Following Up: My Summer at DigitasLBi

First off, I want to say thank you to Professor Kane for helping me get ready for Wednesday evening’s presentation. Going first was intimidating, but I’m happy to have it finished! Second, thank you to the entire class for going easy on me because I was first- I really appreciated the questions!

Hopefully, I answered them thoroughly for you to understand the online advertising world! If you are looking for more information, this blog post is for you! Those two topics were the ones I chose to briefly talk about in my presentation because, let me tell you, the five minutes goes very quickly! But for this blog, I’m going to go a little deeper and bring up some other things I learned this summer that blew my mind. mindblown

A little review: every online advertisement has a click tracker, a single pixel that fires (or loads) when clicked on. Pretty self-explanatory, right? What impressed me was the amount of data it can collect. Click trackers give DigitasLBi the data it needs to be one of the best advertising agencies.

With over thousands of advertisements placed on the Internet, clients can really break down each and every media buy by analyzing those click trackers. Of course, there are advertisements that work and others that don’t.

Maybe it is because of the timing it is seen, the wording, the coloring, where it is placed on your screen, etc. But, one major benefit to online advertising is that companies like Digitas and clients can easily experiment and try new things. If advertisements aren’t working it is an easy and efficient process to pull or take down that advertisement, instead of continuously paying for ads that do not work like a billboard. Incredible efficiency allows for companies to optimize their media and advertisement spends, save themselves from wasting money, and placing advertisements in the best spot possible to make the most money, drive the most traffic, and catch the most eyes.

A floodlight (that small piece of code placed on a client’s website) really gives marketers the ability to target specific audiences and users based on their journey.

eyerollNow that I know how retargeting works online and how and why that cute top I was debating to purchase on Madewell’s website keeps showing up in my news feed, I appreciate the hard work that goes behind all of those catered advertisements even though it is still irritating cause I want that shirt so bad but my bank account can’t take it.

Floodlights work with help of Cookies, but this might still creep you out. Let me assure you that the information that they are collecting should not concern you. Cookies and Floodlights are not allowed to collect Personally Identifiable Information (PII), which, as the name clearly states, cannot collect anything that can be traced back to anyone specifically. So don’t fret!

What a floodlight collects depends on what the clients need. For example, we can collect an Order ID number, Customer ID number, (both randomly generated numbers) the Quantity of items purchased, the Revenue associated with the items purchased, and the Sku, which is the product line.

These data points collected, including the amount of clicks for each advertisements, are all pulled together for a weekly report that Digitas analyzes and therefore optimizes the media plan. Below is a screenshot of a weekly report based on the Conversion Floodlight (the floodlight that collects data when someone purchases an item on a client’s website). This report allows Digitas to not only see what is working and what isn’t, but also to correctly attribute revenue to the appropriate media partners like Facebook, Google Display Network, etc.


The next thing that surprised me this summer was the amount of money spent on keeping a brand safe. Digitas has an impressive client list and most of them have very strict regulations about branding themselves. Brand Safety is a rising concern as the Internet grows with unethical, improper, and unprofessional content. Brand Safety includes controlling its messaging, its coloring, where its advertisements are seen, and surprisingly, where advertisements shouldn’t be seen. I had never thought about how important it is to NOT have your company’s advertisement appear next to something that is not aligned with the brand you have spent millions creating and protecting. Some brands spend thousands of dollars to keep their brand safe. For example, companies do not want their brand to be associated with unprofessional websites, uncredited websites, etc. This also includes pornography websites, fake news websites, etc. Yeah, the bad stuff.


Brand Safety is maintained in many ways. This includes black lists, the websites or advertisement inventory that they will not run advertisements because it isn’t aligned. And unfortunately, with today’s frequent incidents of terrorism and natural disasters, brand safety is also maintained with updating search engines keywords. Suspects names, group affiliations, and incident details are avoided to ensure that a client’s brand is not associated with that unfortunate circumstance. For example, a tire company or a car manufacturing company does not want to be associated with a drunk driving case. This means that these companies spend money to guarantee their ads will not be shown near anything associated with Drunk Driving.

These are just a couple of more things that I learned this summer. Again, this has all caused me to have a greater appreciation for how online advertising works and how strategic it is. Please comment below if you have any further questions or topics you want to learn more about- I will do my best to answer!


  1. clairemmarvin · ·

    Hi Whitney! I loved your presentation and this follow-up. I never really thought about how the rising trend towards online advertisements gives companies more flexibility to experiment with their ads and easily change around ones that aren’t working well. I guess it acts as kind of a win-win because less and less people seem to be paying attention to print advertisements anyways (I at least always skip past them in magazines or newspapers) so more flexibility coupled with more eyeballs online makes advertising more efficient online. I have also always worried about cookies collecting too much of my valuable information so I am glad to hear that they can’t actually collect any of my PII. Thanks for sharing!

  2. mattwardbc · ·

    Great Post Whitney, I thought your presentation was a great look into what an ad agency looks like in an extremely digital world. I had never really thought about the importance of making sure companies ads do not show up on certain sites and can see how that can be super important to the integrity of the brand. I would be interested in learning more on how they are able to limit which types of websites ads appear on when most of them are based off algorithms that may miss something and place an ad in the wrong spot.

    1. whitmcdonald2 · ·

      Claire and Matt! Thanks! I appreciate the interest. To further the discussion about how companies chose websites/advertisement inventory- I will have another blog about the process of buying ad inventory programmatically, which is super cool! More to come :)

  3. alyssacasale4 · ·

    I loved your presentation and this blog post! It was very interesting to learn about all of the strategies that companies use to understand how their marketing is performing. I particularly found the information about floodlights really interesting. Right before I came back to school, my friends and I had a conversation about how creeped out we were that the clothes we had looked at the day before were coming up in our newsfeeds. This blog post definitely makes me feel better about how much information companies have about us, and is something that I will pass along to my friends. Keep up with these kinds of blog posts– I find this topic really interesting!

  4. Nice followup to a solid presentation.

  5. I’ve always wondered why, after I buy the shoes, they still show up for weeks. Is that something advertisers just don’t care about? Or do they not have the ability to track?

    1. whitmcdonald2 · ·

      Adrienne- that could depend on a lot of things- maybe the company doesn’t use their conversion data efficiently, maybe you searched the shoes on a different website, etc.!

  6. Great post, Whitney. I actually know many people that worked at Digitas and loved it. I found your presentation also extremely informative and interesting. It is great to see how companies use coding to find their target markets. I’m definitely going to be paying attention to URLs from now on.

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