AdExchanger.com: What trends are you seeing in your ClearSaleing clients in 2009? Can you describe momentum for ClearSaleing this year?
AG: Our clients are not reducing their online ad spend—in fact, it's increasing in many cases. ClearSaleing is helping clients tie their ad buys to their profits. If an ad is creating profit, it makes sense to buy as many clicks/impression of that ad as possible. The fact that so many companies have dropped out of the action also means our clients can spend more because there is less competition for those same clicks and impressions.
As marketers are being held more accountable to achieve profit goals, and not just higher return on ad spend numbers, we're seeing more people turn to 3rd party data sources so that they can learn even more about the types of customers they're attracting from different ad buys and technologies. For example, one of our current clients is tying applicant credit scores from online loan applications to the ads that drove the application in the first place. The fact that our technology can integrate all of this standalone data makes these types of measurements and insights possible.
ClearSaleing's business is growing this year as clients see the need to adopt technology that can track profit across media, grow leads and increase ROI results. With our technology, clients are now confidently buying 'top of the funnel' types of ads because they can use attribution management modeling to measure the performance of each marketing element. It is the evolution beyond 'last click' reporting which does not take into account the purchase path a customer follows from initial search to conversion.
How do you differentiate from other attribution management companies in the space such as Atlas or DoubleVerify?
Atlas is considered a player in the attribution management arena. Atlas is a Microsoft company that has a bias toward proving that their display advertising increases profit when combined with search ads. ClearSaleing doesn't have that sort of conflict of interest.
Many companies are claiming to offer attribution management as part of their solution. Most PPC management products that claim to offer attribution actually cannot due to limitations of their data (solely API data, and solely PPC focus).
In contrast, ClearSaleing was built with attribution management as the core component of its platform. ClearSaleing easily integrates with back office systems to track conversions that start online and are completed offline. Without such integration, accurate attribution management is not possible.
ClearSaleing tracks all forms of online marketing, not just search or display. Examples are comparison shopping engines, emails and affiliate programs. ClearSaleing differentiates itself from many vendors in the space in that we also track search engine traffic and integrate that data into the purchase path. ClearSaleing shows how organic search results are integrated with paid sources.
Additionally, ClearSaleing is building some of the most sophisticated attribution models using high-end statistical analysis that will be part of our platform later this year.
Is there a perfect model for online attribution and can it be achieved? After all, it would seem you need ClearSaleing cookie in every consumer's browser in addition to a ClearSaleing ankle bracelet on consumers which tracks in-store sales.
Given that ankle bracelets are not likely, we want to emphasize that we focus on measuring the effectiveness of our attribution models by the most important metric: profit. If our client's profit increases as a result of the new attribution models we put in place, then we know we are moving in the right direction. Also, the advanced attribution models we are developing include an "uncertainty" factor that allows us to quantify the influence of ad sources that are not tracked.
ClearSaleing is 'self-learning' in that purchase path trends become more obvious over time as more data is gathered. Marketers, to start, often don't have any idea what their purchase latency is or what the most common purchase paths are. As they monitor this information, they can continue to modify their settings for more precise attribution modeling and optimization of their advertising portfolio.
How do you provide attribution metrics for consumers who delete cookies regularly?
Our current out-of-the-box models do not account for customers who delete cookies. It has been reported that between 10 to 25% of people actually delete cookies. Therefore, our samples are able to capture anywhere from 75 to 90% which provides us a very statistically sound sample size to draw conclusions from.
What is your view on ad exchanges? And, is it an important development for ClearSaleing?
Ad exchanges increase the effectiveness of campaigns, enhancing optimization and utilizing the long tail. Adding advertising analytics and attribution management capability provides a means of using the long tail to maximum effectiveness, therefore increasing profit/ROI.
Ad exchanges increase the efficiency by which our clients can purchase online advertising. Our platform enables our clients to make the best decision possible when working with ad exchanges to determine the value of the ads they are purchasing.
Not all ad exchanges, however, are 'created equally' or are of equal value to advertisers. Using analytics and attribution, marketers can see the complete picture of the entire purchase path. This helps marketers to focus their ad spend on what is working for them.
You're a Midwestern tech company. What are the advantages of NOT being in the "alley" or "valley"? Any disadvantages?
We travel as necessary; it is a virtual world and so much business can be conducted these days via webcasts etc. We also employ social networking to help build the brand. And it goes without saying that it is cheaper to run a business and to hire talent in the Midwest vs. the coasts.
In the 'valley' or the 'alley' all employees are looking for their next move, especially in the online advertising space where there is a shortage of talent. However in the Midwest there are not as many job opportunities in our space, therefore our employees stay much longer compared to the coasts. We enjoy greater employee retention.
We also have the support of our state, Ohio, in terms of special programs that support innovation. There are only a handful of companies focused on what we do in the Midwest and Ohio state government wants to promote that.
How does ClearSaleing work with publishers today? It would seem that if publishers share data with you, it could make ClearSaleing's life easier, no?
Our integration with DoubleClick for display ad impression data allows us to get information about what our client's customers are doing on other web sites. This tracking is an important component of our attribution management as our customers' web sites cannot track their client's offsite behavior. This information is probably best aggregated and delivered by the ad serving vendors who have already integrated their tracking code across an extremely broad set of publisher sites.
Why are proper attribution metrics important for publishers?
Better attribution will allow publishers to more accurately value their inventory.
Attribution management reveals what customer touchpoints are really performing; providing a better sense of customer behavior and the ability to assess what is leading to conversions and profit. By collecting this data and using analytics publishers can develop far more effective, more profitable sites.
Are you seeing more DR or brand campaigns from your client base? Where do you see this going?
We see more DR when we start with a client. Search typically gets the largest percentage of their online ad spend and search is primarily a DR vehicle. However, we teach our clients that brand advertising should be treated like DR campaigns. A brand campaign is only successful if it leads more consumers to your site/store to make purchases.
Our purchase path analysis (chronological sequencing of ad clicks and impressions) show how brand and awareness ads may start the consumer down a path that leads to a conversion from your store or site. Attribution then allows us to give profit and revenue credit to all of the ads that were involved, therefore, we can show how brand ads contribute to the bottom line. Without proper attribution DR can tend to be over-credited, and therefore set unrealistic expectations (e.g. if I double my search budget, I will double my sales).
A general question for you: What will media buying agencies need to do to remain relevant in the future?
Media buying agencies will need to provide their clients with accurate, profit-based reporting. No longer will simply cultivating and maintaining a good relationship with clients be enough. Media buying agencies, just like their clients, are being held accountable for justifying spends.