Cross-Device Measurement Steals The Show At Ringling Bros. Circus

RinglingBrosGoogleFor Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, mobile is no longer a sideshow – it’s the main attraction. Roughly 65% of its website traffic comes via mobile devices.

But attributing mobile’s impact on ticket sales was no small feat.

“The customer journey has become multitouch,” said Sam Gomez, VP of digital marketing at Feld Entertainment, the global production company that owns Ringling. “Without cross-device measurement, it’s hard for us to really understand the full customer journey.”

It’s a customer journey that often ends on desktop – Ringling’s target audience of moms on the go usually convert on a PC – but there’s a lot happening between the first exposure and the last touch, including billboards, radio, TV and, increasingly, mobile.

Over its more than 145-year history, Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey used to send an advance unit to paper a town with posters before the circus rolled in.

Like the posters of yore, display ads are an awareness play. But while posters and word of mouth led visitors right to the ticket booth, mobile display triggers search, most of which is done by busy moms on mobile devices.

Moms on the go are usually the main decision-makers around family outings and they form a core part of Ringling’s target audience. They’re also most likely to decide to make a purchase when they’re out with their family.

“After her initial exposure, she starts moving down the funnel through the consideration phase,” Gomez said. “When she gets to the stage where she’s ready to buy a ticket, she goes to the desktop, but mobile is where she’s doing her research.”

At least that was the brand’s hypothesis. But it’s hard to justify spend without proof.

For that, Ringling Bros. turned to digital marketing agency Mogo Interactive and cross-device metrics from Google, which finally tossed its hat into the cross-device ring when it added a cross-channel measurement solution into DoubleClick in July.

Mogo ran limited preliminary tests using the cross-device measurement tool to confirm what the brand suspected: Mobile played a major role in driving the ultimate conversion.

Google’s solution is powered by a core of deterministic data, people who have signed into Google accounts on various devices, which it uses as seed data to train its algorithm. Google combines that data with online conversion data accessed through its search ad business, as well as other signals like conversion type, landing page, device used and location to make a connection between touchpoints.

Mogo doubled down on mobile and developed a media plan for Ringling Bros. that included mobile display banners, in-page and in-stream video and both branded and nonbranded search, using geofencing to reach moms and families in the locations they typically visit as a group, including malls and family-friendly chain stores and restaurants.

Having proved the path to purchase, Ringling Bros. also saw a 262% uptick in cross-device conversions and a 30% increase in ticket sales, with a return on ad spend for the campaign of 1,132%.

“We knew all along that people were using multiple devices, but before this we could really say for sure,” Gomez said. “It was all based on intuition.”

The success of the Ringling Bros. campaign, which ran from June through September, is causing Feld to step back and rethink its digital strategy for the other brands in its portfolio, including events like Disney on Ice, Marvel Universe Live and monster truck tour Monster Jam.

It’s a mental and budgetary shift that’s starting to happen across the board. By 2017, eMarketer predicts that digital ad spending will reach 38.4% of total ad spend, finally nudging its way several percentage points beyond TV at 35.8%. Nestled within digital, mobile is set to represent 63.4% of overall digital ad spend this year.

“This was a test we ran with Ringling Bros., but it’s something we’re going to be testing with all of our consumer brands going forward,” Gomez said. “You hear a lot of companies out there talking about a mobile-first approach, but it really is essential for us. In fact, our business now doesn’t really work without it.”


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