June 2007 - Tools of the Trade

The Web-to-TV Connection: Condensed for Your Success!

By Carl Langrock

An old puzzle asks how a barometer can be used to measure the height of a building. Answers range from dropping the instrument from the top and measuring the time of its fall to giving it to the building’s superintendent in return for a look at the plans. A modern version of the puzzle asks how a personal computer can balance a checkbook. An elegant solution is to sell the machine and deposit the money.
- Jon Bentley, More Programming Pearls

Whenever I hear, “It can’t be done,” I know I’m close to success.
- Michael Flatley (Lord of the Dance)

Marketers want measurable ROI. This is no secret, and part of a welcome trend for direct response media agencies. DRTV spending has grown rapidly over the last few years-in part because of this demand for ROI. But other media are getting a lift, too. Part of the allure of interactive advertising is that it’s measurable. This demand for accountability is driving an increasing portion of ad dollars to interactive. This parallel growth yields an unfortunate paradox. As DRTV pushes consumers to a website instead of the phone, how do we know how well the TV advertising is working? A mechanism for tracking response, and tying response back to the buy, is at the core of classic DRTV management. Does the success of TV in pushing to a website break down this fundamental relationship?

It is critical for marketers to tie online activity back to the offline budget. Failure to make this connection devalues offline advertising and drives more budget into interactive. In my last three columns, I have described three different techniques for making this connection. I’ve decided to condense and summarize them here.

I call the three techniques for making the web-to-TV connection Proximity, Deduction and Micro-focus. Agencies use Proximity when spikes in website activity closely follow broadcast spots. Deduction is used when offline activity is so constant that the spike-to-spot relationship is blurred. Micro-focus adds precision when media drives consumers to URLs dedicated by channel.

TV pushing to a website can generate breathtakingly fast results. When Gotham launched GoDaddy, the agency only got credit for checkouts within ten minutes of the spot airing. With an 800 number, the agency would never expect callers to check out in ten minutes. However, GoDaddy’s target customers are often on their computer while watching TV. Apparently, even during the Super Bowl.

For an analytic agency, sharing the advertiser’s data is the key. Data sets vary by product. There is no standard. Therefore, agencies need to develop a common denominator that most clients can produce, like homepage views, sales, unique visitors…whatever. Gotham looks to share the advertiser’s results data by time period. This data feeds their response analytics system, which ties the activity back to media. Their process overlays response patterns in ways traditionally seen with 800 numbers. By doing this, Gotham distills a clear picture of media results.

“Different types of ads produce different response patterns,” explains Gotham’s Chris Gilbertie. “For example, for some executions, you’ll get a major part of the lift within two hours of the ad. We use CoreDirect to track web data back to the ad occurrences. Combining this with the buy data yields success metrics for each network. When we have multiple ad occurrences, we pro-rate the response based upon program audience size.” Gilbertie then reviews cost per acquisition by hour: “In those hours where CPA is out of whack, we have under-performing networks.”

Volume can obscure the relationship between a specific spot and an online response. If you are constantly on air, how can you tell how much traffic each spot generates? To paraphrase Sherlock Holmes: If the answer is hidden within the data, eliminate all that is not the answer; whatever remains must be the answer.

For Earthlink/People PC, Omnicom’s Direct Partners tracks online applications vs. media activity. Tracking across many periods produced clear evidence that sales correlate with television weight. The agency developed formulas for ascribing a percentage of online activity back to the broadcast schedule. This reduces TV’s relative cost per lead. Without this, TV’s share of the spending mix might be reduced; sales would suffer. Direct Partners uses their media response analytics system to combine media with sales and customer lifecycle data. Tied back to media, this data shows relative value of acquisition by channel. Direct Partners’ process reduced customer-acquisition cost while maintaining volume. Long-term quality and stability of results are evidence that their methodology works.

Florida-based agency SendTec makes creative use of microsites, combined with Deduction, to zoom in on the data. A microsite is a separate, smaller version of a website. Microsites are most useful in measuring push if designed around a special offer.

SendTec assigns a URL prefix to connect microsite activity for their clients. An example of a prefix is 123.url.com, where the “123″ is tied to a specific cable network or broadcast station, and to a specific destination on the advertiser’s website. For Nike’s Shox IV sneakers, an ad on ESPN might send people to 123.nike.com, while an ad on The Golf Channel might be coded 231.nike.com. In this method, advertisers need only one domain and can create an infinite number of prefixes, each taking approximately 30 seconds to set up. This means not having to worry about multiple sites, multiple domains, updating and “page not found” errors.

The use of microsites can make the TV or radio push-to-URL easy to track. However, search adds a wrinkle. Instead of dialing an 800 number or typing a URL, many people use a web search to get to the advertiser’s site. These “search customers” are more challenging to tie back to a specific offline channel. For example, if there is no clear relationship to a TV spot, and if it is clear that the lead came to the website from a search, it would seem natural to give credit to the search program, increase its budget, and cancel some TV spots. However, TV may have driven many of those search orders. This is where SendTec turns to Deduction. Microsites track the relative strength of each outlet. Using Deduction to distribute a percentage of search activity to each offline channel leads to the appropriate media balance.

Online auction company uBid.com wanted to use DRTV to drive and track customer registrations and bidders. SendTec used 60-second and two-minute spots, and tracked the results using COREMedia’s media buying and response analytics and SendTec’s proprietary iFactz microsite tracking system.

SendTec watched search activity to determine the impact of the TV campaign on search. The campaign ran from November 22, 2006 through December 17 and, after a week hiatus, resumed right after Christmas. The change in bidder volume correlated closely with spot volume. Prior to the campaign, baseline bidder activity was much lower. Post-campaign, the level of weekly bidders remained 56 percent higher than pre-campaign levels.

The campaign also had a positive effect on search engine marketing: 1) The number of searches on branded terms increased 45 percent; 2) Clicks to uBid.com increased by 62 percent; 3) Bidders on branded terms increased by 58 percent; and 4) Bidders on non-branded terms increased by 18 percent.

The flow of dollars into interactive shouldn’t distort effective media planning. Planning has always been about mastering the mix-using each medium in a complementary way with balanced spending. By combining interactive results data with response-to-media analysis, leading agencies can optimize the schedule, produce concrete ROI analysis in-flight and deliver client results.

Carl Langrock is president of Fairfield, NJ-based COREMedia Systems. He can be reached at [email protected].


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