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February 3rd, 2015

How Net Neutrality Could Change Marketing Analytics

While much ink has been spilled about the positives or negatives of net neutrality itself, it’s worth asking what the ramifications are for marketing analytics.

Video players might be a good place to start.

In a recent post in Digiday, The Altimeter Group’s Rebecca Lieb and others point to the growth in the online video player space that is bound to emerge from net neutrality. An egalitarian approach to bandwidth means more video players can compete in the market, unfettered by technical hurdles of delivering video files to viewers.

With more sources of online video, video viewership will inevitably become platform-agnostic—or at least more platform-agnostic—as well. Marketers will need to plan video across multiple video outlets; that, in turn, means squaring analytics across multiple video providers. It also likely means further analytics analysis across TV and digital. And with a more complex online video environment, marketers will face a new level of video advertising—which is largely brand advertising—into the digital fold.

In other words: net neutrality could bring a new level of branding-focused advertising to the performance-focused world of digital marketing.

From an analytics standpoint, that’s no simple feat. As MarketShare’s Marc Rossen, Executive Director Digital Insights Solutions at MarketShare, wrote in AdAge in November:

Matching branding to direct response means…tracing the customer journey from initial top-funnel interactions all the way to the conversion. It's a massive data undertaking that can require pulling in CRM, first- and third-party insights on the specific sequence of ads that customers have seen and the automation to rapidly pull all that information together to form a coherent story.

Capturing the full digital conversion funnel also takes a fundamentally different approach to analytics—an approach that goes beyond the standard algorithmic digital attribution models that online marketers typically work with. That's because branding campaigns take place and drive impact over the course of months; direct response campaigns, meanwhile, tend to be short-burst efforts that take place over weeks, days or even hours. In essence, you need to think in terms of long- and short-term horizons at once. It's hardly the framework that [digital] direct marketers are used to.

Of course, Digital video ad spend is growing at a spectacular rate, even without net neutrality in the picture. Meanwhile, the lines between branding and performance marketing are blurring. That change is driven largely by analytics, as is mentioned in this eMarketer report from last year:

As marketers get better at measurement and attribution, the lines between direct-response spending and branding are blurring more than ever.

To recap: On the one hand, net neutrality is poised to unleash the spigot on branding outlets online. At the same time, precise measurement is bringing branding and performance marketing closer together than ever.

The net net—neutral or otherwise—is that the marriage of branding and performance metrics is upon us. Advertising measurement will never be the same.


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