How Are Phone Numbers Used to Track Results of Ads in Newspapers and Magazines?

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by Vicki MacDonald, MediaBids

You might be wondering how a phone number can be used to determine how many people respond to a print ad. This brief article explains how unique phone numbers in ads can be used to track response.

First, it is important to understand that any advertised phone number can be routed to any other destination number. For example, a phone number for a local business can be routed to ring at a call center across the country, or a cell phone, or a land line hanging on the wall of that business. Think of an advertised phone number as a transparent entry point into a phone system, the number that a customer dials does not necessarily have any geographic relationship to where it rings.

The most common way to use phone numbers in print ads is to advertise using a unique phone number to determine how many people have called from each individual ad. This is possible because when a call is made and then transferred, the initial number called is able to gather and retain data on the call and caller. What this means is that by placing a phone number in a print ad and then routing it to a customer, the data associated with that call is available to the owner of the phone number in the ad, even though it rings somewhere else. Using this technique, it is easy to see how many people called an ad, how long they spent on the phone, the geographic location where the call originated and which party hung up the phone first.

Here are some things to watch when using numbers to track results:

  1. Is the transfer of the call from the advertised number to the destination occurring seamlessly?
    1. In most cases this is not an issue, but occasionally the transfer from the advertised number to the destination number can result in problems. Any glitch, static or pause can dramatically impact the results generated from an ad because callers are likely to abandon a call with poor quality or that doesn’t sound right.
      1. Our suggestion (and this is what we do at MediaBids): test the number before it is in use. Try it from a cell phone and a land line. Get someone from a different geographical area, using a different phone carrier, to try it too. If you aren’t getting a clean and instantaneous transfer, don’t use the number and contact your number provider for a solution. 
  2. Is the phone number that is being used “clean?”
    1. One big mistake that is often made when a phone number is being used to track results is assuming that just because the number is no longer in use by anyone else, no one else is calling it. For example, the number placed in an ad may have been in use for a long period of time by another business. For all you know, a plumbing business may have handed out thousands of refrigerator magnets with your tracking number on it. Just because the plumbers no longer use the number does not stop anyone with a clogged sink from calling it. This creates problems when tracking results generated by an ad because obviously, unless you want to unclog sinks, the callers are not going to be interested in what is being advertised.
      1. Our suggestion (and this is what we do at MediaBids): It is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to secure a never-before-used number. Anytime you get a number, ask for the phone records of all calls that have come into that number for 30 or 60 days prior to your intended start date. If you see that the number is getting calls from prior use, you should not use it. Those calls are unlikely to stop. Most phone number providers will disclose how long they rest a number before recirculating it but regardless of how long the number has been out of circulation, we recommend checking how many calls it is still receiving before you start using it.
  3. How do I acquire a phone number to use in an ad?
    1. There are many providers of phone numbers and what differentiates providers is often the way in which they display the data that is generated by a phone call. You can get a trackable phone number from a local phone company but it is unlikely to come with any access to a dashboard that allows you to see the results in real time.
      1. Here are a few telephone number providers we can recommend:
        1. Invoca ( www.invoca.com ) This is the company we use at Mediabids for all of our phone numbers. They have an excellent dashboard available for viewing results.
        1. Others worth considering are: Ringba ( www.ringba.com ); Retreaver (www.retreaver.com); and Call Source (www.callsource.com)

If you would like more information, or have any questions we can assist with, please email vmacdonald@mediabids.com

It’s gonna be big! Because it’s like the classified section (sorta.)

Amazon

I don’t know about you but Amazon is far more a part of my life than I care to admit. Amazon is on my TV. It’s on my phone. It’s often on my doorstep..at least a couple times a week. In other words, I’m at peak Amazon! So to my surprise I’m here writing about the company….in my defense, at least I’m somewhat reluctant about it.

As we all know Amazon is big, really big. In terms of market value, Amazon is the second largest company in the world and it’ll likely hit $1 trillion soon. Given that Amazon is already so much a part of my life, I actually don’t pay that close attention to all the news about the company. I mean it is endless. But despite this my eye did catch a surprising headline- ‘Amazon Sets It’s Sights on the $88 billion Online Ad Market” -from Monday’s New York Times.

Google and Facebook dominate the nearly $100 billion online ad market. But ad dollars are starting to be diverted from these giants of the digital ad market to the giant of online shopping, Amazon. The reason why I’m saying that Amazon is likely going to play well in online ad buying (in the title of this post), is due to the fact that Amazon.com is kinda, sorta like a classified ad section of your local paper. I can imagine everyone doing a big eye roll at that last statement but bare with me.

Years ago, as many of you likely remember, the classified ad section was a huge source of revenue for newspapers. But even today, at Mediabids, we have print advertisers that generate tens of thousands of calls a year from classified liner ads alone. The reason is because the classified section is still where people go to shop.

Now consider this quote in reference to why Verizon sees Amazon as a good place to advertise (even though Verizon doesn’t sell anything on the Amazon site):

”It’s where the shoppers are. They have people who are in a shopping mind-set, so that’s valuable for Verizon to be seen as a resource within that mind-set,” said John Nitti, the chief media officer at Verizon.

Amazon has 100 million Prime members and judging by how often I see Amazon boxes on my doorstep (and Amazon’s market value) there’s a lot of shopping going on.

This is a long way of saying that publishers need to be thinking in terms of being places ”where people shop.” Brands are increasingly becoming performance marketers and performance marketers are migrating to the publications and platforms that offer the best places to reach people in the ”shopping mind-set.”