After the Buy: Measuring Branding Campaigns

When many ad agencies are streamlining operations, and job descriptions are expanding to encompass broader responsibilities, we media buyers are more concerned than ever about what happens after the buys have been made.

Thorough involvement in the campaign management process gives buyers a better understanding of how each buy performs. We can track (and optimize) the progress of our media placements over time. This involvement also imparts the sense of satisfaction that comes from experiencing the fruits of our labors firsthand.

When we’re associated with the overall management of a campaign, our accountability rises, obliging us to find new ways to measure its results. Last week, I recounted developing a branding campaign for a client. I had trouble selling him on its indeterminate results. Implementing an advanced system of measuring post-impression data to gauge the effectiveness of the campaign wasn’t an option in that case, owing to a restricted budget. But that option does exist to help buyers avoid getting stuck in a similar rut.

Based on your feedback this past week, online surveys top most buyers’ must-have list of branding-analysis tools. There are generally two ways to execute this type of program. A survey can run in conjunction with the campaign to analyze consumer attitudes as they change over time, or can be delivered post-campaign to the advertiser’s target market, via their Web site or email (if there’s a database of names). The latter is often done in-house, and can leave a lot of room for inaccuracies. When a more thorough research process is required, most buyers employ an established third-party service such as AdIndex, Dynamic Logic‘s solution to the perpetual and overwhelming demand for data on how consumer attitudes are affected by online branding ads. Other providers of such research include Millward Brown, Harris Interactive, and SuiteSmart.

The concept is simple: the system randomly targets consumers within the advertiser’s target market over the course of a campaign, dividing the research sample between those who were exposed to the branding ads, and those who were not. These consumers are given the opportunity to complete an online survey (generally delivered via a pop-up ad format), results of which allow the advertiser to gauge whether his campaign is succeeding in changing the way consumers view his brand. The survey also attempts to measure consumer’s awareness of the advertiser’s competitors; purchase intent; and ad recall (how well the audience retains the campaign, such as the slogan or tag line). An incentive or prize is offered to increase response rates. Survey data are accessible to the client in real-time, via an online interface.

Such surveys are increasingly popular with publishers (who wish to lure advertisers with statistics on the superiority of their branding placements); with independent advertisers; and with buyers, especially those representing traditional advertisers — notorious for demanding irrefutable data. If you’re one of these buyers, a system like AdIndex could help get the branding statistics your clients are looking for. It can also help prove your campaign is a success.

Some question the accuracy of these tools, pointing out those consumers who chose to participate may not represent a complete audience sample, and incentive-driven surveys can attract “contest-seekers,” who can skew data. Does the average consumer really want to help make your ads more effective? Do respondents answer truthfully, or are they going through the motions to get to a prize? There are always a slew of variables in any research process requiring respondents to volunteer information, particularly when it involves a subject in which they may not be remotely interested.

Companies that develop these systems try to compensate for data-corrupting factors in the balanced delivery of their surveys, “equalizing” biases to minimize misrepresentation. Buyers considering a third-party campaign evaluation tool like AdIndex should weigh potential benefits against the investment. Discuss the option with clients. For many, trimming the number of impressions covered by the budget to fund this service is worth the sacrifice. Most advertisers gladly accept a margin of error over no data at all.

Have you used analysis tools to measure results of your branding campaign? Share your thoughts, praise and rants.

Note: Tessa Wegert will be at ClickZ Email Strategies next Monday and Tuesday, May 21 – 22, in New York.


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