One of the things that has drawn my ire recently is the shouts from agencies, media buyers and advertisers that more ad spend would come into digital if there just weren’t so many metrics and tools for gathering analytics. I have news for them. The spend is coming and nothing will stop it. Digital is where the attention is. What can slow it down however is the creation of standardized measurements that don’t provide the kind of performance data needed to understand and optimize actions.
Trying the find one or two metrics that can be the “Digital Nielsen” is just plain stupid. Digital is not like other media. For starters it is user controlled. Also, it is far too fragmented a medium for standardization to be helpful in understanding results. There are and should be multiple metrics used to gauge success in digital. The key is not dumbing down the metric (and thus the value of it) but determining when and where to apply appropriate metrics to answer the same two questions — how much did I spend and how much did I make?
Here’s a snapshot of five challenges in creating standardized metrics:
1. Success metrics need to be different for publishers and advertisers
2. Success metrics vary across display, search, social and site
3. Success metrics can and should vary by vertical
4. Success metrics need cross-media attribution
5. Success metrics within media vary based on the platform
This doesn’t even touch on the issue of discrepancies in data collection that seems to have fueled the whole idea of standardization in the first place.
Let’s take number 5 above and explore the issue of success measurement within the various Social Media platforms. What those calling for standardization don’t understand or want to ignore is that success on a site like Digg is not measured the same way as it is on Facebook or RSS or Blogging. Sure it would be nice for a CMO to look at one or two metrics to gauge how their Social Media spend is performing however this would be bad math, lazy marketing and not helpful data.
Speaking as someone that lives and breaths performance metrics and analytics everyday the last thing that we need as an industry is to have people that don’t get it lead this dialog especially with the emergence of newer media units like widgets and flash video that provide for interactions within ad units. Having the folks that make their dime off crap banners and made consumers blind to online display advertising determine ad success is like asking spammers to run the email business.
The growing field of analytic pros know how to measure, report and demonstrate success and are completely aligned with the interests of the advertiser’s ROI. Thankfully, it seems the Web Analytics Association is getting a seat at the table with the IAB but I’m afraid they are talking to people that just don’t understand their language. Hopefully I’m wrong.
One of the leaders of the WAA is Avinash Kaushik. My recent exchange with him on the subject made it clear to me that the thoughts of many organizations and agencies on what is needed are already antiquated.
“My deepest hope is that the (new) definitions will partly, if not wholly, rely on some kind of outcome. Else my fear is this will become another “engagement” where people might not ever know what they are actually measuring and then in turn not know what action to take.”
Avinash hits the nail on the head. Measuring performance is all about telling us what actions we need to take to improve results. This level of “action” or “outcome” data is new to many advertisers and media buyers where spend and reach remain the primary drivers of success.
The game is not one of reach but of results. The audience pie is sliced into many many pieces, none of which have the reach of yesterdays media. The idea of taking baby steps and creating standards that don’t bring value or leverage the technology advances in optimization and analytics hurts everyone — even those that do not understand the value being created by consumers for advertisers in this consumer controlled medium.