Streamed London Olympics Offer Golden Opportunity to Test Online Ads

Jul 26, 2012

Article ImageWith a global audience, not only of sports enthusiasts but family viewers as well, the Olympic Games are a potential goldmine for advertisers. But the Games starting in London offer greater opportunities than ever before, because these are the first ever to be streamed online in their entirety.

The advertising industry got its first opportunity to test the effectiveness of campaigns based on live streamed events earlier this year with the Super Bowl. But that may not have been a fair test of online sports broadcasting, says campaign optimization specialist Maxifier, since people tend to congregate around the TV to watch it. The true first test, it believes, is the London Olympics.

New findings from the deal aggregation site suggest that women will be more active than men on social media during the Olympics - and one thing that online ads can do, for example, is vary their offerings to suit prevailing demographics. "With the ability to tailor ads based on consumer interests and demographics, viewers could see a much different ad layout in the closing ceremonies than the opening ceremonies," Maxifier suggests in a press release.

Maxifier's ADMAX product allows advertisers to gauge the performance of their online ads in real time, looking at factors such as click-thru rates or user engagement. Working with publishers such as The Guardian, Forbes, IPC, and Bauer Media, its Campaign Performance Optimization Visualizer pulls together the performance data of all campaigns on a single screen and provides recommendations for optimization based on actual site and user performance history.

However, Maxifier's vice president of product Lylan Masterman emphasizes that the company doesn't interfere in the advertiser's creative process. Asked for example about the health-related criticism attracted by major Olympic sponsors such as McDonald's, he says: "We optimize online advertisements based on the parameters established between the publishers (i.e. websites) and their advertisers. If a publisher chooses to optimize in such a way that healthy eating campaigns get more ad impressions, we will help that publisher accomplish this goal, as long as they have the supporting creative."

Many of the live events in London are streamed before people in America are awake, and Masterman confirms that ADMAX takes this in its stride too. Its performance metrics include reports to advertisers by time of day, and can help them optimize their ads depending on which versions are performing best at particular times.

In one of the wackier Games-related events, Olympic sponsor EDF Energy will be analysing Tweets to gauge people's enthusiasm for the event as it progresses, and displaying the results each evening as a pie chart on the London Eye big wheel.  It's not meant to be taken very seriously, but advertisers do seem to be placing increasing reliance on sentiment analytics, despite mixed views on its value.

Maxifier will optimize ad performance based on such data if a publisher asks it to do so, Masterman confirms, but he seems non-committal about its effectiveness. "Ultimately we are agnostic to which forms of data a publisher asks us to optimize against," he says. "There are many forms of analytics that are in their infancy and that we optimize against if the publisher so chooses. Ultimately the publisher is the client and we are a software solution."

But advertising in this new era is still somewhat uncharted territory. Just a week or so before the Games, NBC had booked only $950 million in advertising despite paying $1.18 billion for the right to screen the Olympics in the U.S., and it is expecting to make a loss on the whole event. NBC does admit an element of experimentation, Masterman acknowledges, but he adds that it has doubled its digital ad sales compared with the 2008 Beijing Games.

He also stresses that ADMAX needs to be used every day, not sporadically around large events, to ensure that web publishers deliver on their advertisers' goals. Nevertheless, this is a good year to test the water; besides the Olympics, there has also been Euro 2012, with the U.S. presidential election still to come. "Next year lacks the big events of 2012 that have helped boost revenues," Masterman points out. For the advertising industry, that's a concern.

("Gold Medal and Ribbon" from Shutterstock.)

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