On its face, the task seems simple enough: Marketers want a single set of cross-platform metrics that precisely spell out the return they get from the money they spend on advertising.
However, media fragmentation, as well as conflicting interests and agendas, continue to block the path to that goal.
“We need common metrics,” Joan Lewis, global consumer and market knowledge officer at Procter & Gamble, told attendees at this week’s Advertising Research Foundation Audience Measurement Conference in New York. They need to be “understandable,” with no “black boxes.”
Corporate CEOs are demanding more accountability from their marketing units, she said. “We need to know where the dollars go.” And precisely where they go, including which vendors in specific media and devices.
Not only do metrics have to be understandable to the average human, they have to extend across all channels, be comparable and “recombinable,” as well as “sales predictive,” Lewis said. It may be a pretty tall order, but necessary. The industry has to move faster to achieve it or its capability to track consumer behavior and media usage will fall further behind than it already has, she added.
Industry association leaders at the conference agreed with Lewis that a greater effort was required to achieve the goals she outlined. Four As President Nancy Hill said “complacency” was partly to blame. Various groups collaborated to crack the code on viewability and seemingly said, “job done. But that’s not the be-all and end-all,” she added, noting that there is much more work to done to reach an effective cross-platform solution.
Bob Liodice, president of the Association of National Advertisers said that collaboration was key. As an industry, “we are not aligned. We haven’t worked well together. Viewability is just the tip of the iceberg.”
Conflicting economic interests, among an array of industry participants, is part of the problem said George Ivie, CEO of the Media Ratings Council, the industry group that accredits measurement services and which has been a key player in the development of viewability standards.
When the MRC unveiled proposed viewability standards in March for display ads, Ivie said he received about 500 emails in response. “About 350 said ‘that’s great,’ and the other 200 said ‘I’d like to kill you,’” he quipped.
Randall Rothenberg, head of the Interactive Advertising Bureau agreed that conflicts have posed barriers to progress. Often, he said, research has been the “handmaiden” to corporate interests financing it. There are so many competing interests, he said, that it is often difficult to “tell the signal from the noise.”
Bill Duggan, Group executive vice president at the ANA, said that more marketers need to step up and take leadership roles to shepherd the development of required metrics. “It’s their money,” he noted, indicating that three years from now, half of the marketing community intends to execute multiscreen campaigns compared to 20% in 2013. “They want one set of metrics,” he said, that provide “simplicity” to the process.
Lewis summed up the industry challenge: “We need better collaboration against a clearer mandate from advertisers who have a hard time devoting time to the process. That’s a dilemma.”