New Partnership Measuring Online Ad Impact on CPG Sales: IRI, Comscore, AOL, [x+1], and Dynamic Logic

A recent spate of press releases (HERE, HERE, and HERE, among others.) announced a partnership that will offer measurement of online advertising’s sales impact for consumer packaged goods companies. What does this mean to online content providers, agencies and ad networks? If there is a credible way of measuring the impact of online advertising on the sales of snacks, beverages, health and beauty aids, OTC pharmaceuticals and household products, this will unlock huge CPG money that has been held back from full adoption of online advertising because of uncertainty about its relative effectiveness compared to channels CPG companies have used for decades. Did I say “huge money”? I meant to say HUGE MONEY.

This will ultimately have a secondary effect that is good for the analytics business – it will raise the bar. CPG companies have long used analytics to plan and measure impact for their media spending, and as a result, they are data and modeling savvy. They will not blindly accept whatever someone pulls from Atlas, DoubleClick, Google Analytics, Omniture or WebTrends. The CPG paradigm is one where the cross-effects and tradeoffs between different media channels are measured and modeled, and nothing gets the big spend unless the numbers support it. This goes way beyond just throwing some tags in some ads and counting impressions, clicks and conversions. This entails starting with capture of how marketing dollars are spent, and then modeling how the spending does or does not move total sales (not just the sales from online). Things are about to get even more interesting.

Forrester Publishes Evaluation of Interactive Attribution Vendors: ClearSaleing, Visual IQ, And Atlas Lead, With [x+1] And Coremetrics Close Behind

I was just looking at the summary of the new Forrester report comparing interactive attribution vendors. My old friends at [x+1] are in the mix, even stacked up against players like Atlas, ClearSaleing, Visual IQ and CoreMetrics – despite the fact that attribution is not mainly what they do. They do it because it needs to be done well in order for them to deliver on their core competency, which is using industry-leading optimization of performance for online media and websites. Attribution is critical to optimizing media and site performance because you need an objective function (a numeric “score”) to optimize or even improve: attribution is how you keep score. Attribution is the process whereby credit for a conversion (a goal action, like a sale, subscription, or lead) is allocated among the many marketing activities and actors selling that product or service.

Historically, 100% of the credit for a sale has been attributed to the last online marketing “touch” before a purchase was made, in more or less this way:
1. All touches (impressions, clicks, conversions) needed to be tracked in the same system to be “attributable”
2. When a goal action occurred, the database was searched for the most recent impression with a click. If one is found, then it got attributed “credit” for the goal action. This is what is sometimes referred to as a “clickthrough conversion”.
3. If the whole attribution window (the time frame for which impressions are considered eligible for attribution) is searched and no click is found, then the most recent impression is found, and assigned (usually partial) credit for the conversion. This is sometimes referred to as a “view-through conversion”.

The new paradigm in attribution, represented by the offerings of the firms reviewed in the referenced Forrester paper, involves the effort to model, understand, and optimize the sequences of marketing activities that touch a prospective customer. Each of these “touches” is seen to have potential influence on the ultimate outcome (conversion vs. non-conversion), and the solutions here are ways of assigning a value to the contribution of each interaction. Some approaches to doing this are built upon models of the buying process, others are more brute force. Some vendors offer this as an approach for marketing mix allocation, others are more focused on banner, search, and site optimization.

If all this sounds fun and interesting to you, then you must be in analytics. Otherwise, the takeaway for you will just be this: better ROI (and better ROI measurement) from online marketing activities.