VisualDNA in the news – Brian O’Sullivan in ExchangeWire

“With the silly season nearly upon us, advertisers are kicking off major brand campaigns and digital is more important than ever. Brands such as M&S, John Lewis and Argos are placing greater emphasis on digital for engagement and conversation. Delve deeper, however, and you’ll discover much of the Christmas digital budget is being spent on social media, mobile and ‘digital innovation’. What about programmatic?

Programmatic media buying has come of age. It’s here to stay, and with spend via exchanges continuing to grow, there’s opportunity to drive this growth even more, especially in brand spend where advertisers have ambitious briefs and budgets to match…”

Read in full on ExchangeWire

How to use data to optimise targeted advertising campaigns

This article originally appeared on The Drum on 13 September.

The growth of big data has seen a rapid increase in the use of data segments to power targeted advertising, the science of reaching anonymised niche groups of people defined by common characteristics.

VisualDNA uses the first-party, self-declared data we generate from visual personality quizzes to create high-quality Demographic, Brand Preference, Purchase Intent and, now, Emotive segments that power targeted advertising.

With multiple factors affecting the performance of a campaign much like effective media buying effective data buying is something of an art form. Programmatic? Not really: data optimisation is done manually, and by smart people. Our top tips for using data segments successfully:

1. Beware of ad-blindness! Don’t over-impress…

A car brand running a campaign of 50 million impressions will likely want to reach people in-market for a car. In theory, a segment such as “Car Buyers” would yield great results, but if that segment comprises just 500,000 people then each user would see 100 impressions a month. Not good.

Over-targeting an audience that’s too small bombards your audience – reducing conversions and increasing CPAs per impression. So define the total number of impressions served and work back. If an average of 15 monthly impressions per user is about optimal on a cost-per-impression/ conversion basis, then a 500,000-strong segment is only enough for a reach of 7.5m impressions.

A run-of-network to make up the remaining 42.5m impressions means you’re reaching a wider audience, reducing the average data and media cost per impression –plus you can test the performance of the data. Data can dramatically increase conversions, but you won’t hit that uplift and justify your data spend if you over-impress.

Trading desks know this of course but thinking about data at the media planning stage helps them buy better segments. The IAB’s Data Usage and Control Primer is a great intro for anyone using data as part of a campaign.

2. Use analytics tools to define and build your audience

At face value, choosing segments should be straightforward.  Quality data, demographics from trusted providers such as Experian, and intent data from sector specialists should perform. Descriptive VisualDNA segments such as “iOS Preferrer”, or Emotive segments, built from self-declared data collected through our quizzes, are also obvious ways to build an audience.

But not all segments are self-evident. Audi, for example, might intuitively buy an “Audi Preferrer” segment from one provider, but it might be that a “Luxury Holiday Preferrer” segment from another provider is a better fit for their brand.  Adding such a segment to a campaign would increase the size of the targeted audience, improving the performance of a campaign

In addition to industry-standard audience insight tools such as Quantcast, WHYanalytics profiles a website’s audience to show which VisualDNA segments rank most highly – powerful new insight for publishers, ecommerce, advertisers, media agencies and brands.

Such tools help publishers meet high-value brand campaign briefs or identify niche audiences while, in ecommerce, online stores can personalise around personality. Plus agencies can pick the best segments to build a targeted brand advertising campaign.

3. Set the right metrics, test the data & monitor throughout.

What does success look like? A Victoria’s Secret creative showing an attractive woman sat on a beach may attract a disproportionally high number of clicks from men, suggesting that male-skewed segments should be used, at the expense of other female-oriented segments…

So it’s about conversions above clicks but track both with a short, un-targeted, “Discovery Phase” at the start of the campaign against each creative.  Whether it’s a direct response or brand campaign, by analysing the ad (impression beacon) and conversion page (conversion pixel) we can tell you which segments are responding. From here you can optimise around the right segments, and have a benchmark from which to measure performance.

We’ve created WHYanalytics to help publishers, ecommerce websites, advertisers, brands and agencies better understand VisualDNA data, and use it to create a better-personalised experience for their audience – we’re working with our beta partners to build more features and functionality that will make it easy to track. Free to use and easy to deploy, try it out at why.visualdna.com/analytics

Reaching beyond demographics

I joined VisualDNA earlier this year from Google to lead the media sales team – and after almost 10 years in the business the technological advances have been mind-blowing. Exciting as this is, the art of marketing, media-buying, timing and nuance is being replaced by machines. Define your audience, set your budget, input your criteria into your media exchange of choice and off you go. It’s a growing trend too, some 25% of all UK online ad spend in 2012 ran through RTB platforms and most experts expect that percentage to grow further and faster.

But as the ad world becomes more efficient and effective at trying to reach the right person with the right ad at the right time, it’s getting a bit soulless, disconnected from real human connection. For all the insights the internet can deliver, and disruption it’s caused to traditional mass media companies – advertisers still rely largely on demographics and mass when buying media online.

Demographics hail from the Mad Men age. It was the National Readership Survey (NRS) that first carved people into ABC1/ C2DE groups – classifications borne out of a regimented 1960s class system where your preferences were inferred from your buying power with the ‘professional or higher managerial’ upper middle-class grade A at the top to Grade Es ‘at the lowest level of subsistence’ – dependent on the State – at the bottom.

Simply put, demographics tell us little about ‘who’ our customers are – and even less about ‘why’ they are motivated to buy stuff. Kantar’s Target Group Index (TGI), Experian’s Mosaic and IPA Touchpoints all provide a more nuanced way for media owners, agencies and brands to segment and reach an audience, since they are enriched by multiple behavioural data sets (clicks, browsing, purchases and so on). which is great. But they still don’t get to the core of what makes people tick. It’s all too assumptive, ‘umbrella-level’ data…and lacks human feeling and ‘real’ insight.

We know smart brands want to understand people on a deeper, more emotional level, and this is the real opportunity for VisualDNA. No other adtech company, to my knowledge, goes anywhere near as far as we do to understand what actually makes people tick.

First, our in house team of psychologists, mathematicians and designers iterate  and refine our quizzes to an astonishing level of detail – this is why the data we collect and the profiles we can build on an individual are both rich, accurate and at mass-scale.

Second, we capture emotive data –  and we’re approaching a point where we can scale it too. Brands define their ideal customers by their emotive characteristics so it makes sense if they can buy media against those characteristics too.

And third, we’ve proven that our audience targeting technology actually performs. We match captured behavioural data from our network with that of our quizzed users, and we can match any custom campaign brief we receive. Our sales are growing at an incredible rate – which proves to me that the demand is out there for quality data. We are seeing a larger appetite from Media Agency data teams, wanting to take in our data, digest it, and supply out to their Advertisers as ‘portfolio management’ data. It’s great to be at the heart of this ‘real’ consumer insight and business intelligence.

Sitting behind this is a broader vision to humanise the web by helping businesses to truly understand why their customers behave in the way they do – and meet their needs in real time.

It’s a really exciting time, and while we’re not saying the end is nigh for demographics and mass media, there’s a real opportunity to do something different and we’re relishing the challenge.