Regular readers of my blog will notice that I reference ComScore a lot – I love the data they provide and I believe them to be one of the brightest and most insightful online resources available. ComScore have just acquired a company called AdXpose and while this won’t interest many of you, their recent blog post announcing this acquisition and the reason for it, providing effective online advertising measurement, reminded me of the age old advertising formula.

A successful advertising campaign means that the advertiser must deliver their ads to the right people, in the right context, at the right time and at the right frequency, in order for the advertising message to have the desired impact. 

Easy, right? No. As online or internet marketers we brag about our ability to track every click, target our audience better through geographic or IP targeting and measure every goal or conversion, post click and post view (post view means that even if the user doesn’t click on your ad, but they visit your website within say 30 days, you can attribute the acquisition back to the ad they saw). We claim that we can reduce wastage of advertising budget because of these abilities – because we can target the advertisers desired audience through demographic and behavioural data, because we can employ cost savings strategies such as day-part targeting (only show an ad between 9am-2pm when traffic is highest) or day of week targeting (only show an ad Monday – Wednesday to conserve budget) and because we can track everything (if its done right) to correctly advise if an advertising message or campaign has been effective. And yes, we do have all of these tools at our disposal, but there is still a lot that can go wrong in the digital environment. For instance, tracking can be messy, if a client uses multiple tracking tools – such as Google Analytics, Omniture Site Catalyst and Adserving tracking through Eyeblaster, these all have a different methodology, a slightly different reason for tracking and thus the numbers often don’t add up. So which set of data do you believe?

The Jay-Z Decoded memoir campaign, integrated with the Bing Search engine launch is the best example I can think of of a brilliant, integrated ad campaign that proves the point that Good advertising is about finding the right people, in the right context, at the right time.

ComScore were outlining some of the difficulties digital publishers (who accept advertising and promise to reach the right people, at the right time, in the right context, at the right frequency) and online advertisers face. Often ads are delivered to the right audience but not seen – because they’re below the fold or because the user didn’t look at them. Online ad impressions are distributed to third party websites (as agreed by the client when purchasing through any particular publisher network) and may be shown next to questionable content that an advertiser may consider damaging to their brand. Click fraud is ripe, especially in search and of course targeting is not an exact science – while you can place an ad in a contextually relevant website, where the majority of their audience is the correct target market for your advertising, there is still an element of wastage when the ad is viewed by people who are outside the intended target, either demographically or geographically. Plus there’s frequency – online research has shown that the optimum number of times you want a user to view your ad (to get them to click or take action in the desired form) is 4-6 times. But if they see it only once or they see it 10 times, the desired action is unlikely for various reasons.

That’s a lot of information to get exactly right. ComScore’s acquisition of AdXpose is trying to find a better way of measuring all of the above mentioned online advertising metrics and provide the data in one place for the advertiser to get the best possible outcome by optimising their campaign in real time.

So while you need to be able to grill your advertising agency or online marketing consultant about where your online advertising/ digital media spend is going, and they need to be able to talk to the above points, if you don’t have the right tracking in place (that your digital media consultant should have recommended and implemented) then its unlikely you’re getting the best possible results for your online advertising budget.