Digital Essay 2019: Digital creative attribution by Aazim Haque & Fahad Ali, Publicis Media

By Aazim Haque and Fahad Ali, Analytics managers, Publicis Media

Who would have thought almost a decade ago that digital would be on par with TV in MENA and also be one of the top five most influential media touchpoints? The sheer power of digital media is reflected in the most sought-after market in MENA for brands, Saudi Arabia, which is the biggest user of YouTube per capita globally. The platform is also the third most loved brand among Saudis, ranking higher than some of the local FMCG giants. The continuous user connectivity to consume online content has made brands focus their investments behind digital video advertising and the new platforms that are mushrooming rapidly – resulting in a highly cluttered media channel. This leaves marketers with the most challenging question: how can I ensure my brand communication is impactful and it stands out of the clutter in the most important media channel to impact bottom-line KPIs?

Engaging with the audience to stand out of the clutter on digital essentially means delivering a captivating visual brand experience in only a few seconds through the right channel – especially with other multi-screening disruptions. Traditional claim-based qualitative and quantitative research can help evaluate creatives on overall brand linkage and specific likes/dislikes through pure respondent feedback. But it still presents a significant gap in truly understanding instinctive non-conscious reactions, as we know humans tend to show feelings on their face without realising, and they find it very difficult to mention these emotions if asked throughout a video.

Facial coding has been revolutionary in this space by harnessing the power of machine learning and
computer vision to measure through a typical webcam how people feel as they view a video ad. This has helped marketers to deliver the most resonating communication to the audience. Our approach at Publicis Media for testing video ads – also known as Content Connector – provides a powerful understanding of the video creative across the whole spectrum of creative diagnostics adapted to the category. Content Connector leverages facial emotion data at the core, layered with claimed quantitative and qualitative response to evaluate the intrinsic strength of an ad. The emotion data comprises nine human emotions to understand emotional reaction at every second, while the claimed feedback encompasses qualitative and quantitative assessment to understand brand linkage, overall copy diagnostics and key reasons behind peaks and dips in emotional engagement.

While ad testing is pivotal in ensuring the communication resonates with the audience, understanding the next level of how it is affecting conversions is equally important. The evolution of digital  advertising has given analytics professionals a lot to cheer about when they are analysing digital performance, as it is the only form of media that allows the most granular data measurement – enabling them to use advanced analytical techniques to help answer a host of marketing and business questions. With every digital ad fired to a consumer that can be tracked, the next question that marketers are eager to understand after they have launched the tested communication is: which ads and digital channels helped drive conversions?

The process of determining which ad receives credit for the final conversion is called attribution, and there are multiple ways of doing this. The most popular method is last-click, where the entire conversion is credited to the most recent ad the user has seen – this is a convenient method, easy to calculate but unfortunately not representative of the true state of affairs. As users online, we see multiple ads and each contributes incrementally to the final conversion. To ignore the ads before the last ad is not a fair assessment.

Simon Peel, the global media director for Adidas, has recently spoken about how the brand is rethinking its measurement strategy and moving away from the last-click attribution that it used to rely on. Other companies will eventually follow suit. At Publicis Media, we use Markov chains for our attribution projects – here, we look at the entire consumer journey as well as including both converting and non-converting users in our analysis. This allows us to judge the true incremental impact of each channel in the conversion rate of a user, as well as ensuring we look at the full picture and not just the typical 1 per cent (or less) of users who convert. The insights that come out of this holistic view can then be used to fine-tune channel mix for future campaigns to drive more efficiencies for our clients.

Given our pursuit of innovation and trial of new approaches, we saw an opportunity to verify the soundness of not just our biometric offering, but also our digital attribution product. We decided to do this by running a digital attribution study on two creatives that we tested through Content Connector. The creative that performed better on the biometric test measures should drive more efficient visits (lower cost-per-visit) on the digital attribution study. The Content Connector test study was carried out for two creative adaptations (video ads) of a master copy among the brand’s target audience through a face-to-face research methodology. The creatives were exposed to the respondents in a cluttered reel while the webcam captured emotions followed by a claimed quantitative and qualitative evaluation.

Based on the results of the biometric test, 6 per cent more respondents experienced happiness while watching Video 1 vs. Video 2. In addition to this, 28 per cent more respondents wanted to find out more about the car after watching Video 1. These numbers were backed up by the results of the attribution, as the cost per visit for Video 1 was 21 per cent lower than Video 2, showing that having a creative that elicits emotion in the user can produce curiosity about the product in question and help drive clicks and website visits at a lower cost.

This exercise helped us exhibit a concrete link between the power of creative and actual dollar savings for clients. Investing in a compelling, emotional creative is just as important as where you place that creative, and can result in cost efficiencies when looking at both in tandem