We Need To Close The Chasm Between Brand Goals And Publisher Metrics

jeff-banderData-Driven Thinking” is written by members of the media community and contains fresh ideas on the digital revolution in media.

Today’s column is written by Ephraim (Jeff) Bander, president and chief revenue officer at Sticky.

Digital media has a persistent language problem. In particular, a huge gap exists between brand advertisers’ stated RFP goals and publishers’ available reporting.

“Oftentimes, we get these RFPs that say, ‘We want to increase recognition as a leader in the consultancy space,’ and the KPI is click-through rate,” Brendan Spain, the US commercial director at the Financial Times, told AdExchanger in November.

The chasm between brand goals and publisher metrics will only further widen as cross-device usage increases, the Internet of Things accelerates and traditional media spend moves toward digital. The good news is that publishers and ad tech providers across the industry are helping close the gap with new and emerging solutions around attention, content engagement and motivation-based audience analytics.

But there’s still significant room to grow, and the digital media industry needs to take on a far more strategic approach. To date, the industry has operated on a more ad-hoc basis, almost like Whac-A-Mole: When a new problem arises, the industry assembles and beats down the issue with a new kind of measurement until the next problem appears.

To close the gap, let’s first frame brands’ needs and focus on educating this industry’s growing infrastructure of people. Only with an informed, aligned community can we develop and accelerate real, actionable solutions.

Digital’s Shift From A Direct Response Machine To A Branding Vehicle

Q: What is your favorite color?

A: Nine.

Half-jokingly, this feels reminiscent of conversations today about campaign performance. While brands’ key performance indicators (KPIs) speak to broader goals around awareness and connection with consumers, digital grew up on direct response metrics, such as impressions and clicks.

But as brands abort interruptive direct-response ad tactics and embrace content as their primary vehicle to engage consumers, these legacy metrics have increasingly become irrelevant and obsolete. They provide no qualitative insight into audiences reached, to their changing sentiment toward the brand or to the impact to consumers’ increased (or decreased) likelihood to buy.

Defining What Branding Success Means in Digital

We need to take a hard look at what advertisers and agencies really want to measure, and not become complacent with what is easy to measure.

This exercise in and of itself can be a challenge, because top brands will give different answers.

For example, when asked about Unilver’s KPIs, Marc Mathieu, the company’s global marketing SVP, reported, “On the one hand, [it’s] growing the business and growing market share but also doing it through the power of brands, so [it’s] growing brand equity and driving successful innovations.”

On the other hand, Gawain Owen, digital lead at Nestlé UK and Ireland, reported that the core KPI for the awareness part of Nestlé’s programmatic branding campaign was targeting new audiences while keeping viewability higher than 70%. And finally, Danone Belgium defined its KPI through a master engagement score based on a wide range of real-time data, ranging from browsing behavior to demographics.

How do we reconcile brands’ varying definitions of branding success in digital if they all have different business goals and objectives? While we will never be able to come to a standard definition, it helps to understand what brands are universally trying to accomplish and help them answer the right questions, such as:

  • Did I connect with the right audience?
  • Am I reaching them when they are most receptive to my message?
  • Did I tell the right story?
  • Did my campaign elicit positive feelings and progress our brand’s relationship with consumers?
  • Am I helping my consumers make better, faster purchase decisions?

Publishers and their technology partners must first align their product strategy to these brand goals and objectives before going to market with digital ad and measurement solutions. Only when campaign success can be triangulated back to answering the above questions can we move on. 

Educating The Incoming Traditional Media Players

Digital ad spending is forecasted to grow 17.2% this year to nearly $160 billion, according to Magna Global, and increase by 13.5% in 2016. By the the end of 2017, digital is expected to overtake TV as the biggest advertising category.

Underneath digital’s growth is an expanding infrastructure of people who need continued education. While traditional media organizations in print, radio and TV increasingly understand the vital role of digital, their skills and thinking around measurement need to undergo a major shift.

For instance, here is a job description for a media buyer that was posted last month. While it includes fairly standard responsibilities, such as contacting media representatives and accessing media database to research available options for media placement, it also specifies, “Potential to purchase other media, such as Pandora and/​or programmatic TV and radio.”

For those who grew up on traditional metrics, such as gross rating points (GRPs), there will be a steep learning curve to digital. It’s incumbent upon the industry to help newcomers connect the dots to digital. Additionally, from their traditional media expertise, they can apply a wealth of innovative new thinking around how to close the gap between brand and publisher measurement in digital.

The digital media industry has long tried to run before it can walk when it comes to measurement, resulting in entirely different spoken languages between brands and publishers. To avoid further entangling ourselves, defining a proper framework behind brands’ goals and objectives and ensuring alignment among an expanding infrastructure of people need to come first.

Follow Ephraim (Jeff) Bander (@Stickyadman), Sticky (@sticky_ad) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

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1 Comment

  1. Patrick van Schie

    The dilemma that has been drawn to us in the above article is very relevant. Digital media might have a toolbox to measure all sorts of metrics, the critical question is whether those are all relevant for advertisers. Particularly also with the changes that are taking place on publishers sides and in the digital behaviour of consumers. Ultimately, marketers are looking to three potential pockets to set their KPI’s: 1. The level of awareness a campaign generates for the brand (spontaneous, aided and versus competition) 2. The level of conversion realised through the campaign: developments on metrics like trial, occasional usage and most often. 3. The impact on brand equity drivers, related to competition. The efforts of publishers should be focused on developing campaign evaluation tools on these three levels. Agreeing on a standard way of measurement is (ultimately) critical, since this would perfectly allow for multi-platform evaluation and could also record synergetic effects from utilising different platforms and channels.