A look under the hood of Ad Impact

Because many of our Ad Impact clients ask “How does Compete see ads?” or “What is it you see?” we decided to answer those questions in this forum with a peek “under the hood.”Â  The “hood” in this case isn’t the one covering our servers or software or algorithms, but the one that covers the big, brilliant Internet itself.

If you’re not 100% confident in your understanding of how Web pages “work,” any site will provide a quick lesson and illustrate what Compete “sees.”Â  Let’s say you visit LinkedIn to check up on a recent business contact.  From your perspective, you might type “linkedin.com” into the browser’s address bar, and the page appears in a few seconds.  Then you sign in and click “˜submit.’  What you see next would look (something) like this:

Now, the address bar reads “www.linkedin.com/home”.  That is the metaphorical hood.  When you clicked the submit button, the browser software (Firefox, Internet Explorer, Chrome, Safari) was instructed to request this page from the server (and to send your name & password for authentication).

So what’s under the hood?  In this case, it’s about 6 dozen objects, each with its own URL.  These URLs belong to objects like pictures, icons, some text, some scripts (which can function to call yet more objects), and advertisements.

My profile thumbnail picture, for example, is: http://media03.linkedin.com/mpr/mpr/shrink_40_40/p/3/000/016/1cc/2efd04c.jpg.

Meanwhile, the American Express video ad contributes many of the other 6 dozen objects.  The player frame is built from a handful of files, including one with this URL:

http://static.2mdn.net/1297440/PID_1217468_PoliteSkinShort.swf

(The 2mdn.net domain belongs to the Doubleclick ad hosting service.)

The still image that initially appears in the video frame is a jpeg.  Its URL incidentally contributes some information about who helped build the campaign:

http://amexanthem.cdnprod.digitas.com/sboanthem/Assets/Images/Videos/Thumbnail3/FASTCOMPANY-AnchorandTwist_284x160.jpg

In addition, there is more than one tracking mechanism attached to this ad.  One set belongs to the Boston-based video tracking company Visible Measures.  When the video is clicked to play it, a series of calls is fired off to visiblemeasures.com, every 17 or 18 seconds.  Those URLs look like this:

http://video.od.visiblemeasures.com/log?m=UycjTTBFVQR5EXAGCwtTcXYCASMXBXwhBgFUYQtxAwhWVWYCcCQGBQFncH1wVVUOcVF6JwNaAntnA3x1FwV9dRNRRHkIBwQLAwlzAQR2AAkHZC1bL1JTTQhQf3IADwNyewEIdgIAAXYQAXF1CRNGSg8BcQYGdw4ABHJyDnwFFl0gQCNmB39HKiYMCHQEBQl9BQIEdwkHAx9ZVToNUiAPAA1yegh0D1YLcFF1IQIIACAjVwAkAQJcIQFTAnAfQUtJVw1xFkE1UkIIewB9dA4Ff3YNdAALeAR1cwgAdQIEAHNxAQAGAAZwAXQIewVwAnEBBmQxWngGFksgWiYsX3BVfnIUCwMGBA1wAAsAcAEMBwsLAHQD&p=1

This picture ties these example URLs to the objects they belong to:

And that’s what enables us (Compete) to see what we see.  Thanks to the way web pages are built and the foundational function of URLs, Compete can see exactly how many of our panelists were exposed to the Amex ad on LinkedIn, how many played it, and even how many watched all the way through.  And thanks to the many factors that increase page-load speed, a trend toward more tagging continues — insuring that we get to enjoy a continuously expanding field of vision as we analyze consumer behavior on the Web.