Digital Advertising

TubeMogul unveils attribution feature to help marketers measure video through a performance marketing lens

By Seb Joseph | News editor

November 14, 2016 | 5 min read

As online video budgets start to get closer to the size of online display, advertisers increasingly want to grade their campaign spend on performance metrics, a shift TubeMogul hopes to capitalize on with an attribution product that lets brands use each other as placebos, meaning there’s virtually no cost.

It revolves around Ad Swap, a product that lets one set of advertiser’s ads to act as a placebo for another batch of campaigns running on TubeMogul’s software. This means that advertisers can target similar audiences with similar site placements on the same publisher. The advertiser in the control group can stop their bid and it is then swapped with one from an identical advertiser (that has similar targeting criteria) to serve as the randomized audience.

By measuring the efficacy of both the control and exposed groups, the adtech outfit hopes to eliminate in-market bias. For instance, a cosmetics brand might be targeting females age 18-to-34 on a specific site at the same time as a car brand, so the two ads can serve as control groups for each other, according to TubeMogul.

TubeMogul's latest offering lets advertisers significantly reduce the cost of testing the efficacy of their media spend

TubeMogul's latest Ad Swap offering one set of advertiser’s ads to act as a placebo for another

As a result, the product is free and clients do not pay for the media cost of placebo ads. Or as Tom Riordan, director of special operations at TubeMogul puts it: “Advertisers are buying impressions the way they always wanted to buy, but the only difference is that we’re allowing another account to track that user behavior. It’s critical that we don’t reveal who the swapping partners are because we don’t want brands to be privy to each other's targeting approaches or anything like that.”

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Normally testing like this could cost up to 20% of an advertiser’s budget, putting it beyond the realms of all but the most performance-minded marketers. However, until now TubeMogul – which announced its pending sale to Adobe last week – has lacked the buying power to provide placebo testing on a global scale, whereby it has many advertisers with the same impressions to do the ad swap.

Advertisers can also plug in their own data management platform (DMP) and use their sales data to power the placebo experiments. Initially, the service could only measure the TubeMogul conversion, whereas now it can also pull in offline sales data.

Beyond third-party involvement, advertisers will soon have access to a dashboard that allows them to view their aggregated experiment stats in their totality. So if a buyer wants to see where the lift is coming from across an entire campaign, then they will be able to see that via new visualizations – a feature TubeMogul hopes will reinforce how much easier it is to compare online video with display instead of resorting to last-click attribution.

“Most buyers know you can’t compare something like video with display using something as simple as last touch attribution,” said Riordan. “When you’re doing actual advertising experiments then it’s totally appropriate to compare things that cost different amounts of money and target different audiences. The currency that your comparing are incremental contributions to my bottom line which is totally valid across these executions.”

Several of TubeMogul’s clients have tested the feature, including Hotels.com. As to be expected for a product promising to drive performance metrics, most of the early excitement has come from financial services brands (which are renowned for their willingness to experiment with new advertising features).

“At Hotels.com, data and test-and-learn are central to the marketing decisions we make every day,” said Steven Quach, the company’s senior director of online marketing. “By bringing an experimental design approach to advertising measurement and making it easy to implement, TubeMogul’s attribution product fills a distinct need and gives marketers better insight to what is actually driving value.”

It’s emblematic of the shifting attitude toward video that some advertisers are experiencing as they opt to spend more money on the medium. EMarketer forecasts that US digital video ad spend will see double-digit growth annually through 2020.

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