A restaurant chain’s marketing objective is to move more customers from in-store to online ordering.
A retailer wants to measure ads according to real-world visits as opposed to clicks.
Naturally, the right data in the hands of such advertisers can provide an edge over the competition—and many believe it is headed toward a reality in the online ad business where, not unlike Wall Street, the instantaneous analysis of performance and behavior drives results.
Call it the Bloombergization of online advertising.
“It’s hard not to make that leap from where we are today to the image of financial transactions looking for that millisecond of an advantage,” said Bob Ivins, head of data at Mindshare. “Near real-time data is forcing marketers—who historically had to plan buy cycles a month, six months, a year ahead—to collapse that and move closer to real time.”
In the U.K., information such as search trends is already informing clients’ television-buying decisions. For example, for Kimberly-Clark’s Kleenex brand, a Mindshare client, media planners targeted commercials to postal codes that were identified by Google as most interested in flu-related keywords.
But for all the data scientists now working on Madison Avenue, data-driven marketing remains limited, according to the experts. Challenges include a move away from cookies.
Measuring the success of campaigns is a difficult business, and even with the abundance of data at the ready, brands’ budgets and creative still move slowly, said Brian Gleason, managing director at Xaxis, WPP’s digital media buying platform. “A lot of companies aren’t set up to react in real time,” he pointed out.
And yet the ability to mine data is crucial, he added.
“If you could understand that a certain type of creative will have a larger impact with a certain demographic who will be more likely to make a purchase based on a certain time of day—and more insights like that—that puts you in a position to maximize ad dollars,” said Gleason.
Several startups are working to move the field forward.
One company, iSpot.tv, catalogs every national TV commercial via a YouTube-like interface, displaying such stats as how many times a spot airs and how much it costs. That allows brands to monitor their rivals or pair TV data with sales metrics. Information like that doesn’t come cheaply, however—an annual subscription can go for more than $100,000.
Other players scrape every digital display ad. One company, xAd, is developing new ways to measure online ads based on store visits. It counts Pinkberry and The Home Depot among its clients.
Measuring cost-per-visit ads is still an inexact process, according to xAd’s CEO Dipanshu Sharma.
“It will make ad results more tangible,” Sharma said. “There are people who click on ads that never go to a store and those who don’t click and go. So what’s more important?”