Nielsen and Kraft Pilot New Brand Tracking Tool

Did that ad actually convince someone to buy?

Ever wondered whether that ad you worked so hard on actually convinced somebody to buy your product? Now Nielsen can tell you, down to the individual ad buy.

The ROI-centric approach has been a major point of contention among marketers who are tired of buying age and sex blindly or trying to cook up data acquired from third parties; now, thanks to partnerships with Acxiom, Experian and of course Nielsen's ROI-data joint venture Nielsen-Catalina, Nielsen can cross-reference transaction records with viewer habits (all white-listed, of course) and tell you what's working with your digital strategy.

Nielsen's newest product is going by the slightly unwieldy title multi-touch attribution, or MTA, but what it can do with marketing and purchaser data is the realization of longtime ambitions both in the measurement space and among clients and buyers.

The product runs data provided by a company—in this case, Kraft—against purchaser info culled from the data-mining giants mentioned above. It's a good deal more granular than other tools of its kind, partly because it's dealing with Nielsen's vast panel and partly because it's cross-referencing a very large library of purchase info. If 10 people in the same ZIP code decide to ditch Annie's Shells & Cheese after watching a funny ad, Kraft knows what the ad was and where the viewers saw it. The platform itself is agnostic—you could plug in, say, Frito-Lay data just as easily.

"Catalina has millions and millions of loyalty card data sets," said Randall Beard, global head of advertiser solutions for Nielsen (who emphasized that the data is anonymous). "It becomes a big watched-by data set. They can understand how to do one-to-one."

Nielsen's John Lewis, who was present for the exhibition of the new tool to marketers at the company's Consumer 360 conference last week, said he's simply making sure it's giving the people what they want—specifically, the chief marketing officers. "I think, increasingly, the CMO is a very critical constituency," Lewis said. "The CMO can say, "How's the flighting within my media buy?" Lewis contends the conventional wisdom that the cool stuff is still a ways off when it comes to addressable advertising and targeted buying. "We're in the front edge of this business," he admitted, "but it's not so opaque anymore. It's not a trust-me kind of thing; it a test-and-learn mentality on the client side."

And for the future, he said, things are bright. "Demographics aren't going away, but this is very achievable today. It's achievable online, it's achievable in TV, and we're at the beginning of the game." Lewis is also careful to point out that however you layer data over your buy, you're still going to have to purchase the same currency. "You have to separate the currency conversation from the ROI conversation," he said. "The clients decide; you work hard to create the currency, but only clients decide."

And yes, Kraft is happy about it. "MTA for us is really just understanding consumers, but understanding them in way that we can bring timely messaging to them that they want to hear," said a spokesman for the company. "A lot of people use [ROI data] to cut out waste; for us it's about effectiveness."

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