Commentary

How Call Intelligence Can Fuel Programmatic Buying

Invoca is a company you may not have heard of -- but it’s doing interesting work using call intelligence to help inform advertisers’ programmatic ad buys. Essentially, call intelligence can help make a programmatic buy more successful.

RTBlog spoke with Eric Holmen, EVP of sales at Invoca, who maintains that many conversions for considered purchases like insurance, cars or electronics are happening via phone -- mobile phones, to be specific.

But with programmatic, the process can break down. Who’s calling in response to what ad? What was discussed? How likely a conversion will it be? How’s a marketer to know?

Marketers that use offline channels like call monitoring can gather more intelligence about their target customers, according to Holmen. Invoca provides the monitoring service.

It’s the first time RTBlog has heard of such a product.

So say an ad is placed online for satellite TV. As prospects research on the Web, they've decided which provider(s) to call. If the satellite provider uses Invoca, it'll know where the call is coming from.

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Prior to a tool like Invoca, if the call didn’t result in a conversion, the satellite company would merely retarget the potential consumer. But if the call is monitored, the marketer can learn, for example, that the prospect is comparing satellite to cable, or favors a package with his or her local sports teams. Now the prospect can receive relevant ads.

An SaaS platform, Invoca doesn’t install anything. It offers a piece of Java code that goes on a website and is included in a marketer's Google AdWords profile. When prospects land on the site, they see a phone number: “We’re dynamically serving up a phone number that goes to the unique parameters of where you’ve been,” Holmen said.  Invoca listens in on the call between the consumer and the marketer.

So how can this make programmatic more efficient?

“The challenge with programmatic is the same as with online marketing," Holmen says. "In programmatic, data is flowing in real time -- and if a phone call happens in the middle of that, you wouldn’t know about it. You don’t know how to go back and optimize it. Phone calls are a missing piece of a programmatic opportunity for some categories of business -- particularly considered purchases."

I would have to agree that there’s an awful lot of information that consumers offer about their needs and preferences during a phone call. Having the ability to use this intelligence can make a difference.

But there’s a creep factor. What if you knew that a company was listening in on your calls to DISH or Verizon and was gathering information to retarget you? Suppose you were retargeted for weeks or maybe even months after the call with the wrong types of offers?

But if you think about it, many of the calls we make to our banks and other service providers have a recording that lets you know that “this call may be recorded or monitored for customer satisfaction.”  What the recording doesn’t say is that it may be using Invoca or a similar tool to provide intelligence to marketers about your preferences and where you are in the purchase funnel.

Both WhatsApp and Facebook offer the ability to make calls within ads. So eventually, if you follow this line of reasoning, there will be ad units within every social platform. And phone calls will become ad units.

Creepy or helpful intelligence?

You decide.

4 comments about "How Call Intelligence Can Fuel Programmatic Buying".
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  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics, February 16, 2016 at 9:47 a.m.

    I'd say both. Tobi.

  2. Tobi Elkin from MediaPost replied, February 16, 2016 at 12:19 p.m.

    Ed, the "creep" factor is everywhere. Any calls we're on are with customer service reps, etc. are monitored and there is a disclosure, as I mentioned. There's no doubt that this intelligence is helpful to marketers.

  3. Michael Elling from IVP Capital, LLC, February 16, 2016 at 9:48 a.m.

    It's ok for the ad networks to listen into your calls, but ISPs can't eavesdrop on your calls (sessions) to help with congestion.  Time to make consistent policy that passes court muster.  Net neutrality was built on a foundation of sand.

  4. Tobi Elkin from MediaPost, February 16, 2016 at 12:21 p.m.

    Michael, I didn't know it's okay for ad networks to listen on calls. What about those recordings that we get when we're on the phone with customer service reps--"this call may be recorded and monitored for quality assurance...."?

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