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Direct Response Marketing

Net Gains: Vanity Tracking: DRTV Gains Accountability

18 Oct, 2010 By: Lee Cutler Response


Wikipedia tells us that the word “vanity” means an excessive belief in one’s own abilities or attractiveness to others. So that must mean the term “vanity tracking” describes People magazine, TMZ and Entertainment Weekly, right?

Not exactly. For those of us in the DRTV business, vanity tracking represents the Holy Grail — the sweet-spot nexus of offline advertising and online commerce.

All these years after the Internet went mainstream, the connection between broadcast media and Web responses remains largely a mystery to most marketers and their agencies. This is because few brand marketers take a holistic approach to media management. As a result, Web responses tracked at the bottom of the marketing funnel are attributed to search engine or banner advertising.

While online advertising offers unmatched targeting capabilities at efficient rates, it receives far too much credit for activity that is actually generated by broadcast television. Think of a woman who either sees a banner ad or TV commercial for Jenny Craig and, anywhere from one to 30 days later, ends up on the Jenny Craig Web site. While a cookie on her computer might indicate she had been served the Jenny Craig banner ad somewhere in her Web surfing, it’s possible she had also seen the company’s TV commercials before arriving at the Jenny Craig site. Which gets credit: the banner or TV?

For some DRTV advertisers, the way to attribute advertising to Web clicks has been to assign a variety of unique URLs or phone numbers (think 1-800-71FIXED for Ditech) to their campaigns. The problem is, while many people will easily remember 1-800-71FIXED, they won’t necessarily relate it to Ditech, so brand development suffers. However, with vanity tracking, a single Web address or vanity phone number (for example Expedia.com or 1-800-FLOWERS) is used across every TV network. The problem: How do you figure out which commercial on which TV station generated which clicks on an advertiser’s Web site? Without such knowledge, optimizing your DTRV campaign is akin to groping in the dark.

The answer lies in tools and techniques. At the risk of getting too bogged down in jargon, here is a brief explanation of one way to determine which TV spot on which station is driving the most Web site traffic spikes. The right software program can capture spikes by assigning an “attribution window” to each spot. The attribution window can be stored by creative and length of spot. A window can encompass two minutes before a spot airs and 10 minutes after it runs. If a spot runs on Lifetime at 5 p.m., any Web site response to it can be sourced from 4:58 p.m. to 5:08 p.m.

If a bunch of spots on different networks run in close proximity to each other, there is no clean environment in which to attribute response. In this case, look to historical instances where the spot has aired in a relative clean environment and apply that spike to apportion out the leads to spots. In the instance where history does not exist, another response sourcing parameter, called “station weighting,” can be effective. With station weighting, each station in a media campaign is assigned a value. When spots air within the same attribution window, the weights are used as a ratio for apportioning responses to each station during the time that the spots’ attribution windows overlap.

Finally, you can apply what’s known as “time decay” so that as time passes after spots run, fewer leads get attributed to those spots. Though it sounds a bit like “black box” technology, it all works very well.

The addition of performance marketing tools and methodologies to the back-end optimization of TV schedules can mark a tremendous increase in broadcast media value. The ability to optimize media based on the value it represents to clients directly affects the bottom line, as these tools allow marketers to assign relative value to networks, dayparts and programming based on response generated. Because media accountability will continue to become even more thorough, TV advertisers must embrace these new tactics in measurement and improvement. n


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