Audience Insights, Not Audience Measurement

I find myself quoting Randall Rothenberg, Chairman of the IAB, more and more these days. Earlier this month, Randy proclaimed that "the Web has been colonized by the evil aliens of the direct-response planet." In saying this, he acknowledged what others have also felt for some time -- that the precision of online media is a both blessing and a curse for marketers. Left unchecked for way too long, online advertising has been overrun by tactics and success measures that are singularly suited for direct marketers and are not so effective for brand builders. Leads, click-throughs, downloads and/or page views may adequately measure a Netflix campaign, but holding Coke to the same standard just doesn't make sense.

Why is this important? Because without more proof that marketers can use online media for brand-building purposes, many of the world's largest advertisers will continue to sit on the digital sidelines. Armed with better insights, these advertisers can finally get in the game. It's also important because so many in the industry consider 2010 to be the end of the recession and therefore the renaissance of digital media. The point is, outsized growth in our market can only return once online media is shown to be an effective way to reach and engage consumers across all product categories (not just direct response).



Indeed, hope abounds. In its forecast of interactive marketing spending, Forrester reports that the industry will grow at 17% compounded annually over the next five years, compared to just 13% last year. While interactive spending represented net new dollars in most marketing budgets up until last year, going forward, nearly two-thirds of marketers indicated they will shift dollars away from direct mail and print toward digital media. But it is one thing to predict a spending increase, and something altogether different to confidently take online from 1% to 10% of your total media budget if you're a CPG marketer.

Yet this is exactly what needs to occur in order for Forrester's prediction to become a reality. Simply put, the online ecosystem needs packaged goods companies to move beyond experimentation and embrace the Web as a medium that they can use for brand advertising. By taking advantage of new insights into their online audiences, these companies can integrate digital into virtually every component of their marketing -- from strategy development, to media planning, to engaging and effective brand-building experiences (apologies to my television ad sales colleagues who were looking to pick up those print dollars).

Our work with clients clearly points to increased demand for new audience insights to help them spend more effectively online. Gone are the days when simple audience measurement tools were sufficient to plan and measure campaigns. Now brands are looking to define micro-audiences based on their interests and behaviors. Likewise, publishers are looking for deep audience data that describes consumer behaviors on and off of their sites. Audience insights eclipse audience measurement, providing new views into "who" and "what impact," versus simply counting "how many."

And there is a new crop of tools that have been designed to help buyers and sellers move beyond audience measurement to tap richer audience insights. Tools like Google Ad Planner, Quantcast, Comscore Direct and Compete's new offerings with Fox Audience Network and WPP Digital's Media Innovation Group all provide new audience insights that can be used for media planning and measurement (some of these services are free). All of these tools combine consumer panels and sophisticated analytics platforms to describe consumers in ways that other approaches can't match, including rich demographics, longitudinal behaviors and interests, and offline buying behaviors. With this kind of technology under the hood, all brands will benefit from new insights to market online.

It is difficult to imagine a future where P&G, Unilever, and other large brands don't allocate more dollars to digital media. While the pace and scope of this increase remains to be seen, we do know that each 1% shift from traditional to online translates into hundreds of millions of dollars. And this is a benefit shared across marketers, publishers and consumers. By introducing measurement and metrics that are more relevant to brand advertisers, we can ensure the next phase of digital growth (and save Randy from alien abduction).

5 comments about "Audience Insights, Not Audience Measurement ".
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  1. Konstantin Augemberg from Mediamark Research & Intelligence, January 26, 2010 at 4:51 p.m.

    Yes, yes, yes!!! Thank you, Stephen!!! Thank you for reminding advertisers and market researchers that consumer engagement with ads and brands online has not only behavioral but also cognitive and emotional dimensions, and those are not easily measured by clicks and eyeballs. And for pointing out that consumers have lives on BOTH sides of the computer screen, both to be captured and measured in unison.

  2. Andy Atherton from, January 26, 2010 at 6:46 p.m.

    Great post, Stephen. And a priceless quote from Randall. Couldn't agree more. Our take on the same issue here:

  3. Eric Porres from MeetingScience, January 26, 2010 at 10:39 p.m.

    Stephen, great article and appreciate you adding another log on the fire of insight. As of today, Lotame organizes and collects 2Bn+ daily interactions generated from our audience of 76MM+, and categorizes them into our taxonomy of human behavior (384,222 interests and behaviors to be precise...not a typo!). We find more and more that our advertisers, agencies, and publishers rely on this data pool to create meaningful insight pre, mid, and post campaigns.

    For publishers, we are able to tell them the behaviors and actions of their audience "off-net" as internal site tracking tools are inherently self-referencing. As the GM of a publishing entity, why create a video section if your audience is a heavy producer and uploader of photos? Did you know that your audience is 27x more likely to produce comments than the average person? You need to convince your editors to include comments on all pages! Etc. If publishers can produce stickier websites because they enable features and functions that their visitors are most likely to take, it's a win-win for all.

    For advertisers and their agencies, we're in the intent creation business, for to have intent, you need to create intent first! We measure the interests and behaviors of people exposed to a campaign who also move brand metrics (and response metrics), and that paves the way for those insights to shape future audience targets across entire campaigns (not just Lotame campaigns).

    And don't get me started on attention GRPs and the use of InView (time on active screen, not just time on page) to both measure advertising attention and optimize campaigns towards people with a predisposition to time spent with advertising experiences!

    Suffice to say that we're very bullish on audience insights and how they shape marketing across the lifecycle of campaign management, from audience discovery through creative through media delivery and optimization and post-buy analysis to ultimately move the metrics that matter (re: IAB/Bain study from Q4, 2009).

    Thanks again,
    Eric Porres
    Chief Marketing Officer
    Lotame Solutions, Inc.

  4. David Shor from Prove, January 27, 2010 at 12:57 a.m.

    First, re Andy's comment above, performance marketers would have used a tracking link instead of just posting your deep link ;-) Find it here:

    I was up at OMMA Performance, hosted very ably by Cory T, in San Francisco Monday, and was a bit dismayed at Young-Bean Song's suggestion that brand marketers move back to a reach & frequency model so as to buy digital GRPs.

    What this means to me is that brand marketers want the easy way out--just throw it out there and measure some awareness lift, some increase in buzz metrics and call it a day.

    I asked the tough question in the room as to why Microsoft would advocate "broadcast-era" digital media advertising approaches rather than measure consumer interaction, engagement or other metrics indicative of brand touchpoints (beyond the impression).

    Do we REALLY need to go backward and have brands think it's acceptable to just put impressions in front of us? Hasn't social media tought the display marketers ANYTHING?

    At the very least, ask consumers to friend a brand for pete's sake! Take Young-Bean's example of Clorox bleach: While he may not think there's any reason for their brand managers to find an interesting creative angle to pitch, I can sure think of a million things I'd love to see bleached but would never do it to my own stuff. Yeah, you can find marketing even the most mundane products interesting--if you try.

    I'm annoyed at this new movement that gives credence to brand marketers who are just copping out. Digital provides the first opportunity to squeeze true efficiency out of advertising and the moment click rates start to decay the brand marketers head for the hills screaming "just measure unaided recall"! You won't see me playing that tune.

  5. Mike Einstein from the Brothers Einstein, January 27, 2010 at 11:14 a.m.

    Talk about the blind leading the blind.

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