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Report Automation

Posted on 7.31.2008

A Pathway to Holistic Campaign Analysis for Publishers
By: Jay Kulkarni, CEO and Founder of Theorem Inc.

Publishers have greater than ever opportunities to expand their advertising revenues by capitalizing on the growth of the Internet. And, as these opportunities grow, coordination between internal and external teams becomes increasingly important. But, at the same time, it is increasingly complex due to the overwhelming availability of marketing information that is difficult to capture, analyze and distribute to their teams in an efficient manner.

By broadening their reach to include managing digital marketing campaigns, working with ad networks to sell remnant inventory, and providing agency services, publishers find themselves having to trudge through a torrent of complex and voluminous marketing data in the day-to-day management of their campaigns.

Reporting the valuable insights the data provides is a time consuming, resource-sapping, and costly undertaking for most publishers.

Different Audiences and Needs, Same Goal

All parties involved in a publisher’s world are reaching for the brass ring of marketing – accurate, relevant and timely data that can be used to improve return on investment. Who in the publisher organization needs the marketing data?

• Advertising and agency clients
• Ad networks
• Sales teams
• Ad operations
• Financial staff

What are the business needs for the data throughout the phases of a campaign – from pre-campaign planning to post-campaign analysis?

• Forecasting
• Inventory management
• Under and over delivery statistics
• Insertion order discrepancy reporting
• Billing

The Solution – An effective media analysis platform that is holistic in its view of marketing data, is easy and cost effective to acquire, and able to provide accurate, timely and flexible reports.

Exploring Data Sources

In general, all this data can be divided into two major categories – Summarized Data and Raw Data. While summarized data is smaller and easier to work with, raw data captures more details about the publisher’s campaigns, providing unprecedented marketing opportunities for the publisher. For example, when reported in a timely fashion, data can be used to make decisions that optimize campaigns more quickly.

But, as mentioned, reporting this key information is difficult because the data originates from multiple sources including:

• Data from multiple ad servers for display and rich media ads
• Emails
• Search engine data
• Site analytics software data
• Attitudinal survey data
• Billing and accounting software data

Tackling Data Issues
A key challenge for the publisher is effectively gathering, combining and storing the marketing data from the multiple sources. Several issues need to be addressed to ensure the accuracy and usefulness of the wealth of available data.

• Timing: Sources have different refresh times, making it difficult to compare data accurately
• Formats: Some data is tabulated by commas, others by tabs or pipes, making it difficult to combine data
• Automation: Downloading data in an automated fashion is not possible from some sources

A platform that aggregates, normalizes, cleanses, and QAs data from disparate sources in an automated manner is key in solving a publisher’s marketing analysis needs.

Publishers use several methods for downloading data from the various sources – manually, by screen scraping and automatically through APIs such as DART and Google. Some companies are devising innovative ways of further automating downloads using Extract Transform Load (ETL) engines especially designed for digital marketing platforms.

Flexible Output

Even after successfully gathering all this marketing data, publishers still need an effective way to analyze, report on, and act upon it. As mentioned previously, the solution is found in accurate, timely and flexible reports that require less effort for the user to generate.

An effective platform will provide:

• Out-of-the-box reporting of frequently used metrics such as Clients, Campaigns, Sites, Creative Types, etc.
• User customizable and retainable advanced calculations using drag and drop features that don’t require the user to possess extensive Excel capabilities
• Automated distribution of reports at pre-defined times as well as on an ad-hoc basis
• Multiple, common presentation formats (both tabular and graphical) such as Excel, PDF and HTML
• Easily produced executive-level dashboards

Pulling it All Together

While a completely automated solution is not possible because of technical issues and because each publisher has its own specific needs, publishers are on the lookout for organizations that create products and offer services that support their goal of increasing ROI with reporting solutions that:

• Cleanse and normalize data
• Ensure data integrity through robust QA that includes checking time stamps and calculations
• Enhance users ability to analyze data and output custom and ad hoc reports with more frequency, less effort and more flexibility
• Lower costs of ownership and approach zero foot print by offering products as SAAS (Software as a Service)

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