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Merging Offline and Online Tracking

  |  December 7, 2004   |  Comments

Online accountability is driving new demand for offline metrics.

During a recent client presentation, we presented the post report for an online campaign. We covered a wealth of post-click and post-impression data that, frankly, dazzled several client attendees, including those responsible for traditional advertising media, such as TV and print. A nagging question played across their faces, "Gee, why can't I get this kind of data for my efforts?" Given the recent, continued rise in online spending within the media mix, how often does this scene happen?

Circle the Wagons

As the head of an online ad agency, I'm keenly interested in this topic. I see nothing but continued pressure for marketing as a whole to prove our results for the enterprise. Just look at Forbes.com's recent survey in which marketers continue to question the value of advertising and what they receive from agencies. One way to overcome skepticism is to provide a more holistic view of results. That involves developing a system that reflects offline and online tracking in one comprehensive reporting system.

Our team has searched and analyzed many potential approaches and solutions that mainly involve a better way of tracking offline advertising to online conversions through URL schemes. iFactz, developed by a company called SendTec, has some interesting potential. (Editor's note: SendTec CEO Paul Soltoff is also a ClickZ columnist.)

Options, Options, Options

When tracking offline-to-online conversions, the first question that arises is, "What URL do we stick in the ad?" That question tends to create a lot of fear and debilitating debate over whether to use some form of the branded URL.

As with all things technological, there are several ways to skin this cat:

  • Unique tracking URLs. You can create a separate URL for every ad placement and spend a lot of time and money buying unique URLs. This gets pricey when you want to compare media and individual media properties' performances.

  • URL suffixes. This is the most common method used today (e.g., www.client.com/offer). However, we know from experience only about 30 percent of respondents type in the whole URL. The remaining respondents just type in the main URL and try to find the offer on the site.

  • URL prefixes. This approach places a unique code or identifier in front of the domain name (e.g., code.client.com). Users are less likely to ignore the code, as they believe it a key part of the URL.

You can also use keywords or codes in the ad, but users must have the ad when they use the computer to transact. Not too handy.

The Branded URL Conundrum

The most common objection to using a URL prefix is the misperception that you're "messing with the brand." But think about it. Users simply see a call to action in an ad to get them from one medium to another. The tracking code will quickly fade from memory, especially if the brand behind the branded URL is a strong one.

Reporting Nirvana

With SendTec's solution, you can easily assign unique URLs to different media types (newspaper vs. TV) as well as different media vehicles within each media type (newspaper #1 vs. newspaper #2). By combining the response data with several other underlying data resources, SendTec touts a 96 percent accuracy level.

You can also track creative message, creative size, and more. And once you integrate third-party tracking data for online -- presto! -- you've got a dashboard view of your campaign activity.

The Age of Accountability

Like it or not, online is driving fundamental change within the marketing world, particularly the desire to better measure media investment. Do you count offline leads? If not, get ready. The topic just might come up in your next client presentation.


James Hering As SVP and director of interactive marketing at t:m interactive, JamesHering's teamdevelops a full range of interactive solutions for a variety of clients.Since 1994, he's been involved in development and evolution of AmericanAirlines' AA.com. With over 10 million registered users, it's one of theworld's most successful e-commerce sites. James' experience includes contentpublishing and development; online CRM; sponsorship/partnerships; searchengine marketing; and execution and implementation of AA's award-winninginteractive campaigns. Other client experience includes Adams Golf, BellHelicopter, eiStream, Nationwide Insurance, Nortel Networks, Match.com,SABRE Travel Information Network, Subaru of America, Reno Air, Nestle Foods,Texas Instruments, Texas Tourism and Pizza Hut. His group's honors includethe Internet Marketing Association's Excellence in Interactive Marketing,WebAwards for Site Design, Communication Arts, NY Festival, iNOVA awards,CASIE Interactive awards and @d:Tech awards.

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