Take Control of Tracking Results

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One of the most bizarre things surrounding advertising on the Internet has to be the notion that companies that sell advertising also track results for the client. Running an ad network of newsletters with more than 16.5 million opt-in subscribers, I constantly am amazed when clients ask us to track the results of their campaigns within the media we sell them.


Asking someone who sells you media to also track it is a lot like asking the fox to guard the hen house. There is an inherent conflict in letting someone who sells you media do your tracking. Nowhere except the Internet could this obvious conflict be considered acceptable. Can we track results for our clients? You bet. But before we do this, we ask the client if it really want us to do so.


"What is a network executive doing telling marketers this?" you may ask.


The answer is simple. I have spent the last 20 years buying media while doing direct marketing in traditional media. In fact, all of the executives at our company come from the direct marketing industry. Just because we are now on the other side of the table and selling media through our network doesn't mean that the rules have changed.


And even if what follows seems to be to our detriment, so be it. Negotiating rates is the difference between making money at the end of the year and losing money. When we had a winning campaign on television, like selling "Riverdance" via direct response, we had to make enough money to compansate for all of the dog campaigns we experienced (too plentiful to list in the space allotted for this article).


Now, it is not a leap to understand that a key component in making money is a function of the media rates we paid. This article is not about the nuances in negotiating media rates, yet there is one thing certain: Media buyers undercut their negotiating position when the other party knows the results. If the media does well, are you really going to get a break in the rates when the fox knows the results?


The second major issue is the proprietary nature of the information. Do you know if a database of the results is created? Where does the information that you paid for go? How will it be used in the future? Might the results help a competitor advertise within the network? In other words, can your competitor benefit from the experience and information a network collects with your hard-spent cash?


Let's say you are one of five or six major retailers in a category. Furthermore, assume that all of your competitors use the same ad networks you use. What kind of assurance do you have that the information garnered from your ad expenditures will not benefit a competitor? Are the results destroyed as soon as they are relayed to you? Or do the results go into a database that might allow your competitors to better target their offers? Not a single media buyer has raised this issue with any of our sales staff.


What information would your competitor like to have? Knowing which Web sites or newsletters garnered the highest click-through rates or which people purchased from you is certainly valuable information. Remember, most networks want to collect as much information as possible on the people viewing your ad and everybody else's ads to improve the efficiency of future advertising. The purpose is to use the information you pay for to enhance everyone's advertising efficiency.


One of the most crucial privacy issues seldom brought to light concerns the matching of consumer behavior with actions paid by advertisers. Privacy advocates are busy nailing networks that collect cookie information and match offline databases with online behavior. But the targeting dream is to match all of this information with banners or ad impressions that you pay for.


The consumer database of information is not threatening to you as a marketer. But the matching of that consumer information with transactions paid for by you belongs to you.


Offline direct marketers routinely track their results. They would never think of relinquishing this data to the fox and neither should you. Let the networks report delivery figures and you measure your own click-through and conversion rates. It is really not that difficult.
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