Sramana Mitra: Let’s take a couple of your customers, whomever you feel comfortable talking about, and please be granular in describing the use case. Our audience are high-end technical entrepreneurs, so they would both understand and appreciate a granular description of how this all works.
Bill Simmons: We work with many large automobile manufacturers. One of those manufacturer’s marketing strategy is that whenever they release a new car model, they want to blast out to the public the new, interesting features of that model. They want to raise awareness. Typically this is done by buying a bunch of media and hoping for the best. What we have done is wire up all their digital media and also our distributing surveys to a slice of the population. Then we compare the survey responses to the set of digital ad exposures that people have seen to try to increase awareness of them.
If it is a new kind of efficient engine, Bluetooth connectivity, or better fuel efficiency, what we are trying to measure is this: if we show advertisement in certain markets and certain kinds of formats, which ones are increasing awareness of that feature? What we have done is wire this in a closed-loop system so that we can learn where there is the most change in opinion and where we are not shifting opinion and awareness.
SM: How do you measure that?
BS: Five percent of the population sees public service advertisements (PSAs) and 95 percent sees actual ads touting the new feature. So, we are able to get a sense of the baseline awareness and then know if people are becoming more aware. In some cases and on certain sites, you can show ads as much as you want, but people going to those sites will never care. But on other sites, you can show ads very efficiently and people will quickly become aware. We are helping this auto manufacturer automatically readjust media buying across hundreds of thousands of sites to a place where they can raise their brand awareness.
SM: How do you track whether people are becoming more aware? How does the system register that the consumer has now understood the manufacturer has this new feature?
BS: Each digital ad placement we measure on behalf of our client we track using cookies. We respect opt-out and do not track a lot of features – under the industry’s best practices. But we also record clicks and website activity for that advertiser.
SM: Is a click considered awareness?
BS: No. We also distribute certain digital surveys. When people respond to that survey, we are able to correlate the survey response to the ad stream that they saw. It is the same cookie ID that answered the survey and saw ten ads on cars.com, for example.
SM: People who take surveys already are a small percentage of people who have been served ads?