IRI Unveils Online Ad Effectiveness Metric

Research firm Information Resources Inc. has introduced a new platform for measuring the effectiveness of online advertising against offline sales. The move comes as packaged goods marketers spend more ad dollars on the Web, but keep a close check on ROI.

The service, announced today (Wednesday), was created in collaboration with research companies comScore, Dynamic Logic, and [x+1], a digital marketing solutions provider. It allows companies in the CPG, retail and healthcare space to measure the effectiveness of online ad campaigns among shoppers most likely to buy their products.

comScore and Dynamic Logic both offer proprietary methods for tracking and improving the effectiveness of online ad campaigns. But IRI claims its service is different because the collected data spans across the Internet, enabling companies to analyze online consumer behavior and exposure to ads across multiple sites.

For instance, a marketer could run a targeted campaign across sites like, Martha and on The Food Network, but still reap ROI stats across all of these properties, explained [x+1] CEO John Nardone. (His firm’s product, CPGConnect, is the tool that allows IRI to create consumer profiles and collect an ROI assessment.)

Similar attempts have been made before. In 2003, Yahoo teamed up with Mediaweek parent company Nielsen’s (then known as VNU) ACNielsen division to launch Consumer Direct. The goal was essentially the same: Analyze the shopping and purchase behaviors of more than 15,000 consumers taken from ACNielsen’s Homescan panel, and then find out how online advertising stacked up against in-store sales. The service attracted advertisers like Unilever, Kraft Foods and Pepsi—all of whom participated in the project’s beta stages. The platform, however, was specific to Yahoo only.

IRI’s digital media solutions suite, which doesn’t have a formal name, is the latest extension of that. And with packaged goods marketers investing more money in Internet advertising, the industry has moved beyond “accounting and proof” to wanting to know the “how’s and why’s” of why a particular online or social media campaign worked, or didn’t, said Ken Mallon, Dynamic Logic’s senior vp of custom solutions and a former co-developer on the 2003 Yahoo-ACNielsen project.

“Back then, the major CPG advertisers hadn’t spent much money online. That’s partly why Yahoo developed the solution,” Mallon said. “Now, [marketers] . . . are at the point where they want to understand the magnitude of the effectiveness and how that varies across different [online advertising media]. It’s the next level.”

The IRI model allows advertisers to first identify consumers who are most likely to purchase their products. (It can be as specific as, say, Walmart shoppers, brand switchers or those who buy competitors’ products.) Such information is derived using a combination of [x+1]’s targeting technology and IRI’s Consumer Proscore, a measure of a consumer’s “propensity to purchase,” said Robert Tomei, IRI’s consumer and shopper insights president.

The service will “touch 90 to 95 percent of all unique visitors online,” Tomei said, adding that its broad reach is exactly what marketers need. In the end, Tomei explained, marketers are really wondering: “What is [online advertising’s] impact on sales?”

That question’s become even more important as packaged goods giants like Procter & Gamble and Unilever have pressured marketing departments to deliver ROI using a “more bang per buck” policy.

Mallon, of Dynamic Logic, said the service will expand to even greater depths when IRI’s consumer network panel reaches 80,000 U.S. households next year. At moment, the platform works only for campaigns with an impression threshold of at least 50 million, but additional improvements are on the way, including services that offer users both pre- and post-campaign panel information, Mallon said.