In The World Cup (And Any Other Big Event), Actionable Data Requires Constant Calibration

programmticforthewinIf you want user consumption and engagement data, look no further than the World Cup. You’ve got tweets, likes, shares, traffic, comments — take your pick.

Mobile traffic spiked significantly in Q2 2014, according to a report from mobile ad platform Opera Mediaworks, with football-related sites and apps seeing particularly high levels of engagement in certain countries. At 35.6 million, the number of tweets around the July 8 Brazil vs. Germany game, in which the host country was eviscerated by its German rival, trumped the number of tweets around the entire Super Bowl by more than 10 million.

Tantalizing. But media buyers that want to capitalize on this flurry of activity requires a lot of oversight on a bevy of technological tools and platforms, said Jon Hook, head of mobile at media agency MediaCom.

“To capitalize on this data, brands and agencies require smart data solutions that can tie together multiple data points in a transparent way; a platform that can connect online cookie data with device IDs and ingest other data points across social, brand CRM data, household demographic data, etcetera,” Hook said. “With adaptive platforms underpinning and informing our buying decisions we’re in a position to get creative around live events and deliver value for our brands.”

Real-time planning may sound like a bit of a Catch-22, but that’s exactly what media buyers have to do if they’re looking to score around events like the World Cup. As the data comes in, agencies need to pivot programmatically, something larger companies shouldn’t have trouble with.

“If you buy programmatically and then scale upward, there should be no problem at all; but if you’re buying endemically, then it’s usually a few phone calls and a few tweaks on the ad server side,” said Matthew Waghorn, director of communications planning at digital agency Huge. “In general, it’s easy to scale these spikes, especially if you’re a big spender. However, it’s important to note that if you invest at a lower level, you might not be provided with first dibs on the opportunity.”

But Larry Moores, VP of analytics and reporting at Opera Mediaworks, is quick to remark that using real-time data to information programmatic buys isn’t a set-it-and-forget-it kind of thing. Data needs to be finessed before it’s of any use, and broad data sometimes isn’t what it seems.

Take mobile traffic as an example. As Moores points out in the Opera Mediaworks report, one might expect World Cup traffic to be similar to the global distribution of traffic — the World Cup is a global event after all — but that wasn’t the case. The US, Brazil, Mexico, and the majority of European countries may top the list for overall ad impression traffic, but it’s countries like Bangladesh, Nigeria, South Africa, Malaysia, and Pakistan that consume the most football content on related sites and apps.

“You need to dig into markets and see how engaged particular audiences are and how individuals engage with you because of a particular event they’re focused on,” Moore said. “To say that users in Ghana, for example, behave in a certain manner because you looked at 64 billion ad impressions, doesn’t mean the same thing as when you look at the World Cup traffic for people focused on football.”

The message, Moore said, is that buying programmatically requires a lot of work.

“It also requires a lot of insights on the advertiser side, as in finding the audience that’s going to respond to you,” he said.

Taykey — which calls itself a trend automation platform and whose clients include Coca-Cola, Sony, and Unilever — helps large brands align themselves with relevant audiences based on real-time trends and conversations. Its technology aims to help buyers fill potential media plan gaps by serving advertising content to the target audience wherever they happen to be spontaneously engaging, be it on Facebook, Google, Twitter, or YouTube.

“We’re very audience based and we realize that what people are talking about will change multiple times during the day,” said Taykey founder and CEO Amit Avner. “People might be talking about the World Cup for awhile, but then their attention shifts. For our purposes, each trend might only last for a couple of hours.”

As Moores of Opera Mediaworks put it: “Targeting is not about setting up a bunch of criteria and leaving it alone. There’s a lot of turning of the knobs.”

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