FEATURE12 September 2013

What we learned at the AOP Research Forum

Why Facebook wants media owners to like Datalogix, how content partnerships boost brand engagement and why The Guardian is looking to invest in overseas research communities.

I headed down to the Association of Online Publishers (AOP) Research Forum yesterday afternoon, primarily to witness the unveiling of new piece of research exploring the value of content partnerships between advertisers and media owners. However, there was plenty more worth sharing besides.

Moderator Dan Calladine kicked off the event by outlining some trends to watch in the coming year – and as head of media futures for Carat Global Management, it’s his job to know what’s coming next.

Calladine’s top pick was media owners as merchants. Essentially, this is editorial content acting as a gateway to ecommerce sites, as demonstrated to good effect on the Mail Online site (see below). It’s a savvy move, Calladine thinks. Media owners get such big audiences and produce such high engagement, it makes sense to use them to drive sales.


Next, Calladine expects we’ll start to see more location-based targeting of adverts – a safe bet, perhaps, made all the more likely, he thinks, by Twitter’s recent purchase of the automated ad buying service MoPub, complimenting its older purchase of the geolocation service Mixer Labs.

Frictionless payment is also poised to be a big thing, says Calladine. Buying on a mobile phone is still quite a messy experience, so expect things like VoicePay, a payment authorisation service that employs a biometric voice signature, and Apple’s upcoming Touch ID payment option for iTunes purchases to become popular.

A sales pitch with a twist

Facebook’s Alex North

Facebook’s Alex North

“I’m not here to sell Facebook,” said Alex North, the social network’s measurement partnership lead for EMEA. North was good to his word. Instead, curiously, it seemed he was there to try to sell Datalogix, the data analysis company with whom Facebook has a partnership to match ad exposure data to purchase data in a bid to work out the return on investment generated by ads placed on Facebook.

We’ve written about the partnership before, but essentially Datalogix blind-matches household purchase information (based on loyalty card data) to the records Facebook keeps about which of its users are exposed to which ads. The analysis has shown some impressive results for Facebook (and its advertisers to) – but North is keen to get other media owners involved. Whether TV, press or online data, North made several overtures to the media owners in the room to consider opening up a dialogue with Datalogix to see if it’s possible to analyse their own person-level information in this way.

Why the hard sell? “I would like to understand how Facebook advertising works alongside other platforms,” says North. Twitter has already followed Facebook’s lead so advertisers will soon be able to see how those two platforms stack up.

Meanwhile, North said Facebook and Datalogix are working to replicate their US partnership in the UK within the next couple of months. Other markets will follow, North said, although he “foresees difficulties” with certain European markets – places like Germany, for instance, where privacy rules and definitions are that much stricter. Indeed, even in the US the deal raised a few eyebrows.

International communities

Rhiannon Griffiths, the head of research in Guardian News and Media’s audience department, shed some light on how her research team is looking to support The Guardian’s international push, following the switch to a dotcom address (in a bid to capture more US readers) and the launch of a dedicated Australian edition.

For starters, Griffiths said the publisher now has an ad effectiveness panel set up in the US, modelled on the one it has had in the UK since 2009. “We will need to do the same in Australia,” Griffiths said.

“We are also talking about the possibility of running communities overseas,” added Griffiths. These communities would likely form part of The Guardian’s broader efforts to understand its audiences – particularly the reasons why international readers choose to visit the international editions of The Guardian’s website. Is it because they are looking for UK news, or news about their own country written from a UK perspective? Or maybe it’s something else entirely.

Moving content

Griffiths was actually on hand to present the findings of the AOP’s research, exploring the effectiveness of content partnerships. Content partnerships differ from straight advertising in that they are articles written by the media brand under guidance from the advertiser, with the content designed to inform and engage readers while also conveying specific brand values.

Using a mix of online self-completion surveys and implicit response tests, and comparing an exposed group to a control group of respondents, the research suggests that:

  1. Content partnerships deliver significant engagement of audiences – increasing the likelihood of recommendation and purchase of the brand by up to 30% compared to non-exposed groups.
  2. Content partnerships educate consumers in a trusted environment – 41% of those exposed online and offline learnt something from the content.
  3. Content partnerships reinforce existing brand values – achieving an average 15% shift in recognition.
  4. Content Partnerships effectively reposition brands – achieving an average 23% shift in recognition.