A recent study showed that 63% of TV impressions were ignored (YuMe and IPG Media Lab study, May 2011). Those "successfully delivered" impressions that actually reach their target lead to a desired result (i.e., branding, awareness, conversion) and are what contribute to a return on investment, while the rest is waste. Buying the "opportunity" to have someone see your media has little to do with whether or not someone actually engages with your product.
Marketers are aware of this, even without a study. They are skeptical about the value of impressions, yet are stuck in the "impressions" trench. Countless out-of-home media buyers and planners have told me that they customarily cut the number of impressions claimed by media suppliers by one third to one half and recalculate the CPMs. Because there is no standard, their gauge is subjective. Typically, planners cut a greater percentage when they are less familiar with the vendor or medium. Of course, this gut calculation makes some programs appear to be more or less efficient, and influences what media they recommend in their plans.
Not all campaigns can and should be measured the same way. A better way to determine the effectiveness of a campaign is to track whether or not it acquired consumers. One way to start that process is to measure recall. Especially when applied to non-traditional media, such as out-of-home, recall is a far more important gauge of campaign success. Research shows that high recall leads to more sales.
Rather than randomly discounting claimed impressions, why not use available data on aided and unaided recall as a starting point to weigh the effectiveness from one media element to the next? If one program delivers 10% unaided recall, while another delivers 20%, the greater efficiency of a program might justify a higher CPM.
The downside to this is that many marketing services companies fear this level of scrutiny, and won't lead the charge that might show their weaknesses. Out-of-home agencies sit in the best position to lead this innovative thinking by requiring vendors to do research on more programs to get category benchmarks. These benchmarks can be used in predictive ROI models that can be applied at the point-of-view phase when recommending the most efficient programs to their clients.
Measuring recall is a particularly important consideration for integrated campaigns that agencies are now in the business of delivering. If you know that there is media you can use that leads to activation, even it's twice the CPM of more traditional avenues, that media should be evaluated through a different lens, right?