining good traction from some well-respected online stakeholders. Online research veteran Julie Forey, at Microsoft Advertising reckons it will allow them to show how ads ”reach the defined target audience, and report GRP measures to facilitate cross-media comparison”. Agency stakeholders have also stepped-up, with Zenith Media’s research director Pilar Merchante describing it as ‘indispensible’, commenting that this “helps to professionalise the internet and work at the level we do in other media.”

ComScore have the sample size to make this work in many markets. They have a breadth of audience that enables the numbers to be meaningful and for the projections to total population to be statistically robust enough to defend the claims.

In a time when reducing media wastage is critical for return on advertising investment, AdEffix has a shot at giving a material boost by applying the campaign optimisation that has been talked about too much and acted upon too little. Solid reach and frequency numbers would give long-overdue discipline to the campaign planning process. But in the months that come, not all stakeholders will be so enthusiastic. Some agency planners will have more to lose than to gain. What happens next may say as much about the planners as it does about the toolkits.

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