Commentary

Nielsen Glitches Send Ad Industry Wake-Up Call

Numbers-A

The advertising industry needs to get a handle on technology and metrics. Recently we have seen a flurry of reports that suggest a variety of changes to the way the industry should calculate clicks and impressions, from click-through rates stabilizing to panel-based data from Nielsen that underestimates the amount of time people spend on the Web.

Numbers from the Internet World Stats, which tracks use and population statistics, estimate that more than half of the world's population uses the Internet. Perhaps it's time to get serious about paying more attention to metrics, especially after a URL glitch in Nielsen's platform measuring panel-based data. A Nielsen spokesperson acknowledges limitations to a system never designed to measure impressions based on the length of URLs we see today, but with the importance of metrics growing perhaps IT needs to become more involved as technology that counts or maps conversion paths continue to rise in complexity.

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Nielsen still relies on panels for TV and Web traffic measurement. This outdated way to collect data led the company to build a hybrid model of panel and census data, but some believe the metrics company just isn't moving fast enough.

T.R. Fitz-Gibbon, chief scientist at Network Insights, says Nielsen's programming bug affected the software that keeps track of what sites their panelists visit. Memory locations in software, called variables, and fields in databases often have a maximum size that the programmer has to define. Most likely, some programmer made an assumption that 2000 characters would be long enough to hold any URL, he says. When the software hit a longer URL, it crashed and none of the pages views from that session were counted.

Microsoft has been pushing to rid the industry of the last-click model for the better part of two years. Now iProspect emerges with a new attribution model: no-click analysis. This means digital media assets have the power to affect brand equity whether Internet users click on them or not.

The key finding of the Real Branding Implications of Digital Media - an SEM, SEO & Online Display Advertising Study suggests online digital media assets have considerable branding influence, and specific combinations of organic search results, paid search results, and online display advertising can significantly impact a brand's success. For gosh sake, did we really need a study supported by comScore to tell us this?

The study lists findings that demonstrate the relationship between the digital assets examined in the study and brand lift.

They include paid search result impressions have the greatest impact on brand lift, both in isolation and in combination with other digital assets. In aggregate, paid search results generate 44% lift in likelihood to purchase. Within the retail vertical, paid search impressions create a 54% lift in likelihood to purchase.

The combination of paid and organic search impressions produce the strongest brand lift across most of the brand metrics measured. In aggregate, paid search results and organic search results net a 73% lift in likelihood to purchase.

Within the hotel vertical, paid and organic search impressions create a 147% lift in likelihood to purchase.

The study also found online display advertising has influence on producing brand lift, but makes its strongest contribution when used in combination with search engine results. This combination produced high brand lift across many of the verticals studied. In aggregate, organic search results and display ad impressions net a 16% increase in likelihood to purchase.

Within the banking and financial vertical, organic search results and display ad impressions create a 64% lift in likelihood to purchase, according to the study.

Don't you think it's time to get serious about involving some IT folks with knowledge of technology to support online advertising?

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