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Applying Traditional Media Metrics To New Media

There used to be, just a few years ago, quite a chasm between traditional advertising and online advertising. That chasm is becoming more like a gap, especially as the Web grows to engulf all media and audiences fragment. The new question then isn’t how advertising on the Web and via traditional media differ, but what traditional media tools and knowledge can be applied online.

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A panel of experts representing the top online metrics companies discussed this issue at ad:Tech in San Francisco today, and agreed online and traditional marketers had a lot they could learn from one another.
Todd Teresi, chief revenue officer at Quantcast, said the main issue for marketers is how to address fragmentation. Mass media of the last century was relatively simple in comparison. Large audiences congregated at a few outlets for a few kinds of programs.

The Internet, though, provides seemingly infinite choices, and it’s difficult to capture the attention of an individual user when the individual user has split himself among a number of destinations for very brief periods of time. (Some of this changing with the advent of social media—users tend to spend more time in certain places than they used to.) One of the biggest challenges for marketers is understanding this self-fragmentation.
Many of the basic tenets of traditional advertising apply online. David Smith, CEO Mediasmith, identifies three of these basics as reach (of an ad/campaign), the frequency the ad is shown/seen, and a term that may be new to many online marketers: gross rating point (GRP). GRP represents the percentage of the target audience reached by an ad. For example, an ad that airs three times reaches 30 percent of the target audience, it is said to have a GRP of 90 (frequency x percentage reach).

GRP can be problematic for both sides of the debate. For the online marketer who focuses purely on ROI and clicks, GRP is branding metric voodoo that doesn’t account for ad blindness or clickbots. For offline marketers looking online, audience fragmentation means GRP numbers come out distressingly low.

“GRP is the direction we want to go,” said Jon Gibs, vice president of media analytics for Nielsen Online. “Media planners have trouble realizing that numbers aren’t going to be as big as they are in television, but the opportunity is different.”

Erin Hunter, executive vice president for comScore, suggested to the panel that the Web offered a way to reach people television couldn’t, and that the tools are already there to track campaigns targeted toward them.
The panel agreed the key factor was defining the target of the campaign and developing ways of improving the ad serving process. Smith didn’t let it stop at this basic idea, and indicated advertisers should expect to miss their targets and be ready to re-target. “Re-targeting is a concept that will be used in the future, but it will be the driving source of revenue,” he said.

“One area we’ll see more and more of,” said Gibs, adding his prediction, “is attribution model.”
Attribution models can be problematic for online marketers especially. Traditionally, if sales an item spiked following a specific campaign element, one could attribute that increase to that campaign element. Online, though, attribution is harder to determine. In search, for example, how does one determine whether it was the final text ad clicked that was the primary cause of a conversion? How do you know the decision wasn’t made two clicks before or even offline?

Determining the chain of events in the decision making process, therefore, will be a difficult puzzle to solve.


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