Google To Use Online Backchannel To Measure Offline Media Results

Google may be diversifying offline into radio, print and potentially TV advertising sales, but its plan is to utilize its powerful online backchannel to measure results of those deals. If successful, the initiative could provide a new, empirical way of proving the ROI of traditional media advertising deals.

In an interview with MediaDailyNews, Google's Director of Advertising Strategy Patrick Keane said the plan relies on techniques already being utilized by some advertisers who use an online component of their media strategies to measure the effects of traditional media in their mix.

One straightforward strategy, he said, would be driving readers or listeners back to the online realm and measuring them there.

"The smart advertisers have been coming up with linked campaigns for a while," Keane noted. "They're no longer conceiving of advertising campaigns that are limited to the various silos--just print, just radio, or just Internet, and so on."

As an example, Keane noted how marketers might include a unique URLs in text ads, allowing advertisers to measure by site visits the number of visitors who interacted with the text ad. He suggested advertisers could cast an even wider net by including an old direct response technique--the unique 1-800 number--in print campaigns and radio advertising. As aficionados of late-night TV know, 1-800 numbers are old hat; in this system, the studio selling albums, for example, pays out to the broadcaster based on the number of phone inquiries they receive.

Another approach might include econometric modeling, which uses sophisticated statistical analyses to determine the effect offline advertising has on driving consumers to online activity and vice versa.

John Nardone, client relationship director at marketing mix modeling firm Marketing Management Analytics (MMA), a unit of Carat parent Aegis Group, says the firm already is doing similar work for Google rival Yahoo.

"By looking at GRPs for television and TRPs for print advertising over time we can determine how those are driving online traffic and sales." Nardone declined to give details of his work for Yahoo, but said Google might be looking at a similar approach.

Google's recent purchase of dMarc, a radio ad agency that allows insertion of ads in airplay through an online interface, raises more interesting possibilities in accountability and ROI.

Keane pointed to dMarc's much-touted ability to verify ad play "down to the second" through its digital tracking system--but was close-lipped when asked whether the rollout of digital radio, in both terrestrial and satellite forms, might hold promise for tracking consumer response as well.

Nonetheless, digital radio technology firm HD iBiquity's CEO, Bob Struble, has spoken seriously of including "buy buttons" in digital radio sets, allowing advertisers to establish causal links between ads and purchases. DMarc CEO Chad Steelberg confirmed in January that dMarc is an active partner of HD iBiquity, and is following the rollout of digital radio closely.

Neither would Keane say whether Google plans to expand its ad operations into TV, but as with digital radio, the emergence of interactive TV--capable of both targeted advertising and tracking consumer response--seems like a promising area for Google to implement a better ROI model. On this point, it's worth noting that dMarc's radio technology is extensible to TV ad placement as well.

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