Volume 2, Issue 10 - October, 2012
Brian Suh, Director, Analytics & Solutions, Visual IQ
Historically the industry has used a simple rule of thumb to classify the main paid digital media channels – display is upper funnel and search is lower funnel. This approach seems pretty logical given how each channel works. Display is effective at pushing messaging out and increasing awareness with the ability to reach more consumers. This also can hit both existing and new customers which will drive overall success. Search, on the other hand, is effective at capturing demand, helping streamline the purchase process, and is very effective at finding people that are actively in market for your products and services.
However, as the practice of digital marketing has evolved, this adage no longer accurately describes the digital media ecosystem. The emergence of digital buys such as high impact sponsorships, digital video, programmatic buying, paid social, and non-branded search have created sub-channels that break that mold. Today’s ecosystem still includes an upper and lower funnel, but it also includes a mid-funnel that transcends any specific channel or buying method.
In all fairness to the historic media buying, it was sound judgment to use digital media in the way that we did. And in fact today, the upper funnel still includes high reach and branding based tactics. Homepage takeovers, rich media, digital video, etc. are effective in that area. Similarly, branded search is still the key lower funnel tactics and almost always will be. However, the mid-funnel is where the most change has occurred and the trends are most interesting.
The mid funnel can be defined as any sub-channel or buying tactic that can pivot between both upper funnel and lower-funnel goals depending on how you want use it. Paid social is a great example of the mid funnel. You can use TruView, Facebook sponsored stories, LinkedIn ads, etc., to push a new message or product, reach new audiences, and to change perception of your brand to accomplish upper funnel goals. Additionally, these can all be used to promote sales, drive traffic to your website, and increase your revenue just like a typical lower funnel tactic.
Programmatic buying is another great example of a mid funnel tactic. Display banners can be extremely cost effective through RTB, leverage data for better optimizations, and drive overall revenue to meet lower funnel goals. However, it can also use look-a-like modeling to reach new customers and increase frequency to stay top-of-mind, accomplishing upper funnel goals as well.
Luckily both media strategies and buying practices have kept up with this evolution. Tactics like combining homepage takeovers with lower CPM supporting banners, using paid social to drive engagements or likes, and developing trading desks to leverage this new funnel to continue to drive success for advertisers. However, despite the increased complexity of the strategy, measurement has unfortunately stayed the same and made optimization much more difficult.
How to Measure & Optimize
Historically it was easy to manage funnel optimizations because if you increased your upper funnel spend to create interest you would increase lower funnel spend to meet the demand. However, with mid funnel tactics straddling both goals, it’s difficult to know how an optimization is even helping and where else you might need to increase (or decrease) spend. Using last touch attribution is not effective at measuring upper funnel activity and is even worse at measuring mid funnel activity.
True algorithmic attribution, however, helps address this complex issue. By using conversion metrics that re-calculate your attribution solution to take into account the impact of every touchpoint experienced by your audience on their path to conversion, you can accurately measure the impact every media tactic has on conversion. This allows you to analyze your mid funnel tactics to determine if they are helping your upper or lower funnel tactics and how successful they are at driving your business. Then, through optimization, you can drive more successful media performance.
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