Ad Metrix Delivers Deeper Planning Insight

As an online marketer tasked with planning and buying, you probably have a short wish list of tools and services: planning software to facilitate purchase decisions, and of course a source for plenty of audience research.

The king of providing the latter — comScore — has just introduced a new product that stands to deliver a deeper understanding of consumer Internet usage, specifically who sees your online ads and where. ComScore Ad Metrix Publisher, released this week, enables media planning and buying based on advertising exposure metrics like the frequency of ads seen on a site and the average size of those ad units. Instead of simply counting impressions, planners and buyers can actually link impressions to the individuals who see them.

“A media planner is now going to be able to plan media against a particular demo target and generate metrics that are familiar in offline planning, such as reach, frequency, and GRPs,” says Alistair Sutcliffe, VP of advertising solutions at comScore. “Within our panel, we have info on all display ads that land there, and we know exactly where people were exposed to those ads.”

Think of that panel as the mother of all focus groups. ComScore’s panel of consumers is 2 million strong worldwide, with a base of 1 million participants in the U.S. When Internet users agree to join the panel and allow comScore to monitor their Web use and browsing habits, comScore installs its own software on their computers. The software is able to track activity in both Internet Explorer and Firefox browsers on Windows-based machines; Mac and Unix audiences aren’t currently measured.

ComScore is able to monitor the URLs each panelist visits, and through the use of a comprehensive URL dictionary, it can determine which site or parent company that URL belongs to. When a creative object or graphic image such as a JPEG or GIF or even a Flash ad comes into a panelist’s browser, comScore can tell exactly where it’s coming from based on the ad server and related directory being used to deliver it. Because comScore has in-depth profile information about all of its panelists, it can draw a complete picture of the relationship between Internet users and online ads.

To demonstrate this point, comScore used its Ad Metrix Publisher to measure the share of display ads viewed by numerous demo groups across three major sports properties: ESPN, Fox Sports on MSN, and Yahoo Sports. The effort revealed some notable differences in user age and household income among the three.

ESPN ads reached the highest share of consumers aged 35-44 and households and those with an income of at least $100,000. Ads on Fox Sports were predominantly delivered to users aged 35-54 years old, with income levels from $40,000 to about $60,000, as well as $100,000 and above. Yahoo ads were slightly better than ESPN’s at reaching the coveted 18-34 market, and most consumers who viewed them also come from households earning over $100,000.

Consider the difference this additional information could make if you were struggling to decide which of these properties should get the bulk of your client’s ad dollars.

As of Monday, comScore’s Ad Metrix Publisher data is available through the company’s Media Metrix product, to which advertisers and agencies purchase monthly subscriptions. Given that the new product adds nearly a dozen metrics to those already available to Media Metrix users, it’s currently being offered as a supplementary service, which marketers will have to subscribe to separately.

According to Sutcliffe, comScore anticipates that its beta testers, which include major publishers, will subscribe with an eye toward gaining competitive intelligence. Major agencies for which enhanced planning metrics can translate directly into improved campaigns and increased ad budgets are also expected to opt in.

A media buyer is only as good as the knowledge she possesses — about target audience profiles, site properties, and the relationship between the two. This new tool could be just what our industry needs to take campaign strategy to the next level.

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