Dan Beltramo is CEO of Vizu, an online advertising effectiveness research company.
How did Vizu begin? And where did the name come from?
Vizu began with the vision that market research could be made more widely available and useful by using the internet to make it much faster, easier, and less expensive to conduct. While pursuing that broader vision, we encountered numerous online publishers who were having difficulty selling brand advertising on their sites.
Given my background in CPG marketing, it became clear to me that one of the primary reasons brand advertisers were not advertising online in volumes commensurate with online media consumption is that there was not a reliable, relevant everyday measurement system in place for brand advertisers. Given the dire need expressed by online publishers and the corroborating feedback that we received from media buying agencies and brand advertisers who were equally frustrated by the tyranny of the click-through-rate, we chose to focus exclusively on delivering a reliable online brand advertising metrics system based on measuring the brand lift associated with ad campaigns instead of the CTRs.
The name Vizu was a riff on the word visibility which is what we provide to brand marketers and their partners.
What is the sweet spot for Vizu in terms of client type? Is it difficult selling to traditional brands due to an unfamiliarity or lack of comfort with online marketing tactics?
With regards to the discomfort traditional brands feel with online brand advertising, a lot of that comes from the lack of a meaningful metric to measure the effectiveness of their spend. Brand managers, agencies, and publishers know click-through-rates are meaningless measures of brand campaigns, and if they're measured against such are likely to be seen as failing. By providing an alternative to the click through rate - measuring brand lift - we actually relieve a lot of this discomfort for them. Sometimes they even thank us for talking their language.
When will the much discussed brand awareness dollars finally come online?
Brand ad dollars will come online when brand marketers are comfortable that 1) the audience they are trying to reach (or at least a material portion of such) is online, 2) the online medium is an effective means of influencing that audience, and 3) they have an effective, relevant means of tracking return on investment against this medium, just like they do in other mediums such as TV, radio, and print.
The first issue is resolving itself, and that shift is only accelerating. Vizu is addressing the second and third issues. When all three of these dynamics are in line, you will see dollars being allocated across mediums based on performance, not along lines such as "traditional" vs "new" media.
Do you ever work with creative agencies in helping them fine tune their creative? Or are your clients just in media? It would seem that the brand data might be very valuable to the creative team.
We are increasingly working with creative agencies. One of the key aspects of our solution is allowing our clients to dissect the overall brand lift metric, analyzing the extent to which particular sites, frequency of exposure, creative, and message contributed to or detracted from the overall result. The feedback on creative and message performance is extremely valuable to the creative team. It allows them to shift impressions from low-performing to high performing creative and/or messages during the campaign, using the real time data that is available in our solution, and therefore optimizing the end result. In some cases, it even enables them to make a data based decision to produce more creative that conveys a particular message
I am particularly excited by the fact that we are starting to see creative agencies use our real time, in market data capabilities to influence offline creative development. Pretty soon online advertising is going to be the dog not the tail.
Can you discuss how the Ad Catalyst system allows clients to close larger advertiser deals?
There are a lot of ways Ad Catalyst helps online publishers close larger deals. Offering brand lift measurement as a value-add to a media buy to optimize campaign results and therefore prove our customer's site is an effective medium for a particular advertiser to reach and influence their target audience is very common. Leading online properties also make brand lift measurement a standard part of their product offering in order to position their whole company as a committed brand building organization as opposed to just another source of cheap inventory. Perhaps the most important aspect, though, is somewhat more subtle - Ad Catalyst allows our customers to take a consultative approach with their prospects, positioning themselves as trusted advisors and partners willing to work with their customer to maximize the return on their buy.
Our digital media agency partners, on the other hand, will often use Vizu's Ad Catalyst data to credibly suggest different media mix allocation for their clients often leading to bigger digital media spending.
What is your view on ad exchanges? Any impact on Vizu's business?
Ad exchanges are good for Vizu's brand ad metrics business in two ways. First, they put more pressure on premium publishers to justify the value of their inventory and special programs. Secondly, brand campaigns run on ad exchanges require a relevant metrics system just like any other campaign - perhaps even to a greater degree because of concerns about inventory quality.
Are clients ready to move beyond clicks? Still seems like a client addiction from here.
Our clients, in selecting to work with us, have demonstrated they understand that click-through is not a relevant metric for online brand advertising. In our experience, most brand managers, agencies, and publishers we speak with realize this also - they just haven't had an alternative in the past. Vizu is providing that alternative and, consequently, adoption is escalating rapidly.
Can you discuss other trends you're seeing from your clients today?
A lot of clients are interested in experimenting with social media and the effectiveness (or lack thereof) of social media is a very hot topic at the moment. In providing a means to measure that, we're increasing the comfort advertisers have in engaging with the medium. Some of the most interesting work we have done is in the social media realm, such as measuring the branding effectiveness of virtual goods, branded games on Facebook, and even time based exposure on a social media oriented network.
Another blockbuster trend is the interest in online video advertising. For brand advertisers, it is a relatively small leap from TV to online video ads. Consequently, we are seeing a lot of interest in our in-player measurement technology.
How does your revenue model work? Based on campaign budgets, per seat, another?
We charge on a per campaign basis. When Publishers first begin working with us, they will often by a package of 6 or 12 campaigns, as this makes it much easier to effectively build case studies and truly integrate our offering into their general sales process. Given the nature of the agency model, when they begin working with us, they often purchase on a per campaign basis, as their media budget is allocated in that manner. In either case, as our customers work with us over time and become more comfortable with the value they can derive from our solution, they shift more toward subscription-like models, which lets them more deeply integrate our offering into their own.
In your estimation, what improvements can be made around using data in online advertising?
Brands and their agencies are drowning in data - they don't have time to slice and dice reports and spreadsheets full of ancillary information that dances around their primary objective - determining whether or not they have achieved an appropriate return on investment for their advertising spend. What they really need is answers, bubbled up via metrics that can be used to take actions that produce measurable top-line or bottom line results. And that is what Vizu is providing.
Additionally, with respect to brand advertising, the online media industry needs to stop lazily reporting CTR's as a measure. Doing so is intellectually dishonest. On a related note, the digital media community needs to stop creating new measures of convenience that are confusing and hard to understand. Instead it needs to start speaking in terms, such as brand lift, which are familiar to advertisers. For their part, online brand advertisers should stop accepting CTRs as a relevant form of data or stop working with those entities that refuse to up their game beyond CTRs.
Another key to success is consistency of measurement. With consistency of measurement come norms, best practices, and even enhanced intuition. Too often advertisers blow their annual insights budget on one big study that produces a complicated report so far after the fact that people lose their sense of context and interest.