Category Archives: analytics

The Encima Group Donates Tag Management Referrals, Maintains Neutrality

The latest from Encima but a long-time in the making….hopefully more digital analysts and marketers will consider Piwik as an open source alternative to sharing their precious customer data with G. And of course, the DAA is doing some great things for the industry and we want to be a part of that. Special thanks to David Clunes for his vision and support on this initiative.

Encima Group LogoNewark, DE – August 18, 2014 – Analytics consultancy The Encima Group, is pleased to announce the donation of several thousand dollars in referral fees earned through the recent recommendation and subsequent implementation of Signal’s technology platform. Signal’s Tag Management system (formerly BrightTag) was chosen by two of Encima’s major pharmaceutical clients as the best-in-class tag management solution. For one Encima client, their prior tag management system took too much time to use and was expensive. It was replaced with Signal and the client is already seeing ongoing tag maintenance now taking less than 10% of the time that it did before. For another client, Signal was deployed together with an enterprise site analytics solution across several high-profile Web sites making ongoing tag maintenance a snap.

David Clunes, CEO and Founder of The Encima Group explains, “With technology vendors often jockeying on new capabilities, we prefer let them do what they do best without getting caught up. We purposefully do not recommend the technology platforms that make us the most money, instead we recommend what is best for our client’s long-term analytics success. Donations like this help us continue to maintain our neutrality – all while doing some good for the industry.”

The Encima Group, known best for its independent analytics and digital operations services often finds itself recommending platforms for clients. Sometimes viewed as another value-added reseller, The Encima Group sees itself as an extension of their clients’ organizations and vigorously maintains its “Switzerland” status. That sensibility extends from the firm’s analytics practice which uniquely eschews agency media buying and creative services to focus on providing clients with both objective performance reporting and unbiased campaign optimization recommendation.

Clunes continues, “When it comes to analytics, more objectivity is always a good thing. We feel that this is a great way of paying it forward and that hopefully other firms get the idea.” By sharing the referral fees that it earned, Encima is simultaneously investing in two worthy causes known to analytics professionals worldwide: The Digital Analytics Association, a global organization for digital analytics professionals and Piwik, the globally popular open source Web analytics platform.

“The Digital Analytics Association is thrilled by the Encima Group’s donation,” said DAA Board Chair, Jim Sterne. “The funds will be added to our general fund to benefit all members of the DAA. We hope that others in the space will follow Encima’s leadership in this area.” For Piwik, the funds will be used to facilitate continued development of this open-source platform. Available as an alternative to sharing with 3rd parties, Piwik allows digital marketers to control their Web site behavioral data. Maciej Zawadziński, of the Piwik Core Development Team says, “This is great and will help us to further develop an alternative free Web analytics platform.”

About The Encima Group

The Encima Group is an independent analytics consultancy that was recently recognized for its successful growth in the Inc. 5000 (ranking in top 25%). The Encima Group’s mission really is about actionable analytics and flawless execution. Offering an integrated suite of services around multi-channel measurement, tag management, dashboards, technology strategy consulting and marketing operational support, The Encima Group pioneered the notion of Data Stewardship. The Encima Group is based in Newark, DE with offices in Princeton, NJ and Chicago, IL. Its client roster includes leading pharmaceutical companies like Bristol-Myers Squibb, Shire Pharmaceuticals, Otsuka, AstraZeneca and Novo Nordisk.

For more information about The Encima Group, visit www.encimagroup.com. For more information about Signal visit www.signal.co, for Piwki visit www.piwik.org and for the Digital Analytics Association visit www.digitalanalyticsassociation.com.

Media Contact(s)

Jason Mo, Director of Business Development (jmo AT encimagroup DOT com); phone (919) 308-5309; Domenico Tassone, VP Digital Capabilities (dtassone AT encimagroup DOT com); Phone (312) 492-4652.

 

Piwik: Alternative Analytics Presentation in Chicago

Yours truly will be presenting, “Piwik: An Analytics Alternative,” a short presentation at this year’s Open Analytics Summit at the City Winery in Chicago on March 27th.

OAS is for Developers, Engineers, Data Scientists, CMOs, Data Analysts, CTOs, Architects, Brand Managers, and anyone passionate about open source technologies, big data, or data analytics. My presentation will be particularly interesting to digital marketers, enterprise technologists, Web analytics practitioners and others that are interested in a viable way to provide solid measurement while removing Google from their Web analytics stack.

Full Schedule and Register

If there is interest, I’ll post the presentation here as well.

TagMan Finds Google Analytics Discrepancies

Quick thoughts on the recent findings from TagMan



Perhaps advertisers and agencies will start thinking more about the rampant data collection and measurement conflicts-of-interest rampant in the Googleplex…or maybe just more shrugs.

    Solutions to the Privacy Debate: Lemons, Carrots and Potatoes

    After reading the How to Prevent the ‘Do Not Track’ Arms Race  by Peter Swire, the inanity of it all becomes more apparent.The premise of this Wired piece is that users should have a choice…they do. They can visit a site and are implicitly (and sometimes explicitly) agreeing to receive free content and services in exchange for being presented with targeted ads.

    Canny Web browsers are in a mad dash to curry favor with the genteel “Information should be free” crowd visible in the user comments. It seems that this end-run was done to pre-empt negotiations through W3C, most likely in an attempt to gain market share. However, it is surprising that for an attorney that Swire missed the opportunity to articulate the above quid pro quo argument missing in the discussion. Then again, so did the IAB. See Digital Media Lesson in Shooting One’s Foot (Part I).

    The Dead Weight Web Audience (DWWW) consists of variety of ad/tracking dodgers. The size of this audience and their habits can be measured by most major site analytics tools and ad servers out-of-the-box or with some customization. Common methods include:

    1. Browser DNT
    2. Cookie blockers
    3. Ad blockers
    4. JS rejectors
    5. NAI opt-outs
    6. Likely cookie-deleters
    7. Others…

    While the politicians posture and the debate rages on, sometimes it is necessary to turn these lemons into lemonade. The good news is that, solid ad analytics (or adverlytics) can inform the decision-making process about which kinds are most prevalent in your target Web audience.


    Advertisers
    It all starts with digital marketers and their agencies paying attention to the details of ad delivery. The growing interest in ad viewability is encouraging. For those that really want to reach a tech-savvy entitled audience that wants nothing to do with their ads  they will need to first measure it, in order to monetize it.


    • Carrot. Demographics on this audience may skew higher education and higher income; this  audience spends a lot of time online and believes in getting something for nothing and not afraid to post about it. Measuring the performance of this specific audience for your ad campaigns however, may require a concerted effort by digital media planners and analytics professionals – but that is their job.
    • Stick: Time to get up off the couch and start asking questions of your media suppliers, agencies and analytics team. Advertisers wasting impressions on an audience that doesn’t want any ads and is actively blocking your efforts to show them an ad is kind of masochistic. Ignorance is no longer an excuse as the money being wasted on targeting into the unappreciated abyss, could instead be heavied-up with more receptive audiences. Again, analytics can help refine targeting.

    If existing agency analytics can’t measure the Dead Weight Web Audience, then consider adding an independent analytics consultant.

    Publishers
    For site publishers that really want to attract the free-riding tech-savvy audience that also wants nothing to do with supporting their business model, the same advice applies: measure it and monetize it.

    • Carrot: Allow them to consume content for free, but find a way to sell advertising against this special audience. Free-riders can become its own targetable segment by definition – no off-site tracking or ad network is even needed. Anyone with DNT header activated, rejecting 3rd party cookies, blocking JS, etc…Most larger pubs already have an audience research/analytics and ad ops teams that can help do this and if not, additional consultants can be engaged.
    • Stick: Just say no to the content free-riders. While this has been really difficult for sites that have historically been in search of bulk ad impression delivery, the writing is on the wall considering the drive for ad viewability. When these literally dodgy people visit a site, send them a pop-up that advises them to pay for the session, subscribe, register or add site to the targeting white list. If the users choose not to, show them an empty page, very stripped down content or allow an annoying freebie cap. BTW, the pop-up can carry an ad, too.

    Ad Networks
    The real question is what to do with the DWWW that expects free content to be there when they arrive at a network Web site. These users can be sized up and once this is done, it is a question of monetization:

    • Carrot. Though anecdotal research suggests a small percentage of users are actually opting-out and that the size of the audience is relatively small, it does represent a valuable tech-savvy segment. Simply enable ad targeting of the DNT, NAI Opt-outs and the 3rd party cookie blocking crowd. Many ad networks have a means to even exclude likely cookie-deleters from their targeting. Folks, that sounds like a new segment to sell.
    • Stick. Develop or implement ad/pay wall technology. This will force the quid pro quo. For users that want to read their favorite bloggers, they will need to pay up with cash or a small slice of their attention. Smaller long-tail publisher partners will need help pulling this off but ad networks could easily deploy this technology.

    Conclusion
    Whether using the carrot, the stick or both, the solution is that advertisers and publishers need to take action on their own to stop getting ripped-off. Don’t carry this sack of entitled potatoes on your back. Now is the time to measure and monetize this otherwise mass of Dead Weight Web Audience.

    Leveraging an incremental approach that leverages solid adverlytics, these strategies can boost the bottom-line and shape the digital media industry for the future. In doing so, many of these regulatory problems will solve themselves.

    Learn to Say No to Free-riders.

      Facebook Acquisition of Atlas: Sad Day for Digital Advertisers

                                                            The Funeral of Santa Fina”, Domenico Ghirlandaio, 1485

      Facebook just announced the other day  that it would acquire Atlas Solutions, a long-time competitor to Google’s DFA in the agency ad server business. As an adverlytics practitioner, many are asking about this and still more discussing the implications. Though the trade press will gush, investors may cheer and Atlas employees may be breathing a sigh of relief, it is truly a sad day for digital advertisers. Why? The choices available for independent third party ad serving (3PAS) just got much thinner. 

      The Rationale

      To be sure this is a canny move for Baby Google, just as Google’s DoubleClick acquisition engorged the dataplex with rich user-level behavioral data that spanned both both buy-side (DFA) and sell-side (DFP) – it was brilliant. And after several years, the folks at Google decided to invest in the DFA reporting interface and we now have a Google Analytics like wrapper (except it is now green). Not much improvement on core functionality like reach and frequency reporting, but hey – it is better than ReportCentral.

      The fact that DFA has maintained such a large market share since the Google acquisition suggests that client’s aren’t paying close attention to ad serving details. The very notion of pushback from advertisers and agencies is so unlikely that now, Google will also tell you how many of their ads were viewable, too. The Facebook deal is banking on it. For that matter, MediaPlex was absorbed into ValueClick way back in 2001 – they also own an ad network, an affiliate platform and Dotomi.

      For Facebook, this is a very smart move although it relies on digital marketers being easily distracted and not looking too closely. In this deal, it is not really about “closing the loop” for advertisers. FB could ostensibly do this now with the much heralded unicorn called the Conversion Pixel or View-Tags. What they are “closing the loop” on is their understanding and ability to datamine what many other advertisers campaigns are doing, and the targets of those ad campaigns and those behaviors across client sites via the Atlas Universal Tracking Tag infrastructure. It probably won’t be long before Facebook offers their own Analytics platform or maybe a Tag Management System. Like its hero, FB is often times ethically challenged when it comes to who’s data is it any way. Just recently, it was revealed that Facebook has manipulated their advertisers’ campaign performance reporting.

      That said, Atlas as a platform has faded over the years and needs investment to compete. It’s once advanced approach to attribution Engagement Mapping and stream of research from the Atlast Institute was a favorite among the analytics-minded. Yet, under Microsoft this pioneer of ad serving suffered from functional obsolescence as more site-centric and advanced algorithmic measurement has become more available. At the same time, Pointroll and MediaMind pivoted from rich media platforms to full-bodied ad servers. Many digital ad ops people that used Atlas regularly liked it, but later complained about lack of support. The upside is that Atlas won’t be shutting down anytime soon.

      However, digital advertisers and agencies should be on notice now more than ever.

      Recommendations

      1. Don’t Buy Technology and Media From the Same Vendor – In a world of digital marketing and an endless stream of bright shiny objects, it should give client-side marketers and savvy agencies pause that this is a serious conflict-of-interest that work against them. Since these ad serving tools are often counting ad impressions and clicks that they themselves sold – there is an incentive for self-serving manipulation.
        • For a better idea of how campaigns are performing leverage tools like Omniture, ComScore’s DigitalAnalytix. Coremetrics and WebTrends.
        • For more advanced attribution measurement look at independent tools like Adometry, Visual IQ or C3.
      2. Don’t Share your Behavioral Data – For the pleasure of sharing your valuable behavioral data, you are probably paying $0.04 oto $0.08 CPM to Google (through your agency and this may be marked-up). In this respect, far too many digital media agencies are dropping the ball on data stewardship and going with what is expedient. Ultimately reflects on them, but it also speaks to rampant client-side advertiser ambivalence or worse ignorance. 
        • For those that insist are intentionally looking to harness their user data, at least get something in return for example by joining a data co-op like Akamai ADS (now part of MediaMath). Privacy policy implications may vary.

        Advertisers and their agencies need to understand the very high proce they are paying. Time to look away from the Google, ValueClick and now the Facebook ad stack and consider other choices toute suite. In terms of ad servers left, the remaining major independent ad servers include MediaMind and Pointroll (though it is technically owned by Gannett, a newspaper company this is not as big a data play).

        Final Thought: Where is the FTC?

        Not sure where the FTC will come down on this but they essentially rubber-stamped the Google-DoubleClick acquisition back in 2007. Arguably this deal really does limit choice for digital advertisers but don’t count on the FTC doing much to scrutinize this. That digital advertisers and their agencies don’t value independent ad serving (and free of back-door data siphoning) is their problem and eventually it will sort itself out. To be sure the digital media ecosystem is complex and constantly-changing and federal bureacrtas are more focused on other more important matters. Plus, ad-serving just doesn’t make headlines like nefarious cookie tracking and consumer privacy.

        How Crain’s Chicago Got Tech Worker Pay Wrong


        http://chicagorelocationblog.com/wp-content/uploads/Crains-Chicago1.jpg

        In “Chicago trails other cities in tech salaries and jobs“, the reader is presented with a very misleading article about tech worker pay. Between John Pletz, the woman doing the video interview and the people at Dice, I am not sure how they got this so wrong. Tech workers may look like a bargain but shhh…let’s hope the boss isn’t good at math.

        Pletz says:

        “Tech talent is in high demand in Chicago these days, and pay is going up. Unfortunately it still lags what techies make in many other big cities…”

         -
         
        As the resident tech writer for Crain’s Chicago, Pletz should be aware that he may be chasing tech workers away to Silicon Valley. The table shown, ranks Chicago lowest across what looks like average salaries for tech jobs by city. It looks like Silicon Valley workers are actually better off…with what looks like 19% better pay!
        Having lived in there for a few years, that didn’t pass the smell test… 
         

         
        While it is true those tech workers do make more money, the fact is that when you adjust for cost-of-living, the Chicago tech worker is actually better paid by about 11%. Here is one source of such information: http://www.infoplease.com/business/economy/cost-living-index-us-cities.html ; here is how tech worker pay really stacks up:


         
        Using normalized real dollars, looks like Dallas and Atlanta are the best with Silicon Valley and New York at the bottom. Of course these salaries are averages as are the indexes for cost-of-living – your mileage may vary.
         

        Perhaps they were factoring humidity and wind chill?

        The "Not Provided" Search Scam

        With the recent FTC decision to not pursue Google for rigging search results in their favor, TOTSB was reminded to check in on their clever 2011 organic search scam.  If you too, have been having trouble understanding your organic search traffic with continued growth in “not provided”, you are not the only one. The global change was done under the auspices of security (sounds familiar) but had the back-handed benefit of hampering digital marketers understanding of the very organic keywords that were used to find their sites from the search engine. It is a classic algorithm: 3-for-me-and-1-for-you.

        In case, you missed it on October 11, 2011 Google decided to implement Secure Sockets Layer technology for their authenticated (Google, Gmail, YouTube, etc…) search users. In practice, this effectively meant that the referral string that is otherwise passed by Web servers to browsers indicating the referring page URL is truncated. Specifically, while the search engines domain is still included in the referral string, now the actual search queries are excluded. Of course, they certainly track on their end what their users clicked on – this is valuable insight for PageRank..

        While often mistaken as an analytics problem, this is actually the case for all site analytics systems. Moreover, this is an organic search problem only; as long as you are paying for Google’s paid search advertising you can have the full referral data inclusive of search queries.

        40% and Growing
        Back in late 2011, a drone originally calculated the impact as single-digit percentage. Sounds manageable but as more and more stories emerge about much higher percentages this lack of search results transparency becomes more troubling. For your reference, TOTSB decided to take a look at our own site (in both Google Analytics and Piwik) and were shocked to learn as much as 4x the expected amount…and it is  trending higher. Below you can see the “Not Provided” percentage volume increasing since early-2011.




        An indepdent SEO firm’s prepared a study that looked at many Web sites but the same problem persists.



        Implications
        It is pretty clear that if you are interested in optimizing your organic search presence, the hand that giveth has taketh away. With Google’s dominant position in the search market, it essentially means that about half of your organic search keyword results cannot be understood right now. Worse, this remarkably this could continue higher.

        The net effect of this move is that Google is denying site owners (the providers of free content to the search engine) their referral information. It is absolutely outrageous that otherwise discerning digital marketers allow this to happen – perhaps class action legal action will emerge. Maybe the W3C or the IAB should get involved and speak out about this perversion of data control.

        What to Do?
        It is easy enough to track your own Web site’s numbers but beyond that advertisers should start playing hardball and complain – especially those buying paid search. Some are already making noise, including:

        • The organization fairsearch.org will hopefully include “Not Provided” in the scope of their work
        • Notprovidedcount.com: a site tracking “Not Provided” results across 60 different Web sites

        Control Your Ad Preferences 2012!

        Updated for 2012 and just in time for the Holidays, its Control Your Ad Preferences 2012!


        Don’t be a cafone and block ads or delete your cookies…forget what the privacy fanatics and content freeloaders say. TOTSB’s handy reference of major ad control settings panels is here to help. In our continuing effort to ease the privacy data paranoia and highlight consumer control, here is where you can adjust most if not all digital advertising preferences. 2




        Overview for 2012
        Overall, controlling your ad preferences has gotten easier. It is much simpler to do than correcting information on your credit report. What is interesting is that not all of the tools out there allow you to opt-in as in some cases you might be opted-out through no direct action on your part.

        LIMITATIONS: As with all cookie-based systems they are susceptible to cookie blockers, changing computers or delete the NAI opt-out cookie.

        Global Cookie Managers
        These services have emerged as a one-stop shop for consumers.
        1. PrivacyChoice – Very easy to use and includes Yahoo, Bizo, BlueKai, Exelate tabs (definitely easier to use since 2011). Individual publishers can skin this with their ad partners.
        2. Network Advertising Initiaive (NAI) – The industry’s solution and one of the earliest efforts to give consumers control. If you really don’t want ANY display advertising tailored to you, set your opt-out centrally and then get lots of irrelevant ads – enjoy. In 2012, they made it easier to see the opt-in list compared to opt-outs. However, it is easier to opt-out than it is to opt back in.
        3. TrustEWas new in 2011 as an opt-out approach and competitive to NAI. It has more participants than NAI. Not a bad approach but seeing tracking technologies like Adobe Omniture included here is interesting.
        4. PreferenceCentral – Rub by email house Unsubcentral – looks interesting but not sure what control this really provides yet (no change form 2011)
        Specific Advertising Provider Preference Managers
        The data providers of the world mostly work behind the scenes but have a variety of services for consumers to control their advertising.
        1. Blue Kai – by far the most interesting with a new interface. Plenty of behavioral ad targeting fodder in here. Also, you can really see the presence of offline credit ratings companies busily creating a whole new revenue stream off of you; interesting that because it is just as creepy yet harder to see. Still, Blue Kai stands out as offering a benefit to charities.
        2. Exelate -They changed the URL in 2012 and improved the interface. Offers many interest categories that can are based on behavior but can be edited.
        3. Lotame – New URL! Fairly innocuous interest and sub-interest categories with observed behavior.
        4. Bizo – Known as the B2B player in the digital advertising data business. Nice approach actually.
        5. Safecount –  from the DynamicLogic (WPP) family comes a totally different approach; with no behavioral segments but plenty of ad creative and sites you’ve been to; no interest preferences here. Actually shows you the creative units.
        6. Amazon – pretty simplistic control over personalization of Amazon ads.
        7. Blue Cava – mobile targeting manager. 
        8. RapLeaf – Opt-out and preference manager; associates to an email address.

        Major Consumer Portals
        Where people get their email 24×7 and store their personal life’s electronic communiques all for free…somebody has to pay for this storage and bandwidth. Thank you advertisers. Note, these email portal systems are more persistent than anonymous cookie-based platforms since they require users to authenticate. At the same time, they tend to be the most advanced.
        1. Google – Comprehensive and interest-based; no observed behavior included (yet). There is also the Google Dashboard. which offers an integrated way to manage all your Google services – including your search history. Must be signed-in.
        2. Microsoft – Another comprehensive list of interests; no observed behavior.
          Must be signed-in.
        3. Yahoo – Offers a fairly deep interest profile; no observed behavior. Their Ad Interest Manager currently only allows 7 category opt-outs – seems like an odd limit on something that makes the advertising more valuable.
        4. AOL – Pretty simplistic; shows what categories you are in but no control here yet.
        5. AT&TNEW! Control panel based on observed interests; a little clunky but editable.
        If anyone has any other suggestions for the above list, please comment or drop TOTSB a line!
        Also, in case you were looking for a Flash cookie control panel to view and/remove such locally stored objects: http://bit.ly/2fZi


        Last, don’t be evil and enjoy your new Google Toilet ™!