Microsoft’s plan to bring traditional media into online ad space

31 Jul 2009

Microsoft is collaborating with comScore to develop a digital media planning technology that will help traditional media planners become hybrid players in the burgeoning online advertising space.

Just days after striking a deal with Yahoo! that will see both companies collaborate on search advertising – Microsoft’s Bing will power the search while Yahoo!’s sales skills will power the ad selling – Microsoft is bringing out a technology that will help hybrid agencies predict reach, frequency and audience composition.

The RF Planner uses a hybrid audience measurement method that combines Microsoft’s ad serving data with demographic information from comScore’s panel.

It will offer forecasted reach and frequency for online advertising campaigns and comScore’s post-buy reporting to show how closely the campaign performance tracked to the prediction. The tool represents the ability for brand advertisers to conduct the complete front-to-end media buying and planning process in the digital environment, using metrics similar to those existing for traditional media.

To date, the lack of online metrics at the ad placement level that are analogous to traditional audience measurement standards has limited brand advertiser investments in digital media.

Branding advertising budgets represent about two-thirds of a US$186bn US advertising market, but only 5pc of branding advertising dollars are spent on the internet.

Microsoft says its collaboration with comScore represents an effort to develop digital audience metrics to help advertisers and publishers plan and track branding campaigns.

This hybrid approach is a prime example of how ad server and panel data can be combined to deliver the audience metrics brand advertisers expect, said Scott Howe, corporate vice president of the Advertiser and Publisher Solutions Group at Microsoft.

“The perception that traditional branding metrics are not possible or meaningful for digital media is misguided. We believe online advertising won’t maximize its appeal to brand marketers until the basic metrics they’ve relied on for years are available in digital media plans.

“This requires the cooperation of digital publishers and panel measurement organisations, which our collaboration with comScore will accomplish,” Howe added.

The RF Planner will generate a series of optimised digital media plans that forecast target reach, frequency and gross rating points (GRPs) at the ad placement level.

This will allow digital brand marketers to determine whether the impressions delivered by one group of ad placements are likely to be more valuable than those on another when the goal of the campaign is reach and frequency to a specified audience.

For example, the RF Planner will help advertisers forecast whether they would more cost-effectively reach women aged 18 to 35 with 10m impressions on one group of placements versus 5m on another.

Likewise, the RF Planner will help make target frequency goals a more precise element of the online planning process, informing budgeting levels.

“Brand advertisers need the ability to evaluate reach and frequency by audience composition in ways that are actionable and accountable,” said Gian Fulgoni, comScore chairman and co-founder.

“Current online reach and frequency metrics are typically computed at the site level. Measuring reach and frequency at the ad placement level is more precise because it shows the reach of the ad campaign that can actually be achieved, the true potential frequency and the specific demos of that audience.

“Campaigns planned at a total site level can overstate reach and understate frequency, and may not deliver the desired demographic mix. This new hybrid approach to digital media planning offers the granular campaign-level analysis and streamlined planning capabilities upon which brand advertisers have long relied in the traditional media environment,” Fulgoni said.

By John Kennedy

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years