Category Archives: comScore

The 1-in-244 odds of QR code use

At first glance QR codes are taking the world by storm, according to a new report by comScore. The study found that in June, 6.2 percent of all U.S. mobile users scanned a QR code — or about 14 million consumers in total. ComScore has lots of juicy details, such as more men than women snap images of the codes, top users have more than $100,000 in household income, and the top source were codes printed in magazines and newspapers.

But wait — is it really becoming a habit among Americans? The comScore report neglects to tell us how frequently users snap the codes. If you assume the average person scans two QR codes a month — since this is an infrequent, new behavior — then of the 6.2 percent of all mobile users using the codes each month only 0.41% do so on a daily basis. For a marketer, that means that the odds of any individual holding a smart phone actually scanning your code on a given day are 1 in 244.

Since QR codes are merely square blocks that send a cell phone user to a web site, and once there, some other conversion must take place for marketers to achieve their goal, a 1 in 244 maximum potential response rate at the top of the QR code marketing funnel seems anemic. Yes, the codes are beginning to be seen, but don’t assume consumers will rush to snap. We estimate longer odds than the comScore study headline suggests.

Ben Kunz is vice president of strategic planning at Mediassociates, an advertising media planning and buying agency, and co-founder of its digital trading desk eEffective.

Image: John Watson

Surviving the death of the click

Yikes. At first glance it looks like most consumers don’t give a damn about banner ads. ComScore is reporting that the number of U.S. internet users who click on display ads is down 50 percent. Back in July 2007, only 32% of all users clicked on internet banners in a given month; by March 2009, that number had plunged to only 16%, and 8% of U.S. users drove most (85%) of all clicks.

So other than knotting a noose, how should you, a marketer in charge of internet advertising, react?

1. Don’t be scared by concentrated results. Recognize that all response behavior follows power laws, the Pareto idea that a fraction of any resource drives the greatest return. You know, like the 10% of folks at your weekend party who get wildly drunk and make out on the deck while the rest stand in the kitchen sharing tips on accounting. Sure, in a given month only 1 out of 6 people may click on an ad, but that doesn’t mean the rest of the population never does. The concentration of clickers is a normal power cluster, just like those found in your stock portfolio.

2. Measure ahead of the click. As comScore suggests, clicks by themselves are a lousy metric for monitoring total online ad performance. Ad impressions build with reach and frequency and over time lead to action, usually in other channels. We’ve seen the inverse for clients who have launched campaigns on television and driven brand-specific searches through Google. A recent study of 8,824 respondents in the U.S., Brazil, Germany, Japan and the U.K. found TV had the most influence on audience purchasing decisions, even though it is typically one of the hardest media to track. Impressions here push action over there. Banner ad serving tools can track consumers who see your impression and then come in later via search engines. Social media monitoring tools can tell you the chatter among influencers. Find ways to measure the waves, not just the splash.

3. Watch impression costs. If you do begin evaluating internet ads on impressions and not just click performance (or downstream conversions, etc.), you must be careful with costs. Online ad inventory has exploded in recent years, led by social media pages whose users refresh frequently, artificially bloating inventory (think of a Facebook user rechecking her page every 60 seconds, each page with multiple ad slots). Careful online media planning can reduce costs against a given demo target by 90%, often by weighting the buy toward ad networks (collections of hundreds of sites) vs. individual marquee sites. A CPM of $1.50 instead of $30 against the exact same target should be a no-brainer.

4. Optimize, even if hard data is limited.
Clicks still matter, in terms of monitoring variances in performance between online media outlets and then optimizing the ad mix. Sure, only a fraction of your prospects might click on your ad, but if costs per click have a 20-to-1 skew across your online media plan, that’s an indication that some of the media venues are working well and others are bombing. Clicks and the associated downstream conversions, sales, and return on advertising can be monitored through each discrete online component to gradually improve the campaign performance — often freeing up 30% or 40% of your ad budget for redeployment.

Sure, not everyone walks through your online banner doorway; but evaluating the ones who do to rebalance the mix will provide lots of impressions where they count — on the CEO who watches your sales figures.

Image: Theogeo

Twitter’s gray hairs

Surprise, surprise. ComScore reports the heaviest users of Twitter are adults 45-54, and the majority of the microblogging service’s 10 million users are now adults 35+. If you thought social media was just for kids, watch Obama punch his Blackberry, or better yet read Frank Reed’s riff on why wired networking attracts grownups.

Advertisers: Does this trend bode well or ill for your traditional media response rates?

Meet the Googlesexual

Who knew IT could be so studly?

A colleague coined the term Googlesexual as a joke this week as we were researching gadget sales among metrosexuals (hip heterosexual men fascinated by clothes and hair products, say, Tom Cruise) and übersexuals (similarly hip men who focus less on mirrors and more on causes, perhaps Ewan McGregor). Neither term is derogatory, but instead pinpoints a state of mind in how people view themselves — cool, stylish, cutting-edge — which in turn connects with their behavior responding to advertising.

The more we considered it, there is a new species of psychographic variables (interests, attitudes, opinions) best represented by Larry Page and Sergey Brin. Googlesexual. The “sex” doesn’t mean procreation, but rather the deep Id inside the soul that drives instinctual behavior. The “Google” doesn’t mean a single company, but rather the power that comes from understanding networked technology. Put them together and you get the IT guys now running the planet, the manly risk-takers behind Internet Bubble 2.0, the women setting up media empires with blogs, Clark Kent with an attitude. The world has always had “dandies” and “dorks” — but what about men and women of technological sophistication who wield power and affluence and aren’t afraid to blow VC funding? These wundergeeks need a new name.

This is important, because Googlesexuals are driving the early adoption of most technology and entertainment. It’s not about age, or income, or Gen Y or X. It’s about how you see yourself, and how that invisible mirror spurs your reaction to products.

Many marketers miss thinking about psychographics and instead use baser levels of planning:

0 – base level – all about the product. “We made this widget, and it’s great!” This type of marketer wants to buy advertising as cheaply as possible, then spray and pray.
1 – media level – all about the advertising channel. “We want to buy ads! On Lifetime!” This marketer usually calls asking for a specific TV cable channel.
2 – demo level – about the customer demographic. “Hmm, after deep analysis, we understand we are targeting men 35-44 with household incomes greater than $100,000 in urban perimeters.” This is the most common marketer; armed with research, he or she knows where customers come from and what exactly they look like.
3 – psychographic – about the human mind. “Our target customer has these attitudinal aspects toward her self-perception, sexuality, friends, products and media. She is a Googlesexual who prefers to tell her friends first about technology trends, share advice, and networks with more than 1,000 people online.” Marketers who plan at this level have the best odds of using media to influence the marketplace.

Ideally, a psychographic target allows you to pick the media and message most likely to resonate. But it’s tough to reach Googlesexuals, because online they are hidden. At the OMMA conference in New York City last month, we witnessed managers from comScore (which uses projections from small groups of consumers in research panels) and Quantcast (which uses cookies) get into a heated argument over whose methodology was best at tracking demographics of online users. Consensus was, most web site demo stats are bogus, since it’s still impossible to really tell who is typing at the keyboard.

Difficult to find, but not impossible. IPhone sales tell you they are out there. Amrita Chandra, a Toronto friend who runs an art gallery, had perhaps the best response to our Googlesexuals vs. übersexuals thesis: “I’ll take one of each, thanks.”

Google Chrome watches you

Today Google crossed the ultimate frontier of collecting individual data.

Google launched Chrome, a beautiful new web browser that computer users can download with a click for more stability navigating rich media on the web. But if you read the fine print of the user agreement, you’ll note that Google retains a few interesting controls:

1. Google is not responsible if it deletes your data
2. It can reuse anything you communicate online almost anywhere
3. It will serve you ads based on “queries made through the Services”

This is fascinating because with one swift move Google has achieved what cable internet service providers have had to battle privacy advocates and congressional hearings over for years: Google can watch your every move on the internet. Cable companies have been beaten up over this issue; the fear was that allowing an ISP to track online behavior at the “box” level — so-called deep-packet inspection of ALL the traffic flowing into the internet — would be too serious an invasion of one’s privacy. To date, online companies such as Google or Microsoft could only track you when you enter their subset of internet services.

No more. Google has achieved total vision. Combine the Chrome browser with the upcoming Android mobile phone software, and Google can connect your web use to your mobile movements. It could even conceivably do what comScore does now with volunteer research panels — track keystroke patterns to distinguish different users who type on the same technological device.

This is not to say Google is wrong or right. We work in the ad industry and know that targeting offers based on data can be helpful to consumers and boost results for advertisers. But the sources of data have converged. Google, with its recent DoubleClick acquisition, controls 69% of all online advertising. With the back end of the internet almost locked, Google can now start mapping the data at every doorway coming in.

A lot of chatter about Chrome this week will revolve on its look, feel, or cartoon instruction manual. We’d be more interested in seeing the complete list of data collected by Google, like this old list here.

We know it’s you. ComScore passive biometric observation told us so.

There’s a scene in the sci-fi film Minority Report where Tom Cruise, fresh from a future eyeball transplant, walks into The Gap and a digital ad on the wall greets him as Mr. (insert Japanese name here, we can’t remember it). It was a bit of humor at marketing personalization gone awry, but points to the future. And comScore is almost there.

ComScore, an internet metrics service that rates web sites, is moving beyond tracking machines to watching the specific individuals who use them. This is a huge leap in monitoring internet use, because while every device plugged into the web has a unique IP address, multiple users handle each device. How do you tell when mom, dad, or 17-year-old Jenny is using the computer? ComScore does this by observing your keystrokes and mouse clicks.

Let us explain. The way comScore measures internet behavior is largely through a vast, international group of consumer “panelists” who opt-in to a voluntary comScore research project. Volunteers get some incentives, such as free software, in exchange for letting comScore watch what they do online.

The trick of getting beyond the computer is pretty simple. ComScore software tracks the “biometric signature” of users — mom may type fast, dad may peck slow, Jenny may be a heavy user of the mouse scroll wheel — and then over time matches the discrete patterns with a user when he or she fills out a web form that requires a name. Soon, the comScore system recognizes that fast typing occurs when mom is online. And, by matching the individual user patterns with the detailed demo information they filled out as survey participants, comScore paints a pretty detailed picture.

You can see where this is going. For now, it’s surveys. Soon, every online company in the world may start tracking biometric signatures and putting 2 and 2 together between dad being online, his credit card purchases, his demo profile, his web history, and the ads that should be served on his page. In some ways this would be helpful — might finally stop serving husbands recommendations for Oprah books the month after Christmas. In other ways, you can already hear the privacy advocates howl.

Good? Bad? We could argue this both ways. But one-to-one personalization is coming, and deep, invasive tracking of what you do will soon be powered by the little mouse in your hand.

Big, bad news for web ads: 6% of users drive 50% of clicks

A new study by Starcom, Tacoda and comScore may shake internet advertisers to their core. Seems only 6% of online users create 50% of all clicks on web banner ads. Worse, this “heavy-clicker” group is not a sweet demographic target:

– Heavy-clickers have low household incomes below $40,000 a year
– Heavy-clickers spend more time online, but this is not equal to higher online spending
– And, in a death knell for “but wait we’re just branding” campaigns, the study found there is no correlation between high clicks on banners and increased brand affinity.

Put it together, and you get a bleak picture. Your click-through rate may be above average, but you may be getting clicks from just a low-income, brand-oblivious fraction of your total online target audience. This doesn’t mean that banner campaigns don’t work, but it does mean that click-through rates alone won’t tell you results. You’ll have to track conversion rates, costs per lead, costs per acquisition, and even new customer profitability and lifetime value … the deep metrics that explain the real web campaign results.

Perhaps high-income, highly educated web users have better things to do on the web — like use the web.

Now on the web: God 2.0

ComScore reports that faith-based video site GodTube launched Aug. 8 and in three short weeks racked up 1.7 million unique visitors, making it the fastest-growing web site in the U.S. Makes sense. Gallup polls in 2005 found that 70.6% of Americans believe in hell, 80.5% believe in angels, and 82.2% believe there is a heaven. (Interesting that we believe more, when we like what might happen if we believe…)

A glance at GodTube shows the passion people bring to sharing their religious views. Skateboarders give testimony; actor Stephen Baldwin speaks out. Some say they’re proud to be Christian and believe in modern science, while others offer a $250,000 prize for “anybody with any evidence of evolution.” The site — which now only takes limited advertising from like-minded organizations — is a case study in the complexity of American Christianity.

Marketers could use the site for free focus groups, to explore which religious debates rise to the top in the video rankings (although some posters try to game the system, as on YouTube, by adding hot tags like “Egypt, Alien, UFO” that apparently resonate with young Christian viewers!). Marketers might also pause and consider the extent of religion in the heartland — there are thousands of similar religious sites on Jewish and Muslim topics — and temper their worldly creative a notch if the media plan dips toward a spiritual audience. After all, someone out there is listening.