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SYSTEM AND METHOD FOR REAL-TIME
REPORTING OF ADVERTISING
FIELD OF THE INVENTION 5
The present invention relates to telecommunications systems, and more particularly to the use of telecommunications systems to report on the call traffic to particular directory numbers.
BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
Advertisers today struggle with trying to identify which advertising is effective and, more importantly, which is not. Advertisers may spend several thousand dollars or more producing advertising campaigns in an attempt to capture 15 the attention of an intended market. Those advertisers try to target their advertising to particular groups of consumers by tailoring the advertising campaign media, the frequency of the campaign, the nature of the advertisements, and many other techniques. Advertisers may place advertisements in 20 newspapers, magazines, trade journals, direct mailings, yellow pages and television. Unfortunately, advertisers do not have an accurate and timely mechanism for gauging the effectiveness of their advertising campaigns. An age old quote sums up the dilemma of the advertisers: "Half the 25 money I spend on advertising is wasted, and the trouble is, I don't know which half."
Some attempts are being made to identify which advertising campaigns are effective. Examples are the use of different directory numbers (phone numbers) for each adver- 30 tising campaign. In that way, advertisers may analyze their phone bills at the end of the month and count the number of calls placed to particular directory numbers. That mechanism is crude, inefficient, and untimely. Business people that are focusing on increasing sales and building products or 35 training service people do not have the time to count phone numbers on their phone bills. An automated system that is capable of providing the advertiser with tailored and accurate reports on which advertising campaigns are effective has eluded those skilled in the art. 40
In addition, the advertiser may be conducting a costly advertising campaign that would be best discontinued immediately if only the advertiser could evaluate immediately whether the campaign was effective. Monthly phone bills or reporting are inadequate to service that advertiser's needs. In 45 addition, such reporting does not capture a crucial piece of information to the advertiser-what calls were attempted to the advertiser but were not completed because of a busy signal or no answer. That information is not available through conventional telephone billing or reporting services. 50 However, that information is extremely valuable to the advertiser. The advertiser would very much like to identify those potential consumers for whom the advertising was effective, but whose needs were unsatisfied because of a no answer or a busy signal. 55
An effective mechanism for an advertiser to monitor advertising effectiveness has eluded those skilled in the art. Accordingly, a need exists for a system or method for evaluating and reporting on the effectiveness of an advertising campaign being conducted by an advertiser and which 60 is capable of generating a report in near-real-time so that an advertiser always has current information upon which to base its advertising decisions.
SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION 65
The present invention overcomes the problems identified above by providing a system and method for accurately and
timely identifying which of an advertiser's advertising campaigns are effective. Briefly described, the invention provides a telecommunications environment configured to monitor information related to caller traffic responding to advertising campaigns. That information is passed to a network-accessible server and formatted for retrieval over the network. A subscriber to the reporting-service may connect, via the network, to the server and request a report, based on the caller traffic information, for a selected advertising campaign.
More specifically, the telecommunications environment includes a switch for connecting calls placed by a caller in response to an advertising campaign. The advertising campaign is identified by a particular directory number (the "campaign number"). The switch monitors calling information related to the call and forwards that calling information to a data recorder. The calling information includes the directory number of the party placing the call, the directory number called, whether the call was connected, the duration of the call, and other information. The data recorder passes the calling information for each advertising campaign to a web server where the calling information is accessible over the Internet. In this manner, the subscriber may connect to the web server over the Internet and request a report on the effectiveness of the advertising campaign.
In one aspect of the invention, the web server automates the task of identifying the calls made in response to an advertising campaign. The data collector is configured to identify calling information related to a directory number associated with an advertising campaign and forward that information to the web server. The web server includes software for tabulating and formatting that information into a report based on a subscriber's request. The report is generated based on the current information available and in the format specified by the subscriber. The information may be presented based on many different criteria, such as, for example, a total number of calls per campaign, a percentage of calls per campaign, a number of attempted calls that received a busy signal, a number of attempted calls that were not answered, and the like.
In another aspect of the invention, the reports available to the subscriber reflect the latest information available. The calling information may be forwarded from the data collector to the web server in real-time, as the calling information becomes available from the switch. In that manner, a report generated by the web server provides the subscriber with real-time data regarding the effectiveness of the advertising campaigns.
In yet another aspect of the invention, the calling information associated with advertising campaigns may be combined with other information, stored in additional databases either resident on or accessible by the web server, to produce reports of demographic information about the respondents to the campaign.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
The foregoing aspects and many of the attendant advantages of this invention will become more readily appreciated as the same becomes better understood by reference to the following detailed description, when taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings, wherein:
FIG. 1 is a functional block diagram illustrating a telecommunications environment in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention;
FIG. 2 is a functional block diagram of a data collector element of the telecommunications environment illustrated in FIG. 1;
FIG. 3 is a functional block diagram of a web server element of the telecommunications environment illustrated in FIG. 1;
FIG. 4 is a flow chart illustrating a process for tabulating information related to the effectiveness of an advertising campaign in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention;
FIGS. 5A-5B are flow charts illustrating a process for generating, in response to a subscriber's request, a report on the effectiveness of an advertising campaign in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention;
FIG. 6 is a flow chart illustrating a process employed by one embodiment of the present invention for alerting a subscriber that a triggering event has occurred.
DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE
As summarized above, the present invention allows a reporting-service subscriber to request reports, in real-time, on the effectiveness of an advertising campaign being undertaken by the service subscriber. With reference to the drawings, in which like numerals indicate like elements throughout the several figures, embodiments of the invention will now be described in detail. Overview of Operating Environment
The following discussion provides an overview of a telecommunications environment in which one embodiment of the present invention may be employed. This discussion is intended to provide the reader with an understanding of the broad functionality of one telecommunications environment that makes possible the advantages of the present invention.
FIG. 1 is a functional block diagram of a telecommunications environment including one embodiment of the present invention. Illustrated in FIG. 1 is an exemplary telecommunications environment for placing telephone calls from one location to another location. At the core of the environment is a Public Switch Telephone Network ("PSTN") 103. The PSTN 103 is a conventional telephone network that performs conventional telephone services such as connecting one user of the PSTN 103 to another user to complete a telephone call. One element of the PSTN 103 is the Local Exchange Carrier ("LEC") 107. Briefly described, the LEC 107 is a central office servicing many users of the PSTN 103 in a common geographic location, such as in one city or county. The benefit of the LEC 107 to the present invention is discussed later. The PSTN 103 also includes switches, service control points, etc. The PSTN 103 may also include an advanced intelligent network ("AIN"), which is discussed later.
To operate with the PSTN 103, users are assigned a unique ten digit directory number of the form "NPA-NXXXXXX" where "N" refers to any numeric digit except 0 or 1 and "X" refers to any one of the 10 numeric digits. The PSTN 103 divides the United States into geographic regions identified by unique three-digit "area codes," more technically referred to as Numbering Plan Area ("NPA") codes. The three digit NPA field within the ten digit directory number refers to the Numbering Plan Area code. When a call is made from one area code to another area code, the three digit NPA prefix must be supplied by the calling party. In addition, certain NPA prefixes are reserved for special reverse-billing procedures, such as the "800," "877," "888," and "900" prefixes. Reverse billing is known in the art.
The three digit prefix "NXX" is sometimes referred to as an "exchange code" or "office code." That three-digit field
typically identifies a particular "switch" or local exchange carrier, such as LEC 107, to which the called party is connected. The switch or local exchange carrier may service cellular communications customers, in which case the
5 exchange code, being associated with a cellular switch, identifies the called party as a cellular customer. The last four digits of the ten-digit directory number, identified above by "XXXX," are referred to as the user's line code and identify the particular user's connection to the switch iden
10 tilled by the exchange code. For the purpose of this discussion, the user initiating a call is referred to as the "calling party," and the user to whom the call is intended is referred to as the "called party."
An advanced intelligent network ("AIN") portion of the
15 PSTN 103 may be used to expedite the connection between a calling party and a called party. The AIN is used to transmit data messages between elements of the PSTN 103 for establishing the connection. The data messages contain information related to the call, such as both the calling
20 party's directory number and the called party's directory number. That information can be used to more quickly identify a destination switch for receiving the call. In addition, the AIN is helpful to determine supplemental telecommunications services that either the calling party or
25 the called party may have, such as call forwarding, call waiting, caller identification, etc.
The protocol used by the AIN is often referred to in the art as "Signaling System 7" or "SS7." SS7 is an addressing protocol that speeds up call processing by transmitting
30 call-connection information out-of-band much faster than traditional call switching. The SS7 protocol has enabled services such as fraud detection, caller ID, store and forward, ring back, concurrent data, etc. The SS7 protocol is well known to those skilled in the art and is described in a
35 specification published by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).
To place a call over the PSTN 103, the calling party, such as Caller 101, initiates a call by providing a directory number to the PSTN 103 via a piece of telecommunications
40 terminal equipment, typically a telephone. In many cases, the calling party need not provide the entire ten-digit directory number. If, for instance, the calling party and the called party are in the same area code, the calling party may often omit the called party's NPA prefix.
45 The calling party provides the directory number of the called party to a first switch to which the calling party is connected. For instance, if the Caller 101 wishes to call the Subscriber 111, the Caller 101 provides to the PSTN 103 the Subscriber's directory number. The PSTN 103 then directs
50 the call from the Caller 101 to a telecommunications switch to which the Subscriber 111 is connected. In this example, the Subscriber 111 is connected to switch 109. The switch 109 is a conventional SS7 compatible switch, examples of which are the Lucent Technologies 5ESS, the NTI DMS100,
55 Siemens Stromberg and Carlson EWSD and DCO. Those skilled in the art are familiar with the routing of calls within the PSTN 103 and connecting calls to a switch based on the called party's directory number. The switch 109 makes the final connection to the Subscriber 111 via connection 108.
60 Once that connection is made, the call is connected and the Caller 101 and the Subscriber 111 may communicate.
In addition to connecting the calling party to the called party, the switch 109 stores "calling information" related to the call. For example, the switch 109 extracts the calling
65 party's directory number, the called party's directory number, the time and date the call was placed, whether the call was connected successfully, the duration of the call if
connected, whether the called party's connection was busy or did not answer, and any other information related to the call. The calling information is used for billing and network maintenance purposes, as well as other less common purposes unrelated to the present invention. The calling infor- 5 mation is typically forwarded to a "data collector" 113 for relatively permanent storage. The data collector 113 may be a conventional data processing unit connected to the switch 109 or it may be part of the switch 109. The data collector is described in greater detail below. 10
This has been an overview of the manner in which a common telecommunications system is used to make and connect calls between users of the system. The following discussion describes how the above described system, in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention, 15 generates reports in real-time for the effectiveness of an advertising campaign.
Example of Advertising Campaign Recording
To begin, the Subscriber 111 may be conducting several advertising campaigns by publishing advertisements in 20 local, regional, or national publications such as newspapers, magazines, or trade journals. In addition, the Subscriber 111 may have advertisements applied to billboards or the sides of trucks that travel the highways. The Subscriber 111 now wishes to determine the effectiveness of each of the several 25 advertising campaigns. As a prerequisite, the Subscriber 111 engineered the several advertising campaigns such that each campaign promotes a unique directory number. In other words, each advertisement includes a different directory number to be called by those people for whom the adver- 30 tisement was effective. Advertising different directory numbers is made simple through the use of the "800 number" services provided by many telecommunications companies, such as Fox Communications Corp. of Bellevue, Washington. With those services, the Subscriber 111 may secure 35 several directory numbers which all direct calls to the Subscriber 111. In this example, each of those directory numbers has an exchange code associated with the switch 109. In that manner, each call to a calling number is directed to the switch 109 by the PSTN 103 before being connected 40 to the Subscriber 111. One of each of the directory numbers is used in each advertising campaign. The directory numbers associated with the advertising campaigns are referred to in this discussion as "campaign numbers."
The Caller 101 may wish to contact the Subscriber 111 at 45 the campaign number when an advertising campaign has been effective. The Caller 101 initiates a call by providing the campaign number to the PSTN 103. That call is routed through the PSTN 103 in the conventional manner described above. The call is eventually routed from the PSTN 103 to 50 the switch 109. The switch 109 directs the call to the Subscriber 111 so that the Subscriber 111 may service the Caller's request, comment, order, or the like. In addition, as described above, the switch 109 forwards calling information regarding the call to the data collector 113. The calling 55 information is passed to the data collector 113 upon the termination of the call. The data collector 113 accumulates and stores the information passed from the switch 109.
As mentioned above, the data collector 113 accumulates the calling information associated with all of the directory 60 numbers serviced by the switch 109. That task is typically performed for billing purposes to ensure that the calling party or the called party is appropriately billed for the call. In accordance with the invention, the data collector 113 also isolates the calling information related to campaign num- 65 bers. In other words, the data collector 113 includes a table identifying the campaign numbers. When calling informa
tion arrives regarding one of the campaign numbers in the campaign number table, the data collector 113 forwards that calling information (the "campaign information") to a web server 115. The data collector 113 may forward the campaign information as it arrives or on a timed basis, such as in fifteen minute increments, one-hour increments, severalhour increments, or the like. The rate at which the campaign information is passed from the data collector 113 to the web server 115 limits how current a report may be. For that reason, the data collector 113 of the preferred embodiment is configured to provide the campaign information to the web server 115 in real-time, such as not later than a few hours after the campaign information becomes available at the data collector 113. The web server 115 is described in greater detail below. The role of the web server 115 in the telecommunications system is described here.
The web server 115 receives the calling information associated with each campaign number (the campaign information) from the data collector 113 and stores that information on a permanent storage medium, such as a hard disk drive. The web server 115 tabulates the campaign information based on each campaign number. The table containing the campaign information is as current as the rate at which the data collector 113 provides the campaign information to the web server 115. Consequently, the web server 115 is able to generate reports of the effectiveness of a campaign in real-time.
The web server 115 provides access to the tabulated data over the Internet 117. Although the Internet is described as the preferred wide area network for making the reports available to subscribers, those skilled in the art will appreciate that any wide area network that allows access by subscribers to data stored on the web server 115 will benefit from the present invention. Accordingly, Subscriber 111 may access the web server 115 via a connection to the Internet 117. The connection to the Internet 117 may be any conventional connection that allows access to the web server 115. For example, Subscriber 111 may access the web server 115 using TCP/IP and a conventional dial-up connection over a modem. Alternatively, the subscriber 111 may have a dedicated connection to the Internet 117 that provides constant access. The web server 115 may have a unique HyperText Transfer Protocol (HTTP) address, a unique FTP address, or any other addressing scheme that allows the subscriber 111 to identify the web server 115.
The web server 115 includes server software that allows the subscriber to request a report of a particular advertising campaign's effectiveness at any time. For example, the subscriber 111 may connect to the Internet 117 in the middle of the day on a Tuesday. At that time, Subscriber 111 may log on to the web server 115 using a secure access protocol and issue a request to the web server 115 to provide a report. The issued request identifies the particular advertising campaign of interest by campaign number. The web server 115 responds to the request by reading the data stored in the table of campaign information associated with the campaign number provided by the subscriber 111. Software resident on the web server 115 tabulates the report in accordance with the subscriber's request. Finally, the web server 115 publishes, preferably in HTML format, the report to the subscriber. In this manner, the subscriber 111 is able to access and query the web server 115 as frequently as desired to determine the effectiveness of a particular advertising campaign. Individual elements of the system will be described next, followed by a discussion of exemplary advertising reports enabled by this embodiment of the invention.