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Measuring Ad Effectivenss on a Cost-Per-Guru Basis

It’s great when advertising drives sales growth that you can attribute back to a particular campaign, such as Jones Soda’s Graffiti drawing contest, which they called out in the companys Q2 2008 earning’s call:

“We ran two very targeted online My Jones programs on Facebook’s Graffiti application along with the very popular I Can Has Cheezburger site. These programs along with increased awareness of My Jones drove our online sales to double versus the same period a year ago.”

But often marketing programs work with more subtlety, building brand preference that ultimately motivates customers to buy products (and, if done exceptionally well, to buy those products at a premium price over competitive wares) even though all the transactions don’t occur as impulse buys triggered by banner ads or 1-800 phone numbers. Sometimes the best marketing is hard to measure.

Microsoft’s recent TV commercial for Windows Vista got me thinking about measurement. The spot, starring Jerry Seinfeld and Bill Gates, is pretty funny, but one might argue that it’s hard to see how it will drive sales or bolster confidence in the Windows Vista brand among computer users. In fact, much of the punditry is panning it (see a round up at Techdirt). Perhaps Microsoft itself has doubts; company representatives are calling reporters to explain the campaign. And Microsoft is hiring 155 Windows Vista “gurus” to deploy in Best Buy, Circuit City and other retail stores to do what the advertising may not — close the deal.

If we had a cost-per-guru scale, where naturally-occurring brand evangelists each added a point and paid gurus each subtracted one, Microsoft would start this campaign with a negative 155.

On the flip side, marketers that take a more conversational approach to advertising can launch campaigns in positive territory on the “CPG” gauge. I’ve posted a few examples here at ChasNote of conversational marketing programs that FM has played a role in. The Luvs unit of P&G, which built an ad campaign around a parenting-content site called TheMomSpeak, came out of the gates with a positive 1, when online retailer Momma’s Jewels plugged the site in its own customers newsletter. Intel’s sponsorship of PopURLs, the Blue Edition sparked 59 blog reactions, all positive as far as I can tell, according to Technorati. Or the 222 reactions to American Express’s OPEN Forum blog, which licenses content from leading small business authors.

I know, I know. I’m comparing apples to kiwis, maybe fish to bicycles. First off, some of those blog reactions may come from a single blogger, so it wouldn’t be fair to give Intel +59 or Amex +222. And maybe some negative sentiments are expressed in posts where I don’t read the language. There’s a difference, too, between a blogger writing a post and pointing his or her readers to a brand, and a guru making a 40-hour-a-week job of evangelizing a brand. Finally, it’s not an indictment of your advertising creative to also have a smart and aggressive retail strategy (like Microsoft’s Vista gurus or Apple’s “genius bar” staffers) or paid employees who share the gospel from public blogs (like GM’s or Sun’s). Hey, my cost-per-guru metric is still in beta!

But our industry would benefit from a deeper look at the amplification effect (or attenuation effect, as the case may be) initiated by advertising. The data is there; we just need to make better sense of it.

Caveats, disclosures and apologies:

FM, my employer, helped facilitate and received payment for the Jones Soda, P&G, Intel and American Express campaigns mentioned above. We have no formal relationship with Jerry Seinfeld.

One noteworthy FM campaign that felt the wrath of negative gurus is written up (defensively, my critics tell me) here.