Consumer data has proliferated since the advent of web and mobile technologies. People interact with one another and with brands through numerous digital and online channels. This has created an environment in which organizations are trying to gain an edge over their competitors by gathering insights from this proliferating data. In such an environment, figuring out how to measure the usefulness of data and the insights that come from it is very important.
Recently, Loyalty360 sat down with Curtis Tingle, Chief Marketing Officer at Valassis, to discuss the issue of measurement. Valassis delivers intelligent media to clients to integrate and optimize marketing campaigns. The company works across print and digital channels, including direct mail, newspaper inserts, and online advertising. It uses geography-based targeting to reach out to millions of households with local print programs and digital advertisements. It also works with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children to publicize photographs of missing children.
First, Tingle explained his company’s process. “We do a series of surveys that go out on a bimonthly basis. We get about 1,000 to 1,500 responses talking about engagement across different media platforms. Part of this series is a customized set of questions asking about contextually relevant categories. We use insights from these surveys to talk about dynamic shopper behavior when it comes to cross-channel shopping and media they use to make their purchase decisions. These are the kinds of things our surveys are designed to figure out.”
He continued, “What we do is leverage real-time, quick insights to try to dig deeper, and to dig deeper is where we make it actionable for marketers. We have what’s called the Valassis Consumer Graph, where we take 110 million households and we map those households to 1.4 billion devices, and we take into consideration what those households are looking for, what they search for, their interests, and their location. It’s all privacy-protected. It’s all agreed to and opted into, and we use a device-homing technology to figure out that an iPhone and an iPad are being used by the same person or that a set of five phones lives in the same household. We use this data to enhance the relevance of all marketing, across print and digital, and we deliver our direct mail package to 116 million homes every week. So now we can have a truly integrated print and digital campaign.”
This enables Valassis to “activate” consumers. “We view ourselves as in the business of consumer activation,” said Tingle. “We bring relevant insights together, leveraging the right data, to anticipate consumer behavior and deliver integrated media campaigns that drive consumers to purchase. We do these studies to change the perception of our company, but our main goal is to unearth how the consumer is shopping differently to drive the final activation of the consumer. We want to make sure marketers are there at the right time of engagement, not just in 116 million homes but in the right homes.”
How does his company achieve this kind of activation? Measurement. “We’re very involved in measurement with our clients,” said Tingle. “Using a set of both proprietary data and data from location-based technology companies, we identify in a test-controlled environment what the impact of a brand’s media is in driving traffic to your locations, your restaurants, your retailers in particular.”
He added, “In other cases, we’re leveraging standard third-party data platforms like IRI or Nielsen to help brands understand sales lift, in particular sales lift at critical retailers. That’s all part of the process. For each category we have a different set of data. For example, if it’s auto purchase data, we can work with dealers to better understand who the consumers are that are coming in and around their dealerships, and what their buying habits are, and we leverage that data to build a more relevant media strategy informed by a more holistic view of who that consumer is. We also want to try to understand who’s a likely customer that isn’t shopping in their store today.”
An important feature of measurement, Tingle said, is that attribution models have to be set up with bias. “It has to say, here’s how we’re going to treat the final attribution of the sale. It is difficult to set up clean tests where you can hold variables constant and really understand the incrementality of specific media and also manage for pricing variances, whether impacts, seasonality, competitive response. It’s a very challenging thing to do, which is why it’s a never-ending process. You have to be constantly measuring and optimizing and learning. That’s something that you want to do at a very localized level, but it still depends on your ultimate objective.”
When asked what the biggest challenges in the current marketing environment are, he replied, “Having an accurate view of the audience and being able to make that view scalable. Another challenge is that so many vendors have look-alike, sound-alike capabilities. How do you differentiate what’s real? Which vendor should I work with? Which media should I work with? How do I best set up that ecosystem that’s going to help my marketing produce great results? That’s another huge challenge.”
To meet these challenges, Valassis has amassed a number of capabilities on top of the ones already mentioned, including data and analytics, mobile, and in-store. It supports brands in the grocery, retail, restaurant, telecom, and financial industries, and it has over 58,000 national, regional, and local advertisers. Clearly, the company is doing something right.

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