This is a guest post by Jeremy Ozen, Co-Founder, Vistar Media
In the digital advertising world, we’ve become obsessed with click-throughs. How many people see an ad and then click through with an action — whether it is a subscription, sale, or download?
However, we all know that this kind of attribution and measurement for online media is broken. In mobile, this form of measurement is even less relevant given the dearth of purchases or conversions actually happening on a phone. As such, we have to applaud this week’s announcement by Millennial Media that they are releasing their “Omni Measurement Solutions” and moving away from antiquated metrics.
Using both their own data and third-party information, the new product is intended to measure not just clicks but the “door open rate” — how much foot traffic is generated by digital ad exposure — and “the register ring rate”—purchases that happen after exposure, but not immediately because of a click. Measuring the entire purchase path, with all its “in-between” activity as Millennial intends to do is crucial. Yet, as ambitious as all of this is, Millennial is still thinking small — because everything in the system still seems to rely upon an initial mobile impression.
Consumers Are More Mobile than Their Devices
Digital ad exposure is no longer limited to desktop and mobile devices. Screens are everywhere now—alongside the freeway, in the backseat of a taxi, over the buttons in an elevator. It’s almost a guarantee that you will run into multiple ad units aside from your smartphone between the time you walk out your door and the point of purchase.
(A DataLogix study performed internally for Facebook found that on average 99 percent of people who saw Facebook ads and then bought a product in a store never clicked on an ad at all. Facebook, which is seeing one of the biggest growth rates in its mobile advertising business, is taking this seriously. Facebook argues that if an advertiser can inject itself into a Facebook user’s reading stream, it can foster brand affiliation, which can lead to a purchase down the road, even offline. Facebook is taking steps to measure this by working with companies like DataLogix.)
So why isn’t Millennial taking these location-based screens into account as well? Because these displays reach multiple people, rather than the one person who owns a mobile device, and have historically been very difficult to track and measure.
However, ignoring location-based media means ignoring the way that people are untethered—not just from their desks but also from their devices. We do things and go places where our connectivity is an afterthought. Out with friends, to the movies, on an airplane. If we’re making purchasing decisions during this time, it isn’t necessarily because of ads we saw on our mobile devices earlier. It could very well be because of content that was delivered to us on other screens as we were out and about, close to the point of purchase.
Device Identification Without Privacy Worries
The digital world we live in is defined by the proliferation of connected devices that can talk to one another. Anything connected to the web generates data, and that data can work with other data to make things happen—whether through manual analysis or some sort of focused automation.
One of the biggest categories of this data is device location. Without any other personally identifiable information being jeopardized, it is increasingly easy to monitor whether a mobile device (or another device it’s networked to) is in the vicinity of a location-based screen—and whether the device then travels somewhere else where a product advertised on that screen is available.
This is an over-simplification, of course. With a deeper dive into data, we can follow all of the in-betweens, beyond what Millennial is currently imagining—without a single click or a single mobile ad impression. Imagine this: a person is in a taxi whose screen shows an ad that has been specifically designed to appear only if the taxi is taking certain routes. Person arrives at destination and, based on location information from device (where it had come from and where it ended up), the screens in the office building display an ad for the same product that was promoted in the cab. A few days later, that same person—or at least that same device—winds up at a Macy’s where the advertised product is available for sale. At no time did the ad display on a desktop computer or mobile device. There were no clicks. No online purchases. And we can do this over and over again, for individual devices or groups of consumers—to determine, say, the effectiveness of a big location-based campaign.
The power of location data lets us measure many things that were previously immeasurable. So while Millennial’s announcement was ambitious, in some ways it continues to be short-sighted in its mobile-first focus. A truly exciting breakthrough would be identifying all the location-based screens on the path to purchase, in addition to mobile devices, and employing measurement techniques that take all these screens into account.
VB's research team is studying web-personalization... Chime in here, and we’ll share the results.