Avenue A Unit Updates Online Media Planning Tool

Atlas DMT, the advertising technology arm of Seattle-based Avenue A , on Monday released the latest version of its online media planning tool, Atlas GRP and Reach Forecaster 3.0, which allows media buyers to put together online campaigns using the metrics commonly used offline.

Using panel-based data from comScore Media Metrix and ad-serving data gathered via Atlas DMT’s own serving software, the Atlas GRP and Reach Forecaster determines who a given media plan will reach and how many times each person in the target audience will be exposed to the campaign. In this newest version, the tool also lets planners see what percentage of the total target audience would be reached by a campaign, as well as what percentage of the online target audience would be reached. The Atlas product had been criticized in the past for only including the online universe.

“Both are important,” said Young-Bean Song, director of analytics and of the Atlas Institute, “but in terms of having apples-to-apples comparisons, you need to make it jibe with what’s going on in the offline world.”

The tool, which includes reach and frequency curves for 400 online publishers, also incorporates a metric called “cost for marginal reach.” In essence, it tells publishers how much more they’d need to spend to reach an additional thousand people in the target audience. If it cost $8 to reach a thousand more on site “A”, while it would cost $20 on site “B”, site “A” would be more likely to attract the spending. It’s a “decision making metric that helps you know exactly where to shave and where to add on,” said Song.

The biggest advance in this release of the software is that it’s actually available to users, rather than being available only as a service provided by Atlas staffers.

“Before, it was a prototype; it existed and we did provide it as a service, but we would have to run the reports for you,” said. “[Now] it’s a real application that people can have on their desktops, and they can do the analysis on their own computers.”

Atlas is working to make sure it’s on as many computers as possible, in an effort to increase awareness of its own solutions and increase usage of online advertising. It’s distributing the newest version of the application to its current advertiser and agency clients, which number around 50, and handing out free CDs at industry conferences frequented by media types.

“We recognize that the best thing for the industry, for our business, to get this tool out on people’s desktops,” said Song. “I’m sure there will be some type of basic pricing model in the near future, but we haven’t let that stop us.”

There’s been a lot of talk in the industry about developing ways to measure reach, frequency and GRP, or gross ratings points, online, so that media planners could make apples-to-apples comparisons as they put together cross-media campaigns. The thought behind such tools is that traditional media planners would allocate more dollars to online media when they could think about their buys in terms to which they are accustomed. The Advertising Research Foundation has fielded a committee to come to some conclusions on the matter, and it determined that both panel and ad serving data should be incorporated into any tool.

Atlas’ main competitor in the space is Interactive Market Systems (IMS), which offers a tool called WebRF in partnership with VNU sister company Nielsen//NetRatings. Earlier this year, the WebRF product got a boost from industry leader DoubleClick, which agreed that the IMS/Nielsen product would exchange data seamlessly with DoubleClick’s MediaVisor.

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