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Magazines > Marketing Library Services > May/June 2023

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MLS - Marketing Library Services
Vol. 37 No. 3 — May/Jun 2023
Using Ad Attribution Tech to Measure the Effectiveness of Digital Advertising
by Trenton Smiley

During my long library marketing career, radio and television ads were always part of my advertising mix. But, over the last 7 years or so, I began moving away from the use of these traditional marketing channels in favor of digital marketing.

One of the major advantages of digital advertising over traditional is the ability to track the effectiveness of your campaigns via analytics. This real-time reporting helps us as library marketers obtain a better understanding of the behavior of our intended audience. The valuable data collected allows us to better adapt to noticeable trends like engagement generated by certain demographics, interests, messaging, and the types of services being promoted.

But as the digital marketing landscape continues to evolve, we are now seeing its impact on traditional advertising channels like radio and television. Recently, some of the radio and television stations in my market (Lansing, Mich.) have begun offering the ability to track ad attribution, which has changed my view of using these advertising channels.

TV ad attribution by daypart (click for full-size image)
Program attribution per ad (click for full-size image)
Overview (click for full-size image)
User sessions (click for full-size image)

What Is Ad Attribution?

Ad attribution is a service offered by radio and television stations that measures the impact an on-air ad has on generating traffic to the client’s website. To define it generally, it’s about digitally tracking which ad, on which platform, at which time of day, results in corresponding traffic on your website.

I have worked with both radio and television stations that measure these results by linking to the client’s Google Analytics account. This combined analysis matches time-stamped, post-log data to corresponding spikes in web traffic 10 minutes after one of my ads runs.

Since this service allows you to track traditional TV and radio advertising like you can track online ads, it’s a great value-added feature to an on-air campaign.

Benefits of Ad Attribution

There are four main benefits of ad attribution:

  • It is a free add-on feature that would go along with your paid radio or television ad schedule.
  • Attribution data allows you to better understand what motivates your target audience to act, like, for example, visiting your website.
  • Data provides insights that improve the return on investment of your television and radio campaigns.
  • Data can answer key questions like, Which promotional creative drove the most visits? What daypart was the most effective? What program generates the most engagement?

Getting Started

Here are seven simple steps to take if any stations in your market offer ad attribution.

1. Identify the radio or TV station that provides access to your target audience.

2. Inform the station of your marketing objectives and ad budget.

3. Determine the ad schedule.

4. Supply the station with copy points and elements to create an ad, or provide it with your own pre-produced spot.

5. Give the station access to your Google Analytics account.

6. Run the ad schedule.

7. The station will provide results either through a monthly report or through access to an ad dashboard. Based on results, adjust scheduling or content.

My Experience Using TV Ad Attribution

I began using ad attribution with Gray Media Group, which runs three television stations (WILX, GILX, and EILX) in my market. Its ad attribution service is branded as Gray Edge Broadcast Attribution. WILX is one of the top television stations here, which means its rates are high, so we placed much of our ad buy on GILX and EILX, which have smaller audiences but rates under $20. The cheaper rates allow my library to advertise monthly on these stations, which run classic shows. Viewers of GILX don’t need a paid service to get the station.

The creative we’re using is an ad campaign called Fact or Fiction, a series of 15-second ads that feature our executive director promoting services such as our Library of Things, digital collection, and member rewards. The ads also touch on topics like library funding and how much our members save annually from using our services. (You can see some on Vimeo:

Prior to running the ads, the television station’s digital department linked to our Google Analytics account and provided me with access to a digital dashboard so I could track results daily, weekly, and monthly. I prefer using a dashboard instead of receiving a monthly report from the station, since that allows me to react to trends more quickly.

The digital dashboard provides me with a great deal of useful information that I can see 24/7. The data is easy to understand, and I can download it to share with my leadership team and library staff.

The dashboard’s basic information offers three important datapoints:

  • The number of ads that have run over a specified period and station
  • The number of website visits attributed to my ads
  • The number of website visitors attributed to my ads

The dashboard’s advanced information deserves a little more explanation:

Attributed Visitors by Creative: Attribution per ad takes the total number of attributed website visits divided by the total commercials that ran to show the average number of visits our website gets each time our spot airs. We are also given the percent of average attribution by creative. This information allows me to see what types of messaging and services are resonating with viewers.

In a recent report, we discovered that ads about our member rewards program, our 25-year anniversary, and the bus passes available through our Library of Things generated 6,700 visits to our website. Data over a more expanded period is showing me that our Library of Things collection is a great service for building engagement among both current patrons and non-users. So, moving forward, CADL will continue to feature this collection.

Daypart Details: This information shows me the number of ads that have run and the number of attributed website visits during a certain “daypart.” For media-buying purposes, days are broken down into Early Morning, Daytime, Early Evening, Night, and Late Night slots. This data tells me what time of day viewers are more engaged with our ads.

In a recent report, we found that 78% of our ads ran during the Daytime daypart. Our ads ran 248 times during that time slot and generated 3,200 visits to our website. Data also showed that Wednesdays are the best day for attributed web visits. There were 1,675 unique website visits generated from ads running 110 times. This information will be extremely helpful in scheduling future ads.

Programming: This provides me with a list of television programs viewers were watching when they saw our commercial and then visited our website. The data also includes the number of ads played during the program, attributed sessions, and average attribution per ad.

In a recent report, we found that the highest average attributions were from two newscasts (30.50% and 26.50%) and TV shows Wagon Train (20.83%), Matlock (18.65%), and Adam 12 (18.64%). Again, this information will help in future scheduling and even in determining what will be promoted. For example, we may try to promote Western titles during Wagon Train to see if there’s an increase in web traffic.

My Experience Using Radio Ad Attribution

For my radio ad attribution, I use Townsquare Analytics. This service is provided by Townsquare Media, which has a cluster of seven stations in our market. We run commercials on WFMK, WJIM, and WMMQ.

The creative consisted of a promo for our special screening of The Super Mario Bros. Movie and ads featuring national radio personality John Tesh, who promoted both our sponsorship of his radio show and our new Transparent Online Language service. There were also spots from our Ty the Library Guy campaign. Ty is a fictional character who promotes our services.

The radio station linked to our Google Analytics account to track ad attribution. Again, the system tracks a spike in web traffic within 10 minutes of a library ad running. In this case, I don’t have access to a dashboard, so my account executive must provide me with the reporting. However, as with the TV ads reports, the data from the radio station is also easy to read and understand. Here’s an explanation of the data we get from our radio ads:

Attributed Visitors by Creative: This shows the total number of unique website visits based on what the library commercial is promoting.

In a recent report, I saw that our ad for The Super Mario Bros. Movie played 21 times and generated 418 web visits. The average number of website visits per airing was 19.90 listeners. I also learned that two of our ads with Ty the Library Guy ( played 35 times and generated 619 visits. The average number of website visits per airing of those was 18.00 and 17.35, respectively.

Daypart Details: These datapoints show me the number of ads that have run and the amount of attributed website visits during the radio station’s daypart breakdown, which is Morning Drivetime, Midday, Afternoon, Evening, and Overnight.

Based on current reporting, the top daypart for our library is Midday, which generates 23.84 visits per airing. Friday is the best day of the week, providing us with the highest website visits, with an average of 22.65 per airing. So, I should take this into account when future ads are scheduled.

Game Changers: In Ads and Life

Ad attribution is truly a game changer for your radio and television advertising. Like other digital advertising products, it provides you with worthwhile insights into how your campaigns are being received by the public. More importantly, it helps you measure results and adapt to trends. For those of you looking for a cost-effective way to promote your libraries, ad attribution will truly increase your return on investment while reducing waste of precious resources. So, I strongly recommend that you reach out to your local media stations today and give this service a test drive.

On a personal note, this will be the final MLS column I write as the director of marketing and communications at Capital Area District Libraries and as part of the Michigan library community. I am excited to announce that I have accepted the newly created position of communications and engagement director at the Free Library of Philadelphia. I’ll continue writing this AdTech column, but will submit my next one from Pennsylvania. I hope this new chapter in my career will help me provide you with new AdTech tools that can help transform your library marketing efforts.

Trenton Smiley is director of marketing and communications at Capital Area District Libraries, which has 13 branches across Ingham County, Mich. He is also the treasurer for the Library Marketing and Communications Group board, which oversees the Library Marketing and Communications Conference. He has more than 20 years of library marketing experience. His email address is
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