Why Newsfeed GRPs Will Become A Standard Way to Measure Marketing ROI


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Most of us don’t miss the Mad Men era, but you have to agree that those times were indeed the golden times for the ad industry – television was the mass medium and the most powerful communications channel, it glued millions of wide-eyed consumers to it, and there was no question of whether your message would reach and touch its intended audience. Fast-forward 40 years later and this is the world that ad agencies, marketers and brands need to grapple with:

  • A proliferation of communications channels – The McKinsey Institute reported that social platforms draw 1.5 billion users globally, with Facebook claiming 64% of them, and Alexa found that Facebook is the most popular website in the world, drawing an average visit time of 26 minutes and an average page-view time of 43 seconds.
  • The proliferation of mobile devices, as smartphone and tablet sales overtook personal computer sales for the first time in 2011, and tablet sales grew by 274% over the previous year.
  • An increase in online shopping, with 167 million Americans indulging in e-commerce in 2011 according to Forrester, and 66% of online shoppers surveyed preferring e-commerce to traditional brick-and-mortar shopping. 
  • An increase in customer touch points and required channels – Erick Johnson reported that customers receive up to 2,000 brand impressions each day, and Altimeter research found that the customer journey could have as many as 75 digital touch point variances across content, channels and screens.
  • An increasing use of second screens, eConsultancy reports on a study by Deloitte that 24% of people (and almost half of all 16-24 year olds) use second screens while watching TV.

How do brands measure the effectiveness of their marketing efforts in a converged media model, with a growing proliferation of paid, owned and earned channels? 

Two approaches to start answering the question are to seek ways to standardize our thinking around a) what we measure and b) how we measure it.  In a converged media world, brands need comparable measures that transcend one media and address all – and that measure increasingly looks and sounds like online gross rating points (GRPs) hailing from TV, but with an interesting new twist to it – as opposed to its TV cousin, online GRPs aim to measure the actual reach of its intended ad messages. 

Nielsen and Facebook – Online Campaign Ratings (OCR)

As I noted in one of my earlier posts, Nielsen has introduced a new gross rating points (GRP)-like measurement system for Online Campaign Ratings (OCR). OCRs are coupling de-identified Facebook gender and age data with online ad impressions to diagnose targeting effectiveness and help brands and agencies improve the traction of online ads. This initiative is picking up steam as 15 leading ad platforms including DataXu and TubeMogul join Nielsen and its first OCR partner VideoHub to offer standardized audience reach measurement to brands across digital, video and mobile networks. As Ted McConnell of the Advertising Research Foundation made perfectly clear in the Incredible Click Rate published in Ad Age this summer, clicks are not a solid measure of audience engagement, yet clicks have been a standard ad effectiveness metric since digital advertising was born.

Google Joining the GRP Movement

In case you were not at the Ad Age Digital Conference in April and missed the announcement, Google has launched Active View and Active GRP initiatives to help marketers get what they pay for on its Display and Content Networks, and no doubt, on YouTube too. 

With Activate Views advertisers are now able to buy “viewable impressions” – in other words, ads that indeed appear on a user’s screen.  With Active GRP, Google is standardizing the way digital ad buys are measured, therefore allowing agencies and brands to compare the performance of their offline with their online ad initiatives.

Facebook and the Newsfeed

The newsfeed is where all the latest Facebook ad attention is, as well it should be.  After Facebook’s IPO, the question of whether Facebook ads work has been on everyone’s mind.  In an interview with Andrew Lipsman, VP of Industry Analysis at comScore, Time’s Sam Gustin concludes that Facebook ads work but social engagement and amplification of ad messages are what really matters. Lipsman says “the idea behind amplification is that Fans who are reached with brand messages can also serve as a conduit for brand exposure to Friends within their respective social networks.”  It is then not surprising that in August Facebook announced that brands may soon be able to advertise in the newsfeeds of Facebook users who aren’t fans of their pages (AllFacebook’s Justin Lafferty has a good sample of the wide industry reaction this announcement received). Then there’s the mobile newsfeed – as reported by TechCrunch’s Josh Constine in late September, Facebook mobile newsfeed ads are a hit with advertisers that proclaim it as the most efficient way to purchase Facebook fans too.

What’s Next in Digital and Social Ad Effectiveness

The move into the newsfeed – on Google, Facebook and mobile, suggests that besides massive reach online and in social ads, we are on the brink of adding another dimension to the ad efforts – that of consumer engagement.  Consumer engagement data will find its way into metrics such as Online Campaign Ratings to help agencies and brands gauge where, who and why these consumers engage and amplify the brand message.  That – I predict – will be the point when digital and social ads will become a self-funded effort and a dawn of a new age of marketing – with a very clear and measurable ROI attributed to them. 

Errol Apostolopoulos
Moontoast's Social Activation Engine is a SaaS and cloud-based social marketing, social commerce and social analytics platform. As VP Product, Errol leads product strategy and management for Moontoast's innovative social technology platform. Previously, Errol was Head of Innovation at Optaros, where he provided Mobile & Social Commerce solutions for top retailers. Prior to Optaros, Errol founded, led and successfully sold an angel-backed venture delivering original social content programming via TV, web and physical entertainment venues. Previously, Errol was GM of Razorfish Boston.


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