Thursday, September 25, 2008

Battle of the online ad planners: Quantcast vs. Google

While attending the Worldwide Partners Media Conference yesterday, talk turned to online research tools. And while there seemed to be general revulsion at the 'pay more for less' approach being taken by Neilsen and select others, two tools were mentioned that are (currently) free: Quantcast and Google AdPlanner (you must have a Google account). 

Though these tools are touted primarily as ad planning tools, the data that they provide about sites makes them viable research tools.

We've used AdPlanner and have previously posted on it, here. A quick trial of Quantcast indicates many of the same features as AdPlanner, including:
  • It's free
  • Demographics of a site's user base
  • Estimated traffic 
  • Other sites likely visited
  • Search terms used to locate the site
Quantcast uses a combination of cookies and panel data to assess each site's demographics and descriptors. At least that's what they say. Google doesn't say, though I suspect panel data isn't included. 

Like AdPlanner, some sites are too small to have data in Quantcast. Unlike AdPlanner, small sites may still have profiles with a small warning that the data is primarily extrapolated from panel data.  And that can bring up some interesting profile elements. 

One of our client's sites is described with what appear to be accurate demographic and age breaks (or at least consistent with in-market research they have conducted). What's fascinating is that of all the other affinities this demo might have listed, Quantcast indicates that they may be likely to stay in Super8 Motels or The Hilton...hmmm. 

AdPlanner does show a few more elements associated with competitive or related sites and the keywords used by the audience to find them, but overall, the two applications are very similar in the utility for research purposes. Quantcast provides race data in its demographics, which Google does not though one might ask how accurate--or important--that is or should be.

Besides the declared transparency of the source data, the biggest difference between the two applications (in their use as research tools) is the screen layout. Quantcast data is displayed in easy-to-grasp graphics presentations. Both applications take a dashboard-based approach to overall layout.

Here's two grabs researching the same site from AdPlanner and Quantcast.

(Click to enlarge)

Both tools deal in data that homogenizes us into our grosser commonalities. In so far as this is still the approach taken to media planning, both tools would seem to be up to the task of identifying where the collective 'we' go...what we as individuals actually think, beleive, or do is--for now--not included. 

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