Thoughts on Data-Driven Audience Measurement

A Conversation with Scott Portugal of PulsePoint

What are some best practices for the modern digital marketer? Cookie-based data makes knowing your audience easier  than ever. Developing accurate audience profiles, optimizing campaigns based on audience composition, and validating audience reach are all critical components for marketers doing targeted digital campaigns. I recently spoke with Scott Portugal, long time digital media veteran and currently VP of Business Development for PulsePoint, who has been working with PulsePoint’s Aperture audience measurement offering, what marketers should be thinking about when it comes to measurement.

Scott Portugal: First and foremost, marketers must really understand the goals of the campaign. “Branding” vs. “Performance” aren’t goals – they are notional indicators of goals. “Increase brand awareness amongst men passionate about health and fitness by 50%,” is a goal. The more specific, the better. It eliminates the guesswork that agencies have to do around media tactics, and most importantly, specificity in KPIs means everyone knows which data sets to use along the way.  Also, a modern marketer knows that buying digital media isn’t an on/off switch. Once the buy starts, the work starts. Prepare to optimize everything you can – look at performance across targets, media partners, creative (the most important and often least optimized variable), etc.. Good digital marketers are like good scientists: ask plenty of questions, account for all variables, and constantly test to find success.

What new tools are out there to assist in audience measurement, and supplement the standard offerings from Comscore, Nielsen?  

SP: Data is ubiquitous – some might say commoditized. But there are a few platforms out there that are taking novel approaches to audience measurement. Certainly our PulseAudience platform is among that group. We’re able to build audience profiles at the domain level, meaning at a very granular level we can infer the audience composition of a page even without a cookie. Another new player is Korrelate, founded by the guys who ran TACODA. Korrelate is in the business of helping marketers understand how different data sets perform across different platforms – essentially helping a buyer know what data segment to buy when and where. At a broader level, audience measurement platforms are starting to look cross-media, bringing together disparate data sets that show impact of a campaign on ALL digital activity, not just clicks.

What about social data? How are technologies like Facebook and Twitter enabling a more concise view of audiences, and helping marketers validate their choices?  

SP: If you think about Facebook and Twitter NOT as destinations, but as communication tools, then you can start to see where a more holistic audience view can be created. Social media is more than updates – it’s sharing news, communicating about brands, raising hands about interests, and more. Social data, when done right, is true first party data that goes above and beyond standard behavioral data. Marketers can understand not just when a user engages, but how, where, and how valuable that engagement actually was (likes, shares, tweets, etc.). it should validate a marketers choice around creative and placement, but only if the creative and placements actually include social elements. Social data is powerful, but it’s only powerful if it’s part and parcel to other data sets and targeting mechanisms used in conjunction with social media. Nothing happens in a vacuum, and nothing happens ONLY in one channel.

Your company owns Aperture. Can you provide some examples of how progressive media organizations are using audience measurement data? Is it about audience validation? Optimization? Upselling clients?  

SP: It’s about delivering value via insights up and down the funnel. It sounds like ad jargon but it’s what we strive to do with every single engagement. Cookie targeting works, but we believe that there is real value in modeling at other points of content interaction – insights that help guide and inform at all points of the campaign. Our RTB partners can leverage some of this data in real time; our non-programmatic partners work with our data and insights group to go even deeper via custom reporting and deeper dives on how to get consumers to engage. Data availability and normalization—what we do—is what makes the tide rise to lift all boats.

How can (the right) measurement data influence brand advertising? Is this the key to bringing more brand dollars online?

SP: Brands will feel safe moving dollars over from television to digital when they can do two things: ensure the environment is safe and ensure that they are reaching the right audience with minimal waste. Does television have massive amounts of waste in it? Of course – but as an industry we promised the world that we would eliminate much of that problem via targeting and optimization, so we have to lay in the bed we made. So measuring not just reach & frequency, but the impact of that reach & frequency is critical. Did search queries go up relative to their competitors? Did social commentary increase? Are there more tweets about campaigns in other platforms (did you create awareness that increases awareness in other channels as well)? Like I said earlier – understanding the specific goals of that branding campaign, and ensuring that the right creative is matched with the right tactics, will allow for the right measurement data to be used.

What’s next in measurement?  

SP: To me it comes down to cross-platform impact. Devices and screens aren’t truly linked yet, but the audience at the other end of that ad campaign is the same person. They tweet, they promote, they like, they friend, they blog, they comment, they shop….but they do it across multiple screens in the home, the office, and on the street. The best measurement companies are going to be those that can build an impact assessment across ALL platforms and show the points of interconnection. It’s a big task – but the ones who get it right will be the ones working directly with marketers and become embedded into everything they do. The next big push will be to show marketers that social, search, display, video, and mobile are all tactics inside the same strategy…and then show them how each tactic impacts the other.

This interview, among many others, appears in EConsultancy’s recently published Best Practices in Data Management by Chris O’Hara. Chris is an ad technology executive, the author of Best Practices in Digital Display Media,  a frequent contributor to a number of trade publications, and a blogger.

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