How Torstar Digital is making use of its data

ORLANDO – For a digital marketer, the sight of a chart or a graph showing data on how a campaign is doing is nothing new. After all, a big part of digital marketing is trying to prove the ROI of ad spend, and whether that’s turned into any new leads or sales.

But for the marketers at Torstar Digital, while using data to make charts and visualizations was a good idea, they wanted to take data farther. The company is part of Torstar Corp., which owns not just the Toronto Star, but also job hunting marketplace Workpolis, group buying site, and digital marketing agencies Olive Media and eyeReturn Marketing.

What Torstar’s digital marketing arm wanted to do was to track its ad performances across all of its properties, ad networks, and all of the publishers it works with, including The New York Times,,, People Magazine, and Daily Motion.

However, it faced a problem – Torstar oversees a huge, diverse group of sites, as well as a range of different systems. For example, it has a data server called Motion, which allows it to serve mobile ads. It also has AdTech, which helps it sell site-specific inventory, as well as AppNexus for data targeting. And then there’s NetSuite, which helps it create contracts.

But then, in 2010, Torstar Digital signed on with Information Builders, a New York-based business intelligence company, and implemented its iWay product. That changed Torstar’s ability to keep track of its campaigns, said Gary Neff, a business intelligence specialist at Torstar Digital.

“Because of the fact that we’re in digital media, there are different mediums that we have to use to be able to advertise on the various platforms,” he said, in an interview at Information Builders’ user summit.

“The reason why we chose Information Builders was we have multiple data sources that we needed to bring into a single data warehouse to better report our information.”

Information Builders helped Torstar build a data warehouse, housing all of the contracts and invoices in one place. The product also allows data to go back and forth between Torstar’s uses of AdTech and NetSuite.

This means marketers are able to see their campaigns’ performance, whether those campaigns are based on pre-roll video, native advertising, brand response, or rich media.

“A huge amount of what we’ve gained from this is optimization,” Neff said. “One thing we’ve been able to gain insights on is, whenever a campaign has started, but it’s just not even taking off at all.”

“Or sometimes, if somebody has made a trafficking error, or has missed a campaign that should have gone live, again, we have the ability now to see, OK, this campaign has started, but there’s no delivery of the information at all. So what’s going on here, why is that happening?”

Plus, Torstar has gained more opportunities from its data warehouse – for example, the sales team can follow up on its customers. If a customer purchases $100,000 in inventory at one point, Torstar can look at the information stored in its data warehouse to figure out what factors led to that purchasing decision and then try to replicate that success.

While Neff couldn’t place a number on how much Torstar has boosted its ad performances, after working with Information Builders to implement a data warehouse, he did say he feels a lot of his day-to-day work has improved. He’s hoping to be able to expand the data warehouse to other ad servers as well, besides AdTech and NetSuite.

“A big portion of our business is data-related,” he said. “Just the ability to bring all those pieces together was our main focus.”

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Candice So
Candice So
Candice is a graduate of Carleton University and has worked in several newsrooms as a freelance reporter and intern, including the Edmonton Journal, the Ottawa Citizen, the Globe and Mail, and the Windsor Star. Candice is a dog lover and a coffee drinker.

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