Overcome the Challenges of Digital Media Exposure Tracking

By Emily Maki
Media Center of Excellence

If you work in marketing or advertising, your head might be spinning some days as you try to keep up with all of the changes in digital media and connecting what consumers saw to what they actually bought. It can feel like things are evolving on a daily or even hourly basis, since what you could digitally track within your media buy yesterday may be different tomorrow. As the industry continues to strive for holistic measurement of all channels, you’ve got to wonder: how can you make digital tracking easier?

The truth is that tracking consumers’ media exposures and then tying them back to in-store sales is never a one-size-fits-all approach. Many media partners do not automatically pass back crucial details that are necessary to track digital exposure through the ad server alone, and this information often needs to be supplemented with additional files. Also, large volumes of mobile in-app inventory can be missed when measuring if plans are not very closely examined. While integrations with the ad server are fantastic time savers and certainly aid in this battle, you must also know the answers to a number of questions, such as:

- What in-app data could we be missing?
- Does this partner track off of cookies alone?
- Does this partner consider cookies as an accurate means to track or would a hashed email be more useful?
- What is the digital channel percentage breakout of the plan?

The list of questions you need to ask can often feel endless. When dealing with digital partners, it’s much better to be insatiably curious and even play devil’s advocate, questioning every detail, so that the plans and measurement truly are as holistic as possible. One thing I think we can all agree on as marketers: we want the cleanest and most accurate measurement possible, without missing campaign elements that could have been tracked.

Whether you are automating the integration with an ad server or having partners upload files directly to an onboarding partner for measurement, there are many routes to take for tracking in the closed-loop sales measurement space. As the industry evolves, advertisers likely would not mind making reliance on pixels a method of the past; though in some cases, pixels are the only option. Pixels provided by media or onboarding partners generate a slightly higher risk when it comes to picking up every exposure – they can misfire or sometimes not fire at all. When your options are limited and you have to go the pixel route, you may worry about what’s being missed, especially since the majority of what pixels can pick up is cookie-based in an ever-growing, ever-changing, mobile in-app world.

And let’s be frank. One of the main reasons tracking is so challenging is because of privacy concerns. Partners and large players in the space are concerned, and rightfully so, about sharing too much. Will their data be secure? Did any personally identifiable information (or PII) get shared? Are the right privacy agreements in place? In a world with seemingly endless PII hacks, especially relating to highly sensitive personal credit card information, consumers, advertisers and marketers ‘should’ be concerned about privacy.

At IRI, we are fortunate enough to work with great onboarding partners that can ensure that no PII that is shared outside their walls. We don’t access any PII information for sales lift measurement or audiences. Instead, we rely on our partnerships for unique identifiers that strip out all of this sensitive information from the files but still allow us to get a detailed view into the sales lift performance or be able to target one-to-one, at a user level. This data is important to us, and in a world with many digital tracking challenges, we rely on these partnerships to perfect the results and deliver valuable information to our clients.

Although there are a lot of nuances around digital tracking, don’t let it intimidate you or derail your campaigns. Keep asking your partners questions until you are satisfied with the answers, and then ask a few more. In the meantime, we’ll continue to stay ahead of trends in the industry, expanding our technical, cross-channel media knowledge. I believe challenges like these are actually good for the industry – they regularly add to the knowledge base, eliminate stagnant methodologies, keep competition fierce and, most importantly, improve the client’s results. We’re happily up for the challenge.

For more information, read IRI’s recent case study on analyzing the impact of multiple campaigns across brands and/or contact me at Emily.Maki@IRIworldwide.com.

SHARE: LinkedIn - Twitter - Facebook