Out of Home Performance and Attribution

Will Flaherty, Director of Growth at SeatGeek, presented at our annual FirstMark Marketing Summit on best practices for offline advertising and tracking attribution. You can download his presentation here.

Will Flaherty is the Director of Growth at SeatGeek, an event ticket search engine based in New York City. If you’ve been on the subway in NYC, you may have seen your car covered in Will's ads. While many companies are quick to plow their ad dollars into digital campaigns, SeatGeek has found success with offline efforts. 

Will says offline campaigns pair tremendous scale with unique media arbitrage opportunities. For instance, Pittsburgh has a large secondary ticket market for sports and also a low cost of media. It creates great opportunities to invest in formats like radio at a much lower cost than in some larger markets like New York or Chicago. 

Offline also offers a broader canvas to communicate a brand story. Flaherty is a fan of 60-second live-reads on radio or podcasts where the on-air personality can elaborate on product features or provide a personal anecdote. “There’s an opportunity to tell a bigger story than just what you can do with a paid search ad,” Flaherty said. 

In another example, SeatGeek partnered with three other startups on a direct mail campaign. By pooling the cost, they were able to drive down the cost of each targeted mailer to around 6 cents. 

Of course, the trouble with offline media is it is difficult to track and nearly impossible to do so at the granularity offered on digital platforms. It also can take longer to collect the data. In the example of a direct mail campaign, it can take three weeks to prepare the campaign, print the mailers, deliver them to homes and wait to measure response. “It’s not going to be as instantaneous as a Facebook newsfeed ad,” Flaherty said. 

Still, SeatGeek has attempted to measure the impact of offline advertising in multiple ways, with varying benefits depending on the campaign. Below is an overview of tactics.  

Consumer surveys. SeatGeek runs brand awareness surveys using Google Consumer Surveys (i.e. which of the following ticketing companies are you familiar with?). The results help the company measure whether geographically targeted offline campaigns drive increased awareness.

Market lift analysis. SeatGeek looks at lift from offline advertising in markets where they advertise. However, this rarely provides a clean view because of seasonality, sports team performance, and company growth. This method is also ill-suited to measure the long-term effects of offline marketing when multiple campaigns are running in the same market. It can be difficult to parse at a single campaign.

Promo codes. Promo codes provide direct attribution to an advertising campaign at checkout. But, many users neglect to enter their promo code, and it is therefore common practice to apply a multiplier to promocode sales in order to account for this. 

Post-transactional survey. Users are asked after making a purchase how they heard about SeatGeek either via email or a modal on site or in app, with follow-up questions designed to collect more granular attribution data. 

In the case of the subway campaign, the first three methods were less helpful. Promo codes implied that the campaign was not performing well and with several active marketing campaigns ongoing in NYC, it was difficult to get a sense for market lift. 

Flaherty said the most helpful data in this example came from post-transactional surveys. Of all new users, 24% responded to the post-transactional email, with 20% of respondents crediting the subway ads for how they heard about SeatGeek. SeatGeek then calculated return on ad spend, finding a 10x higher return than implied by promo code redemptions. 

In the days where it’s easier than ever for marketers to deploy targeted, measurable digital campaigns at the push of a button, Flaherty said it’s still important to consider offline options too. While attribution remains a tough and evolving issue, offline advertising delivered meaningful results for SeatGeek.