[Video] IAB’s Clare O’Brien: We need algorithms for quality measures

This article is reproduced with thanks to Native Advertising Institute, a FIPP member. See the original article here. Jesper Laursen, CEO of Native Advertising Institute, will lead a panel discussion on native advertising at the 41st FIPP World Congress, 9-11 October 2017 in London, the UK. Meet him there.

Clare O’Brien, head of industry programmes at IAB UK is an expert in the industry standards needed to measure the effectiveness of digital native advertising. The Native Advertising Institute caught up with her at Native Advertising DAYS 2016. You can sign up for notifications about next years’ conference here.

Measuring time spent might be catching on

“How native advertising is measured today is principally along the lines of the way digital display advertising has been measured and traded. Although there are indications that new ways are being explored. For instance in the UK where the Financial Times, The Economist and I believe The Guardian are selling their advertising on time spent or CPH, cost per hour, as opposed to cost per thousand, CPM, or even cost per action or acquisition, CPA.

CPH measures how long someone has engaged with a particular article or video and then the client is charged based on the length of time that someone has spent. That’s a new move. It’s not a panacea for everything but it’s an indication that we are getting beyond the basic digital display advertising measures which have served the industry well for a long time, but aren’t necessarily getting to the heart of campaign effectiveness and what a particular piece of content means to a particular audience member.”

Measurement going forward: An exploration

“It’s an exploration. The digital media is a multi-layered, multifaceted beast. It’s very difficult to explain everyone’s behaviour along a single piece of measure. A piece of content might have no value at all to somebody at eight in the morning but by eight o’clock at night after they’ve been to work, suddenly that piece of content is something they can relax with and that they can enjoy. So zero quality of measure at eight o’clock in the morning and 100 per cent super quality of measure at eight o’clock at night. Same content, same person, different circumstances. So there’s a lot of parameters that I think we need to explore.”

Related: Clicks and followers are just vanity metrics

Quality measures should be built into an algorithm 

“Quantity measures is what the digital advertising industry has managed to achieve over the 20 years it’s been distributing display advertising. The quality measures that are much much harder for us to coalesce around as consistent measures would be things like emotional connections. How did this particular ad or piece of content make someone feel when they engage with it? We’re guessing some of these at the moment. So if somebody watches a video all the way through, we might say that this person was engaged with it. If somebody spends a long time and scrolls through to reasonable reading speed, we might say that they’re engaged with that long form article.

But how have we changed people’s minds? How have we improved an audience’s appreciation of a brand? How have we improved the likability of a brand? These are more difficult kinds of measures to get because you generally have to talk to people or find a way of getting an opinion from them. And then how do we make those kinds of quality measures consistent and repeatable so that you could maybe build some of them into an algorithm? I think we’ve got a long way to go, but essentially we have lots of hard measures in the digital advertising industry and a lot of softer measures that have always happened in marketing.”

“For measuring brand impact you need a mechanism that asks: Did you enjoy this?”

“If the brand’s objective with its campaign is to achieve direct sales or leads then that’s very measurable. The ad or the piece of content is served and the desired outcome is that that person would convert to being a customer; buy the product or convert to deliver a lead.

Related: How to create branded content that converts

If you’re looking to improve the likability of a brand or the brand favourability you need a mechanism in place that actually asks someone; were you interested by this? Were you entertained by it? Did you enjoy it? What is that emotional response you had. And that’s really a quality measurement.

There’s another quality side as well which is the quality of the content that’s created. Is the quality of this piece of creative right for this campaign, for this audience, for this publishing platform that we’re working on. That’s what I mean when I say that the digital space is rich in its complexity. And it means that we’re going to have to work very hard to mine into that, to understand — not necessarily how it works — but how we can find out how people respond to it in a way that the advertising industry has understood how people respond to TV advertising or to press advertising or to outdoor which hasn’t been changed that much for many decades. This is a very young industry.”

Related: “Advertisers and brands need to adapt to the new reality”

Measuring is integral to a brand’s business

“This is a commercial world that we exist in and the advertising industry spends billions and billions of dollars every year. In the UK market alone we spend more than 20 billion pounds per year on advertising across TV, outdoor, digital and print.

Brands have always measured the impact of the value of the media that they buy. They have to. It’s not a nice to have that sits on the edge this is integral to a brand’s business because they know if they spend X amount on advertising they will sell Y number of products and if they know that, they will then know and understand how to manage the factory for instance. They’ll know how to most efficiently manufactor a specific numbers of products and the margin that they make is their profit. This is not playtime this is a very very serious business. That’s why we need measures and that’s why we need measures that are understood and acceptable by all parties in the chain.”

Related: How a premium publisher from Croatia built an award-winning native ad studio

The myth of the God metric

“Is a God metric possible? Is a single algorithm possible? There are those amongst us who would argue that there is a single algorithmic principle that governs the whole state of existence of the universe. This isn’t a physics lesson, but in digital which has been driven by technology, which as been driven by the creation, development and the existence of algorithms and sales.

Related: Seven learnings for the future of native advertising

Some think that because in digital we can measure everything then surely we can measure emotions as well as we can measure an ad impression in the page. Advertising sets to change someone’s emotional response and reaction towards a product so that they have more propensity spend money on it. Can some of these emotional factors be knitted together into a single string; ‘The God Metric’? I’m probably of the camp that doesn’t believe that that’s ultimately possible, but I do believe that we can do a great deal more work to introduce some of these quality measures in algorithmic form into the mix to produce what the industry very much needs; consistency, tradability within a programmatic world of high quality, good advertising that really works in a predictable way.”

Jesper Laursen, CEO of Native Advertising Institute, will lead a panel discussion on native advertising at the 41st FIPP World Congress, 9-11 October 2017 in London, the UK. Meet him there.

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