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August 7, 2012

Getting the Most out of the Games: How Campaign Optimization Can Drive ROI

By: Andrea Vollman

Everyone seems to have caught Olympic fever this summer, and in addition to this being good news for the athletes competing, this is also very good news for the hundreds of brands around the globe who have invested heavily in advertising during the Games. Make no mistake about it, the investments have been huge: NBC, the exclusive Olympics coverage provider in the U.S., reported ad revenue for the 2012 Games surpassed $1 billion ($250 million more than in Beijing), with $60 million of those dollars being spent on digital (3x the amount spent in 2004). Digital advertising also appears to be a gold-medal winner in the host country of Great Britain, where the Games are being broadcast sans advertising on the BBC, freeing up more dollars for digital.

Everyone seems to have caught Olympic fever this summer, and in addition to this being good news for the athletes competing, this is also very good news for the hundreds of brands around the globe who have invested heavily in advertising during the Games. Make no mistake about it, the investments have been huge: NBC, the exclusive Olympics coverage provider in the U.S., reported ad revenue for the 2012 Games surpassed $1 billion ($250 million more than in Beijing), with $60 million of those dollars being spent on digital (3x the amount spent in 2004). Digital advertising also appears to be a gold-medal winner in the host country of Great Britain, where the Games are being broadcast sans advertising on the BBC, freeing up more dollars for digital.

As I think about the amount of money spent online (and to a much greater extent on TV and traditional media) during this brief moment in time, I can’t help but realize that these advertisers, much like the Olympic athletes themselves, only have one shot to get it right in an arena where so much can go wrong.

From hitting a target audience to making sure online ads land next to brand safe content, and from ensuring ads appear in geographic markets where their product is sold to verifying viewability, it is clear that there is significant room for error. But of course advertising during the Olympics also represents an enormous opportunity -- opportunity to reach a highly engaged audience, opportunity to identify strong performing placements and opportunity to optimize campaigns in-flight to generate the greatest impact.
 
 A global comScore study involving dozens of the world’s leading marketers assessed the extent to which this opportunity for improvement in delivering online campaigns exists – and the results are eye-opening.

  • On average, 30%-37% of ad impressions were not in-view in the U.S., Canada and EU, meaning they did not deliver an opportunity to be seen. There was also great variation across sites where the campaigns ran, illustrating that even for major advertisers making premium buys, there is a lot of room for improvement.
  • 72% of U.S. campaigns and 67% of EU campaigns had at least some impressions that were delivered adjacent to inappropriate content. While this affected only a tiny fraction of the billions of impressions analyzed (<1%), the number of people exposed to these ads was not inconsequential. Even with the most premium of executions, brand safety should be an utmost concern for advertisers.
  • Geographic IP targeting tends to be fairly accurate at the country level, with error rates in the U.S. and EU hovering around 5% on average. On an individual campaign basis, error rates can reach as high as 15% in the U.S. and 27% in the EU, which can translate to a significant amount of ad dollars.  
  • Non-human traffic ranged from 4 to 11%, again demonstrating a significant portion of impressions that never had an opportunity to make an impact.

Having access to this type of data, which can be reported by publisher, placement and creative throughout a campaign’s flight, is just what advertisers need to capitalize on their “one shot to get it right” during the Olympics. comScore’s validated Campaign Essentials provides them this access by delivering deep campaign insights and enabling in-flight optimization in a single tool so advertisers can effectively:

  • Eliminate sub-optimal delivery and improve campaign performance throughout the duration of the campaign. Often, this type of in-flight campaign optimization can mean huge savings in terms of cost and effectiveness.
  • Improve the ROI of digital by eliminating waste and also measuring effectiveness using validated, not gross, impressions. Often, the use of gross impressions – which includes ads that didn’t have a chance to make an impact – can dilute the measured impact of digital advertising. And why would any advertiser want to measure the effect of advertising on someone who never actually had an opportunity to see an ad?
  • Compare across channels using a cross-media comparable GRP metric, like the validated GRP (vGRP). Again, through the use of validated, versus gross, impressions the vGRP removes any noise from the metric, providing a more apples-to-apples comparison to the traditional GRP.

Today, many of our clients are using vCE to monitor and optimize their Olympic campaigns, and we are eager to learn about the impact of this tool on improving their results. What is perhaps most fascinating about all of this is that just four years ago, during the Beijing Olympics, there was little awareness of the issues around campaign validation and the tools for optimizing advertising results didn’t exist. Instead, advertisers largely had to let their campaigns take flight, cover their eyes, hold their breath and hope the investment would pay off. Just as the bar continues to be raised for Olympic athletes around the world, so too has the bar been raised for members of the digital ad ecosystem.

Click here to catch up to all the latest comScore at the Games action.

Tags: Advertising, Sports