As digital advertisers, a challenge we face each day is deriving actionable insights for our clients in a world where anything can be measured. Results can be difficult to comprehend, everything seems like it's an acronym, and grasping the “whole picture” is easier said than done.
Still, digital advertising offers unique advantages over other forms of media that makes it one of, if not the, most measurable and effective forms of paid outreach. While traditional media consultants point to post-ad polling as the end all, be all of marketing measurability, digital practitioners have a wealth of information to draw from.
Looking at data like who’s watching and how they’re responding in the ad platforms, we’re able to address many questions that would’ve otherwise taken much more time, money and effort to answer through traditional methods like polling.
Would you like to know which issues and topics are resonating most strongly with your voters? Search term reports from your campaign provide an unfiltered view of the questions and topics that are causing your ads to appear when people are looking for information about relevant topics.
Analyzing the specific questions people are researching, such as “who should I vote for?” can provide insight into how they view your issue, candidate or cause. An increase in volume of searches for the opposition can indicate a shift in support and direct your bid strategy for competitive terms making sure your ads appear first.
Maybe you want to see how much information a person needs before making up their mind on an issue? You can measure the reach and average frequency of ad exposure before a person clicks on an ad and takes an action. Demographic and behavioral data from the voter file, custom segments, or mobile device location data can be layered to provide even deeper insights and applied to further refine outreach.
For example, after launching a drug policy ad, you may find that 50-plus aged men are signing your petition at double the rate of women. This may lead you to shift to a healthcare-focused creative for the female audience, and in the meantime, allocate more budget to the male audience. As a result, each campaign becomes an iterative process of test, learn, optimize.
How digital can help measure shifting opinions
The second factor of measurability for digital advertising is understanding the direct impact of your campaign in shifting opinion. Surveys measuring the response to your campaign can be used on most platforms to measure changes in perception and behavior within an audience. Beyond understanding the performance of an ad, it’s important to know if the ad is changing opinion. In the world of campaign advertising where two-dimensional metrics like “who is donating to my campaign?” are the norm, measuring sentiment shift offers the chance to pivot direction and uncover areas of support.
An example would be polling users in a particular county on a specific subject, let’s say their awareness level and opinions on a candidate, 23 percent of those surveyed support the candidate while 46 percent are undecided. Based on these results, messaging is delivered with high frequency across social, display and video online platforms to the persuadable universe.
During our outreach, we're then able to run more surveys comparing users exposed to our messaging to a control audience (unexposed) to see if there has been a shift in sentiment/awareness and identify additional pockets of persuadable voters. While a rudimentary example, this approach has proven scalable and indicative of the way data both from and for digital advertising is used.
Think about it in terms of interactions
Lastly, what can be measured on a digital platform often has a direct parallel to what can be measured in the real world. Movements like the overthrow of the Egyptian government, the ushering in of the #MeToo era, and even our most recent presidential election were all largely influenced by digital activity.
People tweeting about a subject is no different than discussing it around the water cooler. Money supplied on a fundraising landing page is no less valuable than funds acquired at a rally or rubber chicken dinner. Signing a petition online carries no less weight than signing a clipboard at your local park.
The difference in these three instances is that, with the digital route, we can leverage the data and technology to automatically discern demographical and behavioral information about the people completing our desired actions, and can use it to craft further, more-targeted outreach.
Overall, digital advertising should be the first form of media considered when a campaign is looking to see the impact of their outreach. Whether it be in real-time, over the period of a campaign, or used to gauge the efficacy of other methods of outreach, the technical insights derived from digital measurement are driving the most innovative campaign strategies.
In the current age of getting news, buying goods, and forming relationships online, digital impact carries directly over into real-world impact – and that’s a line that will only continue to be blurred.
Aimee Bigham is chief strategist at mv digital group, a digital media agency.