How To Measure Native Ad Campaign Effectiveness

One knock on native advertising or branded content is the lack of standard measurement tools. All advertisers, publishers, and tech vendors participating in the native ad ecosystem should be concerned about developing sound metrics and tools in this regard.

Advertisers want to know whether a native campaign met their business objectives—which differ depending on the product, service, ideas, and dialogue they’re promoting—and they need measurement they can count on, which  offers them meaningful insights about their audience targets and the impact the content had on them. Did the campaign promote a shift in thinking, or awareness of an issue, etc.? These things can often be challenging to measure.

One tactic for measuring the effectiveness of native advertising is through a panel-based approach, which Kantar Milward Brown uses. "The ecosystem around native is more malleable than other ad formats.  We try to work with clients to see what type of native advertising they’re trying to measure,” said Nicole Jones, SVP Media Practice, Kantar Millward Brown.



Jones said it can be challenging to get enough panel respondents because the amount of traffic on sites is often low, as well as the number of people who want to take online surveys. Panel-based measurement aims to ensure that there’s a large enough base of respondents. Kantar Millward Brown's panel, which it calls the Ignite Network, has eight million U.S. respondents in it.

Kantar Millward Brown tags native ad campaign assets in conjunction with publishers. It analyzes which people were exposed to the campaign, and then those individuals receive invitations to the panel. The people in the panel are asked questions on online ad and brand awareness, purchase intent and message association.

By way of a hypothetical example, Jones explained that if a native campaign for Mercedes in the New York Times seeks to measure brand awareness and online ad awareness, Kantar Millward Brown would find panel respondents who were exposed to the campaign and serve them a survey. The survey might be five to 10 questions. The advertiser must identify its business objectives for the campaign before they create a survey.

Sharethrough, a provider of native advertising technology, works with KMW and offered an example from its client Gilt, the online shopping site.

For a native campaign that ran in late 2016, Gilt sought to increase brand awareness and recall, targeting women ages 25 to 34 with a video campaign. A major goal for Gilt in using the KMB audience panels—looking at both a control panel, and a panel exposed to Gilts native advertising—was to examine how its branded video content performed against video content that featured "influencers" like actress Kate Bosworth and chef Marcus Samuelsson. 

Distributing Gilt video content on Sharethrough’s platform drove an overall campaign lift of 40% in brand awareness and 131.8% in ad recall. Influencer video content had a much higher impact than branded video content, driving lifts in all four categories that were analyzed:

 --Brand awareness saw a 94.5% lift.

--Ad recall enjoyed a 261.8% lift.

--Brand familiarity experienced a 67.3% lift.

--Brand Favorability saw a 58.3% lift.

As a result of the brand study, Gilt was able to influence 1.1 million users who were previously unaware of Gilt, at a cost of 27 cents a person, according to Sharethrough.

“With the Gilt results we saw that headlines, thumbnails, and content featuring influencers had a significant impact on all the metrics we examined, over the generic, lifestyle-focused versions,” Melinda Staros, senior manager, research & insights at Sharethrough, told Native Insider via email. Staros said she’d anticipated the results, as Sharethrough’s neuroscience research and click-through analysis have, in the past, suggested that including celebrities would have a big impact.

Staros also said the ad effectiveness measurement tools that Sharethrough developed with Kantar Millward Brown helps the company test these types of hypotheses in a scalable way.

"Previous research helped us form hypotheses and best practices for executing successful campaigns. Now we’re able to test and validate those best practices using brand studies, and continue to test with different campaigns to ensure they are, in fact, best practices," Staros said, "We can then scale these findings to understand the difference in impact across different verticals and campaign types and prove that those best practices weren’t just insights derived from ad hoc research, but will, in fact, lead to a better ROI."

Staros also said that Sharethrough has the ability to slice overall results across different audiences and creative strategies. This helps its clients identify which specific strategies are working and which aren’t. The goal is true campaign optimization. Plus, there's “the ability to run multiple questions with a solid methodology. Using Kantar Millward Brown provides us with the unique opportunity to A/B test many different questions and hone in on what makes the most sense both for our client’s ad measurement needs, and for native ads in general,” Staros said.

“For this campaign, influencers performed better because the campaign was a bit more contextual,” Jones noted, explaining that Gilt sought to deliver contextually relevant content to its audience target “so influencer content was more impactful on a contextual basis. It was just a little bit closer to what those women were looking for.”

Jones noted that Sharethrough wasn’t able to obtain this kind of ad effectiveness data in the past. “We were able to get a panel and offer them results on all their campaigns,” she said. The data helps show marketers how actionable their advertising was on the Sharethrough network.

Kantar Millward Brown is going a step further as it evolves measurement tactics: “We want to understand what other data sources we want to tie in with Ignite. What else can we infer from that data, so we can get at the demographics and the data connections?” Jones said. “We know there are a lot of other data sources, and we want more robust findings on the panelists. What else can we get to make the search for respondents easier for our clients?”  

Sharethrough also wants to iterate on measurement tactics. “Over time, we see ourselves taking brand lift further. For example, asking ‘have you heard of the brand, do you feel favorably, and do you intend to purchase?' We will get more efficient at helping clients better identify how content is having an impact and move them away from a system of ad measurement that was created for banners,” Staros said.

Measuring a native ad’s impact via Net Promoter Score or “intent to recommend” is Sharethrough’s first foray into improving brand lift measurement. “We’ve also begun tracking ‘brand familiarity’ in addition to brand awareness and are on the lookout for other important loyalty key performance indicators,” she said.  

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