While Burby didn't spell out his clients' collective wish list, he did say that getting beyond the “last-click" attribution method for showing what drove sales in a campaign is a major issue and something he believes the two companies can help address.
"There are a lot of different attribution methodologies out there in the marketplace and the big problem is that most advertisers don't believe in them and can't really rely on them," Burby said. "It's also a problem within most agencies. Media teams want to credit attribution one way, while the social side wants to do it another way. In the end, last-click attribution undervalues social influences on purchases by 94%. That's a staggering number."
For a Possible client like automaker Mazda, for example, Burby said he could point to 15 behaviors on the way toward a purchase.
But identifying which online behaviors are most valuable, especially when taking social media activity such as Facebook mentions, video sharing, photos, and tweets into account, can be tricky. The layering of Wildfire's attribution modeling can provide a clearer picture to its clients, Burby said, adding that Wildfire has asked its clients what they want and has pledged to work with the agency to make it happen.
As a practical example how Possible will use Wildfire, Burby mentioned a "large airline company" – he wouldn't identify it by name – that wanted to find ways of getting customers to upgrade from the "lowest-value" base fares up the chain to first class. Possible set up a targeting campaign to examine where people were physically searching for air travel, and where they were going.
"If we could figure out if people were traveling within a 200-mile range, if they appeared to be traveling for business or leisure, we could initiate different calls to action that would lead them to upgrade their airline tickets," Burby said. "Just on the basis of that targeting, we were able to generate a $30 million revenue bump for the airline. Incorporating Wildfire into our targeting tools via social channels would have done even better."
The partnership with Wildfire comes as Possible is looking for help clarifying and adding greater dimension to the ad performance of its clients. The company is ramping up work with The Weather Company's digital holdings across the PC and mobile. While Wildfire will be available to all Possible clients, not all clients will need its services, at least not on an ongoing basis.
"We're targeting different offers based on what the weather is at a given moment in a given location," Burby said. "If one person is looking at their Weather Channel app on a sunny morning in one location and another is looking at it during a cloudy, rainy Friday afternoon at 4:30, those people are in completely different mindsets. We can target based on those conditions and we're working with The Weather Company on ways we can increase engagement and conversion rates."
Despite the high-profile deals, claims of achievements in targeting for clients such as Microsoft and Procter & Gamble, and a presence that stretches from the US to Asia, Russia, and Europe, Burby conceded that Possible is not particularly well-known. "We're the biggest digital agency within WPP that you've never heard of," Burby said.
The deeper association with Google and Wildfire, as well as The Weather Company, is meant to raise its visibility in the marketplace. Another problem Possible has faced is a blurred identity. It's primarily known as a social-media player, but Burby contended that label is too restrictive.
The company was created from a patchwork of WPP shops, including Cincinnati's Bridge Worldwide, which had the P&G business, LA and NY-based interactive branding agency Schematic, Seattle's Zaaz, India's Quasar and Singapore's Blue Interactive. (Burby, along with current CEO Shane Atchison, arrived at WPP through the Zaaz acquisition. Atchison co-founded Zaaz in 1998.)
The company has grown through international acquisitions such as London's Fortune Cookie, Budapest's CarnationGroup and Moscow's Grape.
"We consider ourselves full-service digital, and that means more and more is the centrality of social media to all advertising," Burby said. "Every client knows they have to have a social strategy. But that usually means 'I need likes on Facebook' and promoted tweets on Twitter. What we're striving to do is bridge those strategies with all the channels within social and digital. These days, that doesn't just mean search, display, and mobile; it increasingly means in-store and out-of-home."